The link between alcohol abuse and violent behavior is now widely accepted in academic and policy circles, although there is still some debate about the extent of the impact that the abuse of alcohol has on aggressive behavior. Corrigall (2010) estimates that more than 95% of studies worldwide report a positive association between alcohol abuse and violence. Little attention has however been devoted to understanding if and how the abuse of alcohol intersects with the nature of the built environment and the impact which this has on violence and violent crime in cities. This paper therefore aims to explore the relationship between urban violence and alcohol abuse in urban settlements characterised by poorly located, low-quality housing and inadequate access to land, services and infrastructure. It draws on research conducted in Freedom Park, a low-income settlement on the Cape Flats which has recently been upgraded from an informal settlement into formal housing under South Africa’s Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme. The basic research question which the paper tries to address is if and how the nature of violence has changed since the upgrading process and the role that alcohol abuse plays in violence and violent crime experienced within the settlement. Preliminary findings suggest a shift in the nature of violence from gang-related violence during the informal settlement phase to a perceived increase in domestic violence linked to drug and alcohol abuse post upgrading. In a context of poverty, high levels of unemployment and a lack of opportunities for educational advancement; alcoholism, drug abuse and inter and intra-personal violence seem to thrive in Freedom Park.
Brown-Luthango, M. Violence and alcohol in the Cape Flats, Cape Town. Presented at Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) conference : building critical conversations in geography, Cape Town, 20 June 2012. (2012)