They will have to chop these down to prevent intruders abseiling over the Fence. The fence itself has spikes on top and is no higher than three meters. A determined team of intruders, using a carpet and thick gloves could still scale it. To prevent this requires electrification. To complete this fortification requires the entire gating of our suburb. With electrification. Interesting, the committee did not deny this intention. They said that at present it was legally not possible. This situation could change. There are many gated estates in other parts of Stellenbosch. The committee’s attitude towards civil rights reinforces this impression. It is OK to stop and frisk those not fitting our suburb’s profile.
Ward plans reflecting enclosure mentalities
The Ward Plan 2017/2018 further reinforces my view that we are moving incrementally towards a gated suburb. And that stop-and-frisk will persist here.
The Plan identifies “no access control to Onderpapegaaiberg” as a Weakness. The Plan’s strategic goals for 2022 include the following: “Access control to Papegaaiberg”. “Control measures against loiters (sic) in residential area”. The 10 year Vision (for 2027) includes the following: “Access control to residential area”. “Control and manage Onderpapegaaiberg after Proclamation”.
The word “proclamation” is interesting. In order to close off access a suburb is first proclaimed as a Special Rates Area. This requires a majority of residents at a meeting with a high quorum (75%). Then, they establish a residential association to manage the area. This could be a Home Owners Association (HOA). The HOA would be responsible for managing and maintaining the gating and security services. (See page 45 of Sosibo Phila, MA Thesis 2016). The association could raise levies from residents to cover its expenses for its expanded services.
To meet the Ward Plan’s access controls requires a proclaimed Special Rates Area in the near future. (Our earlier insights indicate that initially there would be no boom and searching and checking of pedestrians’ identity. But there could be access points with a guard[s] in a guard box. Further whittling away of the ‘right to commons’ could see creeping militarisation of security).
Beyond fortress enclosure mentalities?
Mitigating crime risk through enclosure mentalities
Has the risk of crime in Onderpapegaaiberg reached a tipping point? I think that while crime is a real threat, it is exagerated by those emotionally and financially invested in fortress security.
Overall, house burglaries in middle income suburbs is still affecting only a minute proportion of households. Although specific suburbs might experience heightened crime incidents. And, as we have seen, Onderpapegaaiberg is one of those. Do the majority of our residents perceive the fortress as the route to security? Those residents engaged with this issue have already made up their minds. We may never know what the silent majority (of ‘apathetic’ residents) think. But at a certain point the fortress approach will become the common sense way to do things. This blog is a plea to consider a different way.
Which brings me back to the ‘self’. The first self above is the one that wants to be free from fear, and resorts to barricading. There is another self, that Hillel and his followers speak of. I understand that this self looks at the immediate situation objectively. This means that this self is disinterested. It does not proritise its rights over those of other citizens. Even when it feels that its right to safety and security is threatened. My view is that we (including criminals) are products of our circumstances. To change criminal behaviour we should change circumstances under which people live.
‘Seeing’ crime reflecting social circumstances
Criminologist Don Pinnock traces the circumstances that predispose unemployed youngsters becoming gangsters.
He showed how apartheid destroyed familial structures through removals to the Cape Flats. In so doing it destroyed established rites of passage. The same analysis applies in Stellenbosch. Unemployed youth in Kayamandi, Cloetesville and Idas Valley look to drug lords as role models. Gangster rights of passage have occupied the vacuum created by apartheid. And post-apartheid unemployment reinforced the power of gansgters and their rights of passage. The current war on drugs is useless against this deep socialisation. To say nothing of the corruption of some police personnel. Jails have become universities of gang-led crime.
My point is that we need to address crime by altering social circumstances. Walling ourselves into our own fortresses detracts our attention from this important task. And this is my main concern about the Fence. What it is doing to our collective consciousness. As our town sinks deeper into a crisis of unemployment and hopelessness for many of its citizens. With Vuya Endaweni we proposed a model for security and positive social development. The Council ignored us. In the same way the committee made it clear that this is not the way they want to go.
Social solidarity and freedom of information
The Stellenbosch Council’s non-response to my reasonable questions is unacceptable. The ward councillor did not respond to further requests. There could be several reasons for this. First, they did not follow the required Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) protocol, and are covering up. Second they did comply but their information retrieval systems are sub-optimal. Third, their systems are optimal, but red tape is a bottleneck on information flows. Fourth, they withhold information to stop truth seekers (‘troublemakers’ in their eyes). The reason might be some combination of the above. Either way I am concerned about the lack of access to information.
Information enclosure mentalities
But I am not surprised. Stellenbosch Transparency conducted research on some critical issues in the town. Like the illegal removal of the traders from outside the Rhenisch Church (2013). The construction of the Tourism Corridor and Kayamandi Stadium (2006/2007). The eviction of people from the Kreefgat informal settlement (2016). In each case we uncovered that the municipality/council had violated a law. Or a legal regulation. And that in the process ordinary people suffered tremendously.
Is it trite to ask whether they spent the budget after the start of the 2018 IDP or before that juncture? Especially if they had approval of this budgeted item in May 2018. Does it matter whether they complied with Environmental Impact Analysis? Especially when our security is at stake? Yes it does. This attitude undermines the Rule of Law. This creates an environment tolerant of further violations of the law. You are then on a slide away of standards of civil and human rights.
It is possible that it is too late to prevent the complete gating of our community.
Maybe a model of security that includes development of marginalised areas is doomed in Stellenbosch. Partly because we in privileged areas will not tolerate it in our backyards.
But the truth value of this approach still stands.
Regardless, we should continue to speak truth to power.
Regardless, a luta continua.
Paul Hendler, Onderpapegaaiberg, 26 August 2018.