The City Surveillance State: Inside Johannesburg's Safe City Initiative

South African cities are increasingly turning to technology-aided surveillance to police public spaces. Conceived of as ‘safe city’ projects, they are linking cameras to form wide area networks that increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI) to index, sort and interpret data pooled into centralised surveillance-based ‘nerve centres’. These initiatives are being launched without full public transparency. This policy briefing provides previously undisclosed details about safe city projects in Johannesburg, and focuses on the implications for South African democracy of implementing such systems of mass surveillance. While these technologies are deployed in the name of fighting crime, they reinforce some of the very structural inequities that underlie the national crime problem.