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City Spotlight: Stellenbosch, South Africa

Known for its numerous wine farms, fruits, world renowned landscapes and scenic beauty, Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa, dating back to 1679. It is divided into 23 wards and has a total population of around 200,000 people.

The Municipality joined the Strong Cities Network after attending a roundtable for South African cities on the role of local governments in preventing hate, extremism and polarisation, which Strong Cities and the City of Cape Town co-hosted in May 2023. In December 2023, officials from Stellenbosch joined a Strong Cities learning visit to Cape Town for Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan mayors and other senior city officials, participating to present on the numerous prevention initiatives of its Community and Protection Services’ directorate.

 

What is the local government concerned about?

The Municipality is keen to ensure such violence does not impact its own residents. However, it has raised a number of challenges to effectively implementing violence prevention measures. This includes a lack of technical capacity to address violence and its causes, understanding of the hate and extremist threat environment specifically and dedicated municipal funds to sustain local prevention efforts.

How is the local government responding?

Coordinated by the Community and Protection Services’ directorate, Stellenbosch Municipality has instituted a number of safety measures ranging from policy to human and technological interventions. The Municipality is continuously working to ensure these interventions account for its evolving threat landscape.

Policy

Although policing and crime prevention are not municipal functions in South Africa, the Municipality has instituted a number of safety-related policies to enable it to take ownership over the safety of its residents. These include:

Multi-Actor Collaboration and Partnerships

Stellenbosch Municipality’s Community Safety Forum convenes ward councillors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector, city and provincial departments and national actors such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), on a quarterly basis to discuss matters of community safety. Its broad mandate consists of three overarching clusters: law enforcement, social cohesion and prevention through environmental/urban design.

In addition, the Municipality is part of a larger security collaboration called Stellenbosch Safety Partnership, which brings together various security actors such as SAPS, non-profit organisations like Winelands Safety Initiative and private security companies. These actors are housed in a single municipal control room where responses to existing security incidents and/or emerging security challenges can be coordinated. Reports of such incidents are received via a dedicated hotline, a designated WhatsApp number and various technological investments such as CCTV and the Municipality’s community engagement app (see below).

Further, the Municipality has a partnership with Stellenbosch University, which involves a quarterly mayoral forum where the Mayor, Municipal Manager and Directors meet with senior management from the university to share information, raise awareness (e.g., about emerging challenges each party has observed) and develop joint safety and crime prevention interventions.

Executive Mayor Gesie van Deventer (left) and the Municipal Manager, Geraldine Mettler (right) sampling the features of the state-of-the-art municipal control room launched in March 2022.

The municipality takes the service provided by our accredited Neighbourhood Watches very seriously and we are always looking for opportunities to support and empower them with training and resources. They work selflessly to keep our communities safer by patrolling our streets and supporting SAPS and municipal law enforcement.

Gesie van Deventer, Executive Mayor, Stellenbosch Municipality

Community Engagement

The Municipality has invested in Neighbourhood Watch as a model to empower residents to play a role in community safety. In partnership with Western Cape Province, Neighbourhood Watch groups are provided with training and equipment to accredit them and ensure they have a baseline understanding of good safety practice. In 2023, nearly 50 members of accredited Neighbourhood Watch groups were given additional training to serve as Safety Monitors, or “extra boots on the ground … [to] act as the eyes and ears of law enforcement”. Safety Monitors are ultimately a visible form of community policing: monitors are identifiable through yellow reflective vests, conduct daily patrols and serve as trusted liaisons between the police and the community, helping residents with prompt and responsible reporting of crime and other concerns.

The Municipality also has a robust citizen engagement mechanism through its Stellenbosch Citizen App, where residents can flag governance and other issues to the Mayor’s office. The app also enables residents to report safety concerns and criminal activity, which are received by the above-mentioned Stellenbosch Safety Partnership.

Further, to address gender-based violence long-term, the Municipality has engaged with Sisonke Bafethu, an organisation that mentors young boys aged 8 -18 with the objective of tackling toxic masculinity and ultimately changing the narrative of boys and men in the community.       

What’s next?

The Municipality has identified the following areas to enhance its capacities on, including with support from Strong Cities through the peer learning offered by the Network:

  • Using data/research to enable evidence-based prevention-related policymaking and programming;
  • National-local cooperation on issues of community safety;
  • Training on strategic communications, gender and prevention, youth engagement, mediation skills and conducting local risk assessments and analysis;
  • Delivering community safety projects – primarily opportunities to learn from community safety projects implemented by other cities (in South Africa and beyond) so that it can adapt and implement these for its own communities.

In addition to providing the Municipality peer learning opportunities and technical support to address the above needs, Strong Cities will continue to engage Stellenbosch as a regional leader in prevention, particularly on multi-actor collaboration. This includes through inviting city officials to present on its multi-actor frameworks at Strong Cities activities, as they did for Kenyan, other South African, Tanzanian and Ugandan cities in Cape Town in December 2023.

Is your city a Strong City?

Strong Cities membership is open to local authorities at the city, municipal or other subnational level. Membership is free of charge.