Zuma vows to be tough on crime, corruption

Friday, August 14, 2009

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has thrown down the gauntlet on criminals vowing his government will push for tougher laws to ensure police win their war against the perpetrators of crime.

"Laws must bite because government has a duty to protect citizens. I don't understand why people often have a problem when laws are tough on criminals," President Zuma said last night as he addressed the Greek, Cypriot, Italian and Portuguese communities living in South Africa. 

"Criminals do not only interfere with rights of other citizens, they take that right when they kill," the President said, while suggesting that the issue of bail for those charged with violent crime should be revisited. 

Accompanied by at least nine of his cabinet ministers, including Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, President Zuma told a packed Hellenic Community Hall in Germiston that the new administration will also stop at nothing to root out corruption at all levels of government. 

His meeting with the minority groups who belong to the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese Alliance (HIP) was a follow up to last year's interaction with him, where these communities raised a number of challenges and constraints that affect their constituency. 

At the time the President had said he would return to the communities with a response to their concerns within the first three months of his Presidency. He said last night that most of the issues raised have found their way into government national policy.

"As we said in our State of the Nation Address, we are in the process of establishing a transformed, integrated, modernized, properly resourced and well-managed criminal justice system," President Zuma said as he went through a 14-page speech.

"Our intention is to improve the efficiency of the courts, and enhance detective and forensic services as well as the prosecutorial capacity.

"We have to enhance the skills and increase the number of investigators, forensic experts and active duty police personnel," said President Zuma.

He said serious attention will be given to combating organised crime and crimes against women and children. 

"We are particular concerned with violent crime and the prevalence of violence in the perpetration of robbery".

Government was concerned about the spate of robberies in number of shopping malls in the past few days, he said.

On corruption, President Zuma assured the communities that government will step up its fight against corrupt public servants by reacting quicker in cases where corruption has been reported. He pointed out that a hot-line, set up in The Presidency, will allow citizens to report corruption directly to his office. 

He said since 1994, government had put in place measures to fight corruption through legislations such as the Combating Corrupt Activities Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

"People have a perception that corruption only started in 1994, it's not true. People started to notice it because something was being done about it," President Zuma said drawing laughter from the crowd.

The President also signaled a warning to senior government managers, who often failed to declare their private financial interests, that their days could be numbered. 

In what could be seen as an attempting to allay the fears of investors and business, President Zuma told his audience that government was committed to reducing the cost of doing business in South Africa. 

He also said measures were in place to review the manner in which development finance institutions issue credit. 

"Our approach is that, while these institutions should maintain sound financial management, they should at the same time be in a position to bear the risk that private banks will refuse to take," said President Zuma. 

Moving on to the thorny issue of poverty and unemployment, the president said government was working around the clock to expand social protection with a comprehensive social security system that embraced medical support and social assistance to the elderly, unemployed, and other vulnerable people in society.

An important element of this is the planned introduction of the National Health Insurance scheme. 

President Zuma said through the scheme, health care will be accessible at no cost to all and that services will not be delivered on the basis of one's ability to pay.