Province, city’s liquor policies must help create safe society

  • Cape Times
  • Lester September
  • Portfolio Head: Liquor Licence & Anti-Substance Abuse of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

WHILE Premier Helen Zille has acknowledged in her State of the Province address (Sopa) that alcohol abuse is the biggest single threat to achieving wellness, safety and reducing social ills in the Western Cape, her Sopa 2015 lacked detail, political will and hopelessly failed to inspire hope for change.

The dearth of specifics on her “design laboratories” concept, which will put together a detailed plan to tackle alcohol abuse, does not engender confidence, while one has to ask why only now as there have been loads of research and proposals over the years that have been ignored.

Why not implement recommendations made by experts and academics, such as Professor Craig Househam, to reduce the city’s liquor trading hours for licensed pubs and liquor stores, and have the Liquor Authority heed objections to liquor licence applications from communities suffering from high levels of social ills.

Zille is correct that the province has no jurisdiction over the SAPS, but incorrectly implies that provincial departments have a limited mandate to improve safety. This flies in the face of video analysis of our 2013/ 2014 crime trends from the Institute for Security Studies (ISSAfrica), which reveals that “Police can only play a small role in curbing crime”, and that there exists a “far greater role for social workers, teachers and other government departments”, giving both provincial and City of Cape Town departments a bigger role in creating safety.

An interview with Charles Goredema, former senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, focusing on research he headed, “The Drug Trade and Governance in Cape Town”, revealed that the solution was at grassroots level where social workers should intervene in dysfunctional families.

Researchers have found, however, that the Western Cape Department of Social Development’s (DSD) social workers are not performing their duties. Our engagement with NGOs and individuals such as Dr EV Rapiti (who runs a drug rehabilitation support group), have found that social workers are one of the main reasons for the clogging up of the court roll as they arrive late at court and in most cases are unprepared, while many are not properly trained to appear as expert witnesses.

A far greater problem exists where misleading and seemingly denialist statements are being made by Community Safety MEC Dan Plato in the media that challenge now accepted, empirical evidence that substance abuse fuels most of our violent crime in the Western Cape. Where his office recently has incorrectly claimed that gang-related murders “remained the biggest contributor to the high murder rate” in the province.

Statements made by MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato are a concern, where he seemingly in the media focuses on gang violence and the police’s role in curbing this scourge, and less on social development interventions, which will address the root causes of gang violence.

He should be highlighting alcohol abuse, as one of the main causes of dysfunctional families; which exposes children to gang recruitment and/ or substance abuse.

Coincidently, substance abuse is one of the main causes of dysfunctional families, which exposes children to gang recruitment.

Violence prevention policies have in fact been launched, but similar to the police, social workers are overworked, have too many cases and feel overwhelmed as not enough are employed to deal with the large number of cases.

Training of auxiliary social workers has been undertaken. However, many have not been appointed by the DSD. This has resulted in an excess of social workers in the West Coast.

Social workers need to be empowered, to be more proactive and effective, while funding must be made available for the training and recruitment of additional auxiliary social workers.

Househam’s presentation published by the World Health Organisation states that the “Apartheid legacy of social exclusion and multiple deprivation” contributes to high levels of substance abuse.

To this Zille finally acknowledges Cape Town’s apartheid legacy in her so-called final “game changer”, being the improvement of spatial integration in Cape Town, but her claim of “an acute shortage of well-located and affordable housing closer to the central business district makes this situation worse”, reads more like an excuse and does not speak to the reversing of apartheid spatial planning.

Instead she seems to justify the perpetuation of the current design, where she cherry-picks around this politically sensitive topic, concentrating rather on improvements to services and public transport.

Studies on urban design have also clearly shown that current town planning, which crams previously disadvantaged communities together on the Cape Flats, exacerbates social ills.

In fact the ISSAfrica crime stat factsheet not only mentions providing services, but also that support must be provided to parents and counselling must be offered to those affected by violence, where violence should not be accepted as normal.

It discloses that the “detrimental effect of apartheid social engineering on families” and society remains stubbornly persistent.

Thus simply providing improved services and public transport are purely superficial without social development interventions and the reversing of apartheid spatial planning.

We support the call for a study on the effectiveness of the province’s and the city’s liquor policy, which has solely concentrated on policing, targeting shebeens and less on mandates that they cover such as early warning initiatives, with provincial and city social workers leading the fight to create a safe society, but including provincial and city health, education and other departments, eg the Liquor Authority and town planners.

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