A socio-ecological study of the Wolfgat Nature Reserve and the neighbouring Mitchells Plain community
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Wolfgat Nature Reserve, experiences a severe security threat level due to violent crime as a result of its location and the social challenges facing the Cape Flats community of Mitchell’s Plain. The WNR has for a long period of time, received largely negative newspaper coverage. Mitchell’s Plain experiences immense socio-economic pressures, such as high unemployment, a flourishing gang controlled criminal economy and extremely high levels of drug abuse, which has further torn its social fabric, as a result of underdevelopment and isolation as a result of old government policies such as those of Apartheid. 190 newspaper articles published between 1994 and 2013 were analysed using, content, narrative and stakeholder analysis, to determine the nature of the coverage of Wolfgat in the news as well as the context wherein these events occurred. The lack of social control, inadequate law enforcement capacity and underdevelopment, to which the community, law enforcement and the local government are central, were found to be the underlying cause for the threat WNR experiences due to violent crime in particular. The success of an urban nature reserve such as WNR is thus highly contingent on the success of the Mitchells Plain community. It is difficult to separate the criminal threats facing the reserve and the community from the development of the area. For the criminal threat faced by the WNR to be effectively addressed, the socio-economic development needs of the community need to be met and effective crime prevention and control strategies implemented. For the conservation of WNR to be successful in overcoming the threat posed by crime, the local community needs to be mobilised to take control of the area, by enforcing social control and creating a defensible space in collaboration with the central stakeholders’ such as SAPS, the City of Cape Town and the Nature Conservation staff of WNR.