The Violence Project

Since 2008 the SSU is running a research project into aspects of violence in Cape Town, with a grant from the European Union as part of a multi-centre study of the micro-foundations of violent conflict. Our particular focus is on what we called ‘everyday violence’ in South Africa. Whilst South Africa’s transition to democracy was eventually achieved with much lower levels of violence than in many other comparable cases, post-apartheid South Africa has seen very high rates of everyday violence, in the streets and at home. It is calculated that, in any year, between 1 in 25 and 1 in 40 adult men (aged 15-40) commits a very violent crime (murder, rape, armed robbery; this does not include common assault or attempted murder). It has been reported recently that more than one in four men admit to beating their partners. More than two out of three adolescents reports having witnessed someone being hurt or attacked in the neighbourhood, and one in two say that they know people in their neighbourhood who have committed criminal acts such as robbery and assault.

Our research began in early 2008 with a series of about fifty in-depth interviews conducted, under the direction of Lauren Kahn, in selected neighbourhoods in or around Khayelitsha, on people’s experiences of violence. The unanticipated occurrence of xenophobic violence in parts of Cape Town in May 2008 prompted a change of focus. In the second half of 2008, Adam Cooper studied why such violence occurred in Dunoon (in northern Cape Town) – whilst in some other, apparently similar neighbourhoods (such as Imizamo Yetho in Hout Bay) there was no similar violence. This qualitative research is being combined with the analysis of data from existing surveys (many of which, as is often the case, remain under-analysed) together with data from the 2009 Cape Area Study.