Tshwane wants to phase out gated communities
The City has been presenting a Draft Policy for Restriction of Access to Public Places during a series of public participation meetings last week.
But Residents Against Crime (RAC), who have commissioned Gary Duke of Duke Attorneys and Jan Malan of Streetsafe to engage with the City on its 2019 draft policy on access restrictions, noted three primary areas of concern from a legal perspective.
These are the limit on the number of applications the City will approve, how often applicants must reapply, and the costs involved in the infrastructure that must later be dismantled.
In terms of the Rationalisation of Local Government Affairs Act, as things stand, residents must re-apply for approval of a gated community every two years.
In terms of the City’s proposal, once the two years have lapsed, a gated community can reapply and be approved for a maximum period of five years.
Once that period has lapsed, they can be approved for a further five years - ie 10 in total - but thereafter the restrictions must be lifted.
The motivation for this is that the City believes that by that time, crime will be under control and the boom gates and other measures will no longer necessary.
Duke pointed out that it was unreasonable for the City to expect residents who had spent millions of rand erecting infrastructure to protect themselves to take it down after the time limit, regardless of the crime situation.
He said that the legislation provided for a two-year renewal period because, at the time, it was believed that within two years crime would have been reduced to the extent that road closures would no longer be necessary. It was now 21 years later and crime is worse, he said.
Road closures are governed by provincial legislation that requires the two-year renewal period.
In terms of this the City is entitled to charge an administrative fee, payable upon submission of the application or re-application to cover the city’s costs.
Duke said that prior to 2003 the City charged a flat fee for all road closure applications. But in 2003 the City introduced a new administrative fee. This involved a base charge of R11000 and a charge for every household in the enclosed area. The bigger the area, therefore, the higher the cost.
By 2017 larger enclosed areas had to pay in excess of R340000 every two years just to apply for a public road to be closed. The payment fee did not guarantee that the application would be successful.
He urged the City not to view gated community applicants as the enemy, but rather as the City’s partners in fighting crime, and to consider road closures as one component in this fight.
He advised the City that road closure applicants did not put up structures such as boom gates to create exclusive compounds to keep other people out: they did so out of fear for the safety of their families.
The whole process was very time consuming, inconvenient and expensive, and was a last resort necessitated by the authorities’ inability to protect them and make them feel safe. Because of the cost of applying for and setting up a road closure, only more affluent neighbourhoods could make use of this method, and disadvantaged communities should be considered too when setting up a policy.
He said it could be that at a later stage a better solution to the problem than road closures became available, but for now road closures worked to reduce crime.
RAC said it was pleased at the City’s attempt to engage with residents and other interested parties on the policy.