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The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) symposium on Alternative Technological Innovation on the protection of Municipal Infrastructure: Municipalities raising the bar to protect infrastructure assets




Posted: 07 October 2021

In recognition of the need to build a South African local government sector that is fit for the future, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), on Wednesday, 15 September 2021, hosted a symposium on Alternative Technological Innovation on the protection of Municipal Infrastructure to raise awareness and promote security for municipal infrastructure assets for the acceleration of service delivery.

Much of the discussion - that brought together stakeholders from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA), City of Joburg’s City Power, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and academia - centered around the need for local government to harness both existing and emerging innovations and technologies to maintain, repair and protect municipal infrastructure assets. 

Mthobeli Kolisa, SALGA Chief Officer: Infrastructure Delivery, Spatial Transformation and Sustainability set the scene for the programme saying its aims and objectives were to find ways in which municipalities could innovate in order to prevent or at least minimize loss and damage to municipal assets. 

“Every year just on the electricity distribution infrastructure, we face losses of about R6 billion worth of assets in theft and vandalism, not to mention the impact on service delivery failure on businesses, households and also the related loss of revenue to municipalities,” said Kolisa.

“If we could reduce these losses by at least half in the next 5 years, which is the next term of local government, this would basically mean that the industry would save about 3 billion worth of assets per annum in the next 5 years. So, the significance of this symposium will help us to reduce those losses.”

Luntu Ndalasi from the Municipal Support Infrastructure Agent (MISA) said infrastructure investment is an important municipal function to eliminate backlogs and stimulate growth, but this was threatened by large scale acts of vandalism to infrastructure.

He offered some recommendations to tackle the problem, which included the enhancement of security measures particularly on priority infrastructure (Treatment Plants, Pump Stations, Electricity Sub-Station, etc.) and using the latest available technologies.

Councillor Alderman Memory Booysen, Executive Mayor of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and Chairperson of the Public Safety and Security National Working Group of SALGA, delivered the key-note address. 

Stressing the need for municipalities to find new strategies to protect municipal infrastructure assets, he used the recent violent unrest that gripped parts of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng province, as an example of how such events threatened municipal infrastructure such as ports, oil rigs, roads, bridges, railroads, and pipelines to mention but a few. 

“The significance of this gathering of municipalities, public service partners, private partners and academia is to address innovative ways of enhancing our capacity to protect our infrastructure by using innovation and technology as the platform. To succeed today means that we will understand the advancements of tomorrow,” said Councillor Booysen. 

“The City of Cape and Johannesburg are on this programme today and will highlight how they have achieved success through the utilisation of innovative technological solutions that allow individuals to report suspicious behavior through a central information repository and big data analysis that can analyze suspicious words or phrases for the authorities to identify threats.”

The programme went into its first session for the day, which centered around the usage of digital technologies to safeguard municipal infrastructure. 

Session One- Lessons learnt

Wayne Le Roux from the City of Cape Town spoke about the challenges that the city has faced regarding theft and loss of municipal infrastructure and what the city has done to mitigate the threat. 

“The city of Cape Town is evolving to adapt to find and incorporate technology. The city has designed and built the emergency police incident control (EPIC) system.”

The system delivers the following benefits:

  • One common incident register for all departments
  • Electronic distribution of service requests
  • Capture and view caller/number/location details
  • Map integration and GPS on mobile devices into the location of incidents
  • Near to real time unit status and location view
  • Management of duplicate incidents
  • Management of SR and Mobile Units
  • Capturing of photo and video footage for case
  • Electronic and radio feedback of incident
  • Alerts and warnings on critical updates
  • Communication on this system. 

Conel Mackay from the City of Johannesburg Road Agency Infrastructure Protection Unit outlined some of the city’s prevention measures as follows:

  • Vandalism prevention efforts like advocating for and replacement of infrastructure with low re-sale value material
  • Introduced IPU including dedicated JMPD unit
  • Scrap yard raids
  • City wide cross departmental collaboration
  • Multi stakeholder law enforcement operations
  • Community liaison
  • CCTV surveillance
  • Illegal mining curbing operations

City Power has a five-pillar approach to the protection of its infrastructure assets:

  • Physical security- reinforce barriers (deter/delay/deny/deflect
  • Security technology- CCTV, access system, IDS (detection)
  • Security personnel- static and mobile
  • Intelligence operations- intelligence driven crime combat, investigation, and prosecution
  • Partnership with community structures- Adopt network at local level, MOU developed.

