South Africa: Group to Map Pre-Polls Violence

With national elections approaching, concerns about the levels of public violence – and their implications for a peaceful poll – are mounting. Service delivery protests are increasingly turning violent, and the numbers of incidents of public violence that the police have to respond to are growing.

This month, the ISS launched the country’s first open access project to map all forms of public violence.

Building on existing academic research and efforts to monitor protest action, the ISS will track levels of public violence over time, as well as responses to incidents.

Each incident is uploaded onto a map to produce a picture of where hotspots exist and where they may be emerging. Some of the key questions to explore are: What are the triggers that cause peaceful protests to turn violent?

What does an analysis of the Census data and public violence hotspots show? The results of this project will enhance our understanding of this growing phenomenon and improve the way that the police, other government departments, and affected communities are able to respond.

With more than 10 year’s experience in analysing violence data and working with criminal justice officials on strategy and policy, the ISS is well placed to lead a project of this nature.

Success will depend on the joint efforts of government and civil society, and this requires transparency and open access to accurate data.

With funding from the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the mapping project meets this need. As a starting point, the ISS Crime and Justice Information and Analysis Hub launched a free public violence map viewer that allows Internet users to view public and potential election violence hot spots using interactive maps. Users can also report incidents of violence online.

The public violence mapping project has already elicited interest from the media, the Independent Electoral Commission, CSIR, and the academic community. Ahead of the national election this year and local elections in 2016, the ISS will partner with a range of organisations to undertake election monitoring and risk analysis.

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See also ISS Today: Getting to the bottom of what really drives public violence in South Africa