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State of Urban Safety in South Africa Report 2021

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Justine Neke, Kirsten Harrison, Lizette Lancaster, Siphelele Ngobese, Thomas Hellmann, Tlholohelo Mokgere, Nicolette Pingo

09 June 2022



SACN Librarian


SA Cities Network

South Africa

This report provides an overview of global, regional and national urban safety developments and policy provisions, and presents an analysis of the state of crime and violence in nine of South Africa’s major cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay, Mangaung, Buffalo City and Msunduzi) for 2020/21 and for the 16-year period from 2005/06 to 2020/21. In addition, recognising that urban safety is not only about crime statistics, the report also profiles the work of the Urban Safety Reference group (USRG) and its member cities in 2020/21, highlighting knowledge-sharing opportunities, city practices and models (including those that could be adapted or replicated), the development of policy briefs and other knowledge products, and awareness raising/ lobbying efforts. Importantly, the report includes reflections on the experiences, practices and innovations adopted by individual cities.


Pockets of excellence are found in each of these cities and reflect how local officials are working to build social cohesion and address urban safety. These include dedicated safety offices in the City of Johannesburg; the inclusion of urban safety in the City of Tshwane’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP); the all-of-society, multi-layered intervention to support eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality’s homeless community, the proactive rebuilding and consolidation of the City of Ekurhuleni’s relationship with communities; an innovative Precinct Management Plan in Msunduzi Municipality; the all-of-society approach to safety and security patrols in Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality; cooperative operational planning and delivery in Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality; innovative use of technology and cross-cutting partnerships in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality; and the use of neighbourhood safety officers in the City of Cape Town.


The State of Urban Safety in South Africa Report 2020/21 comes at an opportune time. It provides an opportunity to showcase both the resilience of South Africa’s urban communities and examples of innovation and collaboration. It shows that real change is possible through localised partnerships, co-creation, and an all-of-society approach to urban safety. The implementation records of the cities covered in the report also demonstrate the importance of creating institutional mechanisms for implementation, and the need to proactively pursue approaches that cut through the silos, so that different departments and spheres of government can work together.


The experiences of both the USRG and its member cities highlight the importance of cross-cutting, integrated responses and all-of-society models in building better, safer cities. The USRG uses the State of Urban Safety Report as a platform for reflecting the longitudinal shifts within each city and comparatively over time, contributing to evidence-based decision-making and providing a unique monitoring and evaluation tool within the local government space.


Website References

Buffalo City

Built environment

Cape Town

Crime and security


Human settlements





Nelson Mandela Bay



Social facilities

South Africa





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