Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI)

The University of Cape Town (UCT) established the Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI) in April 2011. The Initiative brings together scholars from various entities across UCT including, but not limited to:

  • African Centre for Cities;
  • Centre for Social Science Research;
  • Department of Psychology;
  • Department of Social Anthropology;
  • Department of Social Development;
  • Department of Surgery;
  • Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit;
  • Institute of Criminology;
  • Law, Race and Gender Research Unit; and
  • School of Public Health and Family Medicine

The vision of SaVI is to work towards a safe South Africa, where freedom and security are the norm, rather than the exception. Its mission is to establish research collaboration that will contribute to promoting safety and reducing violence and to raise awareness about these issues within South Africa (and in due course more broadly throughout Africa).

SaVI’s key role will be to develop theory and to translate this into practice. This will be accomplished through:

  • Enabling researchers to engage with each other across disciplinary boundaries;
  • Facilitating socially responsive research across a number of different levels (such as individual, household, neighbourhood, city, national and global);
  • Developing a “critical mass” of researchers capable of carrying out collective, sustained research projects, and through this synergy to provide practical solutions to violence-related problems;
  • Making wider and more efficient use of existing resources (including survey and administrative datasets, which often remain under-analysed);
  • Developing research capacity in the study of safety and violence;
  • Enabling national, continental, and international networks, including existing links between 
the academy and the civil society and public sectors; and
  • Facilitating the dissemination of research. 

VPA focal person

Guy Lamb
Tel: +27 21 650 3163

Guy Lamb was appointed as the Director of SaVI in October 2012. Prior to this he was a Senior Research Fellow and Programme Head of the Arms Management Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He has undertaken research on arms control, violence reduction, conflict management and peace building issues in Africa for more than 15 years, and has produced various publications in this regard. Guy has served on the United Nations (UN) Security Council Panel of Experts on Liberia as the arms and security specialist, and is a member of the UN’s small arms control standards generating expert reference group. He has worked extensively with the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation and number of governments to strengthen firearms control processes in Southern Africa. He has managed peace building research projects (and undertaken research) in Central Africa for the World Bank. Recently he has provided arms control technical support to numerous African governments during the 2012 negotiations for the UN Arms Trade Treaty. Guy has also previously worked for the Centre for Conflict Resolution (South Africa) and the Nordic Africa Institute (Sweden).

Catherine Ward
Tel: +27-21-650-3422

Catherine L. Ward is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds a PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina, USA. Her research interests are in violence prevention from the perspective of children’s development, and particularly in public health approaches to this – in developing evidence-based approaches to violence prevention that have a wide reach and are effective in improving children’s development and reducing their likelihood of becoming aggressive. Much of her current work is focused on preventing child maltreatment, and on understanding the epidemiology of risk factors faced by South African children.

Catherine Ward co-leads the VPA Parenting Project Group with Chris Mikton from WHO and Theresa Kilbane from UNICEF. Recently, she and her colleagues Amelia van der Merwe and Andrew Dawes produced the edited volume Youth violence: Sources and solutions in South Africa. The book reviews the current state of the science in understanding how to prevent children from becoming aggressive, and how to adapt the evidence-base for use in low- and middle-income countries. It is available here:

In addition, she serves on the Advisory Boards of the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, and the Capoeira Educational Youth Association (a youth development association in Cape Town); and on the Editorial Boards of the journals South African Crime Quarterly and Psychosocial Interventions.