Lack of effective street lighting contributes to crime in Nyanga

Street lighting in Nyanga Police Precint. Photo supplied

The lack of effective street lighting has contributed immensely to the escalation of crime in the Greater Nyanga district and surrounding areas. Cape Town’s communities are urging the authorities to take responsibility for their security and do something about visible policing – and night visibility.

Nyanga, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Cape Town’s community organisations complain that the lack of effective street lighting has contributed immensely to the escalation of crime in the Greater Nyanga district and surrounding areas.

They have now urged the authorities to take responsibility for the delivery of street lighting and ensure increased police visibility as well.

Dalli Weyers, a Safety and Justice Program Researcher with the Social Justice Coalition, said that their own investigations had revealed that inadequate street lighting had contributed to the crime situation in Nyanga.

Weyers demonstrated it with a graphic map that depicted the poor level of effective lighting in the Nyanga Police Precinct.

“Despite Nyanga having seen a decrease of 0.3% in the number of robberies with aggravating circumstances over the last year, it has seen an increase of 4% in street robberies.

“Over the past five years, street robberies have increased by 61%. This is directly linked to the vulnerability of poor working-class communities, reliant on walking or public transport. This vulnerability is obviously compounded by a lack of effective lighting,” said Weyers.

To bring a security to residents traveling through public spaces. he suggested more visible policing would help and the delivery of effective street lighting to replace the apartheid-era high mast lights that cast dark shadows.

These sentiments were expressed after the announcement by Fikile Mbalula, the National Police Minister, of interventions his department was making to deal with crime in the area.

The Greater Nyanga region also covers Brown’s Farm, Crossroads, Samora Machel and Sweet Homes.

Martin Makhasi, the Nyanga Community Policing Forum leader, blamed the dysfunctional street lighting service in the Greater Nyanga Area in part for the escalation of local general crime and murders.

He appealed to the government and the City of Cape Town to deal with the situation responsibly in order to protect residents who frequently fall victim to ruthless criminals.

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“It is really dark here at night. That usually puts our people’s lives in danger. The City of Cape Town have witnessed that too because they flew above it at night and took aerial photographs during one evening in February this year.

“The only problem we experience is that they constantly complained about vandalism when we lodged complaints with them about [a] matter. We wish that they can start to create an enabling environment so that innocent people could be protected from crime.

He emphasised that it is unfair for the municipality to keep holding meetings in their own boardrooms to discuss issues of crime.

“We wish for the municipality to stop making excuses and rather come down to consult directly with its own communities so that we can all strive to find a real solution,” said Makhasi.

Mbalula returned to the dusty township following his earlier visit in September just after the murder of 18 people in separate shooting incidents in Marikana Informal Settlement in Philippi East .

Emotional residents confronted him about their own concerns regarding the intensity of crime as well as police incompetence and alleged complicity at the time.

“We don’t have time to waste. Let us immediately get to work to demonstrate that police can become functional and efficient,” said Mbalula assuring residents that his department will fire police station commissioners they found to have lagged behind in their work.

He reported that they had filled up 347 of the 348 posts at the Nyanga Police Station to response to residents’ complaints about the under-resourced community service centre.

He also announced the deployment of Amaberethe (the Tactical Response Unit), the planned provision of public transport to ferry and from places of work , as well as the renovation of the Brown’s Farm old Railway Police Station and the building of a new station at Samora Machel.

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Police Minister Fikile Mbalula during his recent visit in Nyanga. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

Mbalula highlighted regular visible policing and strengthening of the local station’s leadership for the smooth running of their operations as some of the major issues to address.

“We all know Nyanga for bad reasons as the murder capital, where human beings are frequently slaughtered and now we are trying our utmost best to eradicate that.

“It is our wish to deal with the technical glitches within the South African law that [allows] the magistrate’s courts to regularly free criminal suspects. There can be no holiday for those who promote crime in our own communities.

 “Let’s strive to ensure that we maximize on those officers we have and declare a war on women-abuse related cases,” he emphasized, also appealing to women to stop withdrawing criminal charges against their spouses after reporting them.

Mbalula also elaborated on the importance of the newly introduced six-point method that police must adhere to when they deal with cases of gender-based violence.

He condemned corruption by SAPS members and appealed that all those incriminated be brought to book.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste, and Energy said the municipality has implemented innovative solutions to replace vandalized underground street lighting cables with overhead wires and inspection plates on the street lighting poles welded shut to discourage vandals.

The upgrade of street lighting had been disrupted, Limberg said, by incidents of robbery and hijacking, which compelled the City to withdraw their staff from the areas they serviced for their own safety.

She added that they experienced more than 30 such incidents last year.

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