Bulletproof glass playgrounds  in South Africa
Ballistic resistant glass playgrounds are planned for South Africa to shield children from gang violence. Twitter / Sumner @renmusb1

South Africa is set to build bullet-resistant glass playgrounds to protect children from gang shootouts. The secure playgrounds will have facial recognition and panic buttons to deter unauthorised entry.

This comes amidst South Africa's gun violence crisis, where heavily armed criminals wreak havoc on the streets, leaving children as unintended casualties in gang turf wars. Caught in the crossfire, innocent children in townships become collateral damage.

South Africa is no stranger to such violence. In 2021, the country experienced widespread riots following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, which claimed over 350 lives. Research suggests that for the past two decades, nearly half of the children treated for gunshot wounds in Cape Town hospitals were innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

Desperate Measures: Bulletproof Parks for South Africa's Children

In response to gun violence, several schools in South Africa resort to installing ballistic-resistant mesh fencing around their perimeters. When gunfire erupts, teachers are forced to instruct students to take cover under their desks.

However, this protection remains confined to school grounds. Children remain vulnerable on their journeys home and at playgrounds, exposed to the ever-present threat of stray bullets. In a bold attempt to address the epidemic of gun violence, Gun Free SA, a leading anti-gun violence NGO, unveiled its groundbreaking Bulletproof Park Project prototype.

Bulletproof Park
(Screenshot: Bulletproof Park South Africa Website)

The concept images showcase a bullet-resistant glass enclosure with panic buttons and a direct police hotline, according to a report by The Sun. It will serve as a safe haven for up to 24 children, who can enjoy swings, slides, and a sandpit under the watchful eye of security cameras.

Volunteers will monitor secured entryways and access will be granted only through a pre-registered facial recognition system. "We have been campaigning for 25 years to eradicate the root cause of this problem which is guns on the streets but things have got worse and we are plagued by gang violence," GFSA director Adele Kirsten said.

Children and the Shadow of Gun Violence

According to Kirsten, the Bulletproof Park Project is a radical response to a desperate situation. While long-term solutions require law enforcement to crack down on illegal firearms, this project offers a temporary shield for children until a safer alternative can be reached.

Mitchell's Plain, a Cape Town community tragically impacted by gun violence, will be the first to receive this solar-powered playground. At an estimated cost of £425,000, the Bulletproof Park Project offers protection for a fraction of the cost a single life lost to gun violence.

"The simple more viable and sensible solution is a more robust system to get guns off the street and destroy them but until then we have to act to keep our children safe," Kirsten noted.

Gun Free SA expressed deep concern about the necessity of such a project, calling it a "tragic consequence" of the gun violence epidemic. They plan to submit the Bulletproof Park Project proposal to the City of Cape Town for approval later this year.

Poverty within townships often confines children to the very streets where armed gangs, vying for drugs and territory, engage in reckless shootouts.

Criminologist Guy Lamb highlights the dangers, stating, "the township areas in which these things happen, houses are small so lots of children are playing out in the streets because they don't have any gardens. Gangsters are shooting randomly and wildly so children get caught in the crossfire."

It's a tragic reality echoing across borders, as evidenced by disturbing video footage that emerged from the 2022 Texas school shooting, capturing the terrifying experience of students scrambling for safety.