To reclaim our streets, we need to pull together

Thursday, September 25, 2014

By Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Performance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, Jeff Radebe

The passionate debate following the release of the annual South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics is indeed welcomed.  Crime is our common foe; thus when every South African is concerned about crime and its negative effects we move a step closer to beating it. 

The latest statistics released by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko reflect a mixture of successes and challenges. They reveal that crime is largely on the decline; however there are still serious issues that must be addressed. 

The issue of serious crime rightly claimed all the headlines. Our murder rate is too high by any acceptable standards.  However, to merely look at the numbers without exploring the underlying reasons is akin to walking on a cliff face in the dark.

We should never forget that our nation was born out of extreme turbulence only 20 years ago.  For decades before, the apartheid state had actively sought to cultivate a culture of violence, oppression and brutality.  We are today still battling this extreme assault on the collective psyche of our nation.  To therefore simply forget the past would be naive in the extreme as it continues to manifest through violence and crime. 

The government for its part is committed to fighting crime wherever it may arise.  We have made it one of our strategic priorities, and only when people feel safe in their homes, their places of work, their communities and on the streets will we rest. 

Upon releasing the crime statistics Minister Nhleko spoke of finding a broader solution to murder and attempted murder.  "We observe there are higher levels of violence in our society," he said. 

He also said that cultural violence and aggression should be eradicated. Minister Nhleko also highlighted the serious problem of alcohol abuse in the country. "The prevalence of drugs and alcohol abuse in our community is extremely concerning," he said.

When one delves deeper it becomes apparent that the three issues highlighted by Minister Nhleko are central in beating crime. 

It is an accepted fact that in most cases of contact crimes; murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault GBH (grievous bodily harm) and common assault the victim and perpetrator are known to each other.  Such crimes are often fuelled by alcohol or substance abuse, and may involve arguments or conflicts within families, groups and communities. 

Undoubtedly there are those who will say that the police do not do enough to prevent contact crimes. The government, however, is committed to finding a societal solution to the scourge of violent crime. Simply putting more police on the ground and in communities is not the solution as police can never be in all places at once.    

That is not to say that we dispute the vital importance of visible policing; in fact this approach is part of our strategy for lowering crime.  National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega highlighted two key interventions as being the need to intensify is police visibility and enhancing efforts to reduce the circulation of illegal firearms. She also pinpointed a third and vital aspect of raising awareness about underlying socioeconomic contributors which lead to an increase in contact crime.

These socioeconomic issues referred to by General Phiyega are complex and include factors such as poverty, substance abuse and unemployment. 

As daunting as these challenges seem, they are by no means insurmountable. The National Development Plan (NDP) aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.  According to the NDP, South Africa has the potential and capacity to eliminate and reduce inequality over the next two decades.

Ultimately these interventions are but one part of the solution. The key to eradicating violent crime lies within all of us.  We can end this scourge through our collective actions.

The fight against crime requires the help and support of every South African. It is no longer good enough to look away or to assume that crime is someone else’s problem. The reality is that criminals can only thrive in communities where their actions are tolerated.

All of us should channel our anger into action, we dare not let crime thrive, however this should not translate into vigilantism.

Instead it is a call for every South African to get involved.  Join community policing forums, be active and together we will stem the tide of crime. Communities especially have immense power to deal with crime in their areas when they present a united front.  

We further encourage citizens to participate in neighbourhood initiatives to safeguard the areas in which they live and work.  Speak to your neighbours about crime prevention and get them involved.

Every one of us has a role to play in combatting crime. The government has closely followed the debates about the latest crime statistics.  These have been robust and forthright; we welcome such open debate as it will ultimately better our responses and crime fighting interventions.

We remain 100 percent committed to reclaim our streets, suburbs and communities from criminals. Over the next five years we have prioritised the fight against crime and corruption. We pledge to work with communities to build strong cases to ensure that we put criminals away for good. Let us move the country forward, by reporting crime and working with police.  We can only be successful if we fight crime together.

 

 

 

 

 

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