Session two- The digital space

Dr Micheal Reddy from the South African Police Service (SAPS) spoke about a new concept called Policing Nomics as the study of policing methodology and practice through the lens of modern economics, innovation, and creativity.

“To create an efficacious policing service that is responsive (ever evolving), professional and compassionate to all its citizenry and that contributes actively and purposefully to the economic growth and development of the nation, thus contributing to a prosperous and world-class country,” said Dr Reddy

The creation of a Policing Service that is designed to consistently evolve and embrace positive change, through the strategic use of modern economic solutions; innovative methods and practice; and cutting-edge creativity models. the establishment and maintenance of a sustainable Policing-Nomics Body of Knowledge (POLNOMBOK) in the Republic of South Africa.”

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sithole spoke about how Cybercrime is a fast-growing area of crime not only in South Africa but also the world over. He highlighted the importance of the police to be adequately equipped to deal with modern cybercrime. 

“The next cash-in-transit heist is going to be an online cash-in-transit and we need to start preparing to prevent it today. What we are looking at is brainstorming the creation of the first online police station and we are also running a project with Interpol to determine the online population statistics which will assist us to provide this service.”

Christo Abrahams from Huawei gave a presentation on Government and Public Sector Digital Transformation Road and Practice Sharing. He spoke about the need for African governments to digitize to improve their services, save money and improve their citizens’ quality of life.

He said that this had many benefits, including speeding up the pace of economic and social progress, creating new opportunities for faster economic growth, and for innovation, job creation and access to services and service delivery.

Session three- Transforming the role of security.

Lizette Lancaster from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), gave an overview of crime in South Africa, including an understanding of why public protests often escalate to violence.

She identified inequality, rapidly changing demographic characteristics, lack of democratic process, political instability, severe economic decline, and the deterioration of public services among others as key indicators of states at risk of collapse and internal conflict.

She added that proactive policing on crime and disorder was needed for the reduction of crime in problematic areas.

“Hotspots have a history of sporadic violent protests, inter-group and public violence. Therefore, hotspots are predictable and should be monitored,” said Lancaster.

“Local government and all departments should create an organisational environment of critical thinking, skepticism and experimentation around their work.”

Stefan Badenhorst, COO of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) gave a presentation on the rapid growth of South Africa’s private security industry because of growing levels of insecurity in the country.

He said that the industry had more personnel than the police, making it one of the largest private security industries in the world.

“Due to the smaller number of police versus the private security industry, it makes it virtually impossible for the police to be visible in public spaces in the same manner the PSI is able to.
The focus of private security remains crime prevention whereas the police maintain public order, enforce the law, prevent, combat and investigate crime,” said Badenhorst

“Some police members expect more assistance from the private security industry to assist in general policing activities - it is common to see security companies sharing pictures on social media after conducting raids and roadblocks alongside police and other divisions within SAPS.”

Bárbara Silva, Director at the Igarapé Institute of Technology spoke about how smart tech can be used to help cities fight crime. 

She explained that cities can improve their intelligence gathering, policing and community outreach by investing in new technologies to improve urban safety. 

For this she identified Agile security: data-driven and problem-oriented approaches that speed up decision-making and design in environmental changes to limit insecurity.

“Agile security can prevent and reduce crime, increase response times, reduce medical and insurance premiums and generate savings and efficiencies,” said Silva

Session four- Thinking outside the box

Prof Mbuyu Sumbwanyambe from the School of Engineering at the University of South Africa (UNISA) spoke about how new technologies could enable local governments to improve their service delivery offerings and that 4IR technology would allow for this to happen.

“Smart infrastructure is based not only on their physical structure (cabling, sensors etc) but also on four principles: data, analytics, feedback and adaptability.”

He added that local governments needed to build cities for the future.

“A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operations and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of the present and future generations with respect to social, environmental as well as cultural aspects,” said Prof Sumbwanyambe

Dr Duarte Gonçalves from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) delivered a presentation titled, Creating a Culture of Innovation: Vertical integration for Critical Infrastructure Protection. 

In it he emphasized on the need for local governments to build a culture of innovation to mitigate the impact of budget cuts, improve productivity, modernizing public services and to better prepare themselves and their systems to adapt and respond to their evolving contexts.

“Government faces a contradiction of increasing complexity in the environment while facing budget cuts.  Innovation, as part of organisational development, is central to resolving this contradiction. How leaders are using information in the organisation and across organisations will signal the culture,” said Dr Gonçalves

Mthobeli Kolisa returned to bring the event to a close. He said that he was pleased with the interesting insights generated about the future possibilities for local government and was confident that the discussion would form the backbone of real plans and strategies to build a local government for the future.

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