Why are we not focusing on crime prevention in South Africa?
“South Africa has had a comprehensive crime prevention policy agenda for some time in the form of the 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy and the 1998 White Paper on Safety and Security. Despite this, prevention has remained very much a second cousin within the South African criminal justice family, notwithstanding the fact that there is widespread agreement that it warrants far more attention.” — Julie Berg and Clifford Shearing in “The practice of crime prevention”
Crime prevention – 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) *
This is South Africa’s overarching policy on crime prevention. It was intended to be the guiding framework for a wide range of interdepartmental programs aimed at increasing safety. The four “pillars” of the NCPS covered improving criminal justice functioning, environmental design, community values and education, and transnational crime.
At its peak, the NCPS was seen as one of six pillars of the country’s National Growth and Development Strategy, a far-sighted move that recognized the vital role safety plays in development. However, the change of administration in 1999 ushered in a new approach to how government would deal with crime. Political pressure was mounting on government to deal with the rampant crime problem, and the longer-term approach of the NCPS was not appeasing the fears of the public or of politicians. In the end, shortrange thinking prevailed, the Growth and Development Strategy was shelved in favour of the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR).
With the possible exception of victim support, most of the social programs envisaged by the NCPS never came to fruition.
Law enforcement – 2000 National Crime Combating Strategy (NCCS) *
The 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy was largely drafted by a panel of civilians and was widely distributed for comment. The NCCS, on the other hand, was produced in-house by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and has never been issued as a public document. The NCPS was, in theory, an interdepartmental policy, while the NCCS is explicitly a security cluster matter.
These differences are indicative not only of the shift towards an overtly law enforcement approach to crime reduction but also of the pressure to respond quickly – which partly explains the lack of consultation and the NCCS’s focus on the police.
Adapted from the ISS’s “Crime and Crime Prevention in South Africa: 10 Years After“