Overcrowding becoming “the norm” in some Western Cape schools

Liwa Primary School in Nyanga

Nyanga, Western Cape, has a murder rate of one in every 206 people

Looking at data from the 2011 census and this week’s Crime Stats, the horrors of Nyanga become clear

Overcrowding becoming “the norm” in some Western Cape schools

Liwa Primary School in Nyanga

Many South Africans winced this week as the crime stats and murder rate for 2016/17 were released. It’s a good job the country was braced, because the figures dug up a lot of cold hard truths. Especially in Nyanga.

Murder rates have risen. Residential burglaries are on the up. Carjackings have ascended to levels last seen in the 1990s. It was a grim read for all of us. But something rather alarming has come to light surrounding a Cape Town settlement…

A troubled history

Nyanga was established as a further settlement for Langa residents, as that township became overcrowded. Nyanga itself is almost an afterthought, in both it’s geographical history and current political state.

Since 1948, it has hosted some of Cape Town’s poorest citizens. Unemployment currently stands at 56%, and the HIV/AIDS virus is still a huge burden upon the community. Nyanga lies 25km away from Cape Town, and borders uncomfortably with the city’s airport.

The top three murder hot-spots in South Africa:

1. Nyanga

Province: Western Cape
Total reported murders: 281
Increase or decrease: 0.7% Increase

2. Indanda

Province: KwaZulu Natal
Total reported murders: 207
Increase or decrease: 22.5% Increase

3. Umlazi

Province: KwaZulu Natal
Total reported murders: 187
Increase or decrease: 20.6% Increase

Life comes cheap in Nyanga

For the past six years, this traumatised region has had more reported murders than anywhere else in South Africa. Coming to terms with the figures leaves one with an extremely heavy heart.

In 2016/17, there was a 0.7% rise for Murders in Nyanga. Granted, this was a handful more than last year. But the truth of the figures comes in comparing it to the next most dangerous settlement: Inanda, in KwaZulu-Natal.

Inanda saw 207 murder cases in the last financial year. However, this was a huge 30% less than what was recorded in Nyanga. The Western Cape township saw 281 murders in the same space of time.

Our last census data tells us that 57,996 people currently live in Nyanga. If 281 people in that community were murdered in the last 12 months, that equates to nearly 0.5% of citizens becoming murder victims. In other words, one in 206 people are murdered annually here.

Year in, Year out

Though this figure may be terrifying to an outsider, it’s a routine part of life to Nyangans. Using the census data of 58,000 residents and the murder rates of the last five years, it becomes clear that these residents are being failed by government and police

2011 – 2012: 262
2012 – 2013: 261
2013 – 2014: 305*
2014 – 2015: 301
2015 – 2016: 279
2016 – 2017: 281

  • * In 2014, the murder rate in Nyanga rocketed to 1 in 190 people.

Nyanga turns to self-policing

It has to be said, this was the first year of the last three where Nyanga’s murder rate jumped up. Even then, it was by a margin of two. Despite being as good as ignored by the powers that be, citizens of the settlement have found ways to rage against the waves of crime that engulf the residency.

South Africa’s murder capital has been patrolled by the Community Policing Forum (CPF). This collective of mothers, sisters and devoted women patrol the streets on a weekend, looking to apprehend the criminals stalking the area.

“Sometimes they threaten us. One day a gang of about eight or ten men was walking with guns and they saw us and fired shots in the air. They did not hurt us, but it was a bad day for us. We are not allowed to hit people anymore. Now we take them to the hall, question them, and then hand them over to the police.”

Wallopings have even made way for due process. Which is an amazing step for this unbreakable community unit. Their work has even seen similar schemes rolled out in places like Mfuleni. The female-led ‘Walking Bus’ initiative safely escorts children to school, helping them avoid the clutches of gang violence and criminal activity.

Breaking the vicious cycle

Despite the best intentions of the brave local residents, it is almost impossible for Nyanga to expect a drastic change any time soon. The odds, unfortunately, are comprehensively stacked against neighbourhoods like theirs.

Research from the ISS paints a grim portrait: 50% of murders across SA are committed in just 120 of the 1140 policing precincts nationwide. Effectively, half of all murders in Mzansi are committed in just 12% of its wards.

“Traditionally, most murders occur in incredibly dense and socially disadvantaged areas with those most likely to be murdered being young black men.” – Senior ISS researcher Chandre Gould.

Political inaction has hurt Nyanga

This community stands at a troubling crossroads. It’s taken a step backwards, after making such promising steps a few years ago when the murder rate dropped by 10%.

Poverty breeds crime. That’s as simple as it gets. Residents of Nyanga have been waiting for proper homes for almost 70 years. They are the left-behinds. On the edge of society, out of sight and out of mind. Life will only remain cheap in Nyanga if the ANC – or any other government continue to ignore their value.