The practice gap: the disjuncture between policy and practice within crime prevention in Johannesburg, South Africa

Vahed Cachalia, Nazira
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This thesis deals with the gap between policy content and implementation using integrated crime prevention policy in the City of Johannesburg (the City) as the case study. The City is one of the largest municipalities in South Africa, and policy is implemented in a dynamic and complex political and institutional environment. The gap arises in part from this complexity, including the involvement in policy implementation of multiple political and bureaucratic actors in the City across many departments and agencies. The challenge of complexity is addressed in the policy implementation literatures, but this research shows that there are other causes for the gap which are deeply embedded within the workings of the bureaucracy. In engaging these, I moved beyond the idea of policy implementation to understanding bureaucratic action as being rooted within the structures and processes of governance and institutions. I turned to ‘New institutionalism’ and ‘Practices of the State’ literature for a stronger theoretical lens. I draw specific themes, concepts and ideas from this literature: path dependency, real governance, practical norms, and myth and ceremony. These interconnected themes were used to analyse the case study based on documentary analysis and interviews with state officials, stakeholders and policy experts. Through an engagement between concepts and the empirical study, I found that the reasons for the policy-practice gap lie within the City’s complex historical, institutional, political and governance makeup, and cannot be explained only through conventional governance and policy implementation literature. I found that policy implementation is influenced by the contested relationships between public institutions and citizens, the role and reach of formal and informal institutions, and how social actors mediate policy and practice.
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022