28 January 2007

The people versus crime & crooks

My last two posts on Africa in the News revolved around crime in South Africa, simply because I find it a problem that cannot be addressed too often. Crime and violence affect millions across this magnificent country; directly and indirectly. One of the results is an immense public outcry, as South Africans are not willing to live with the current situation.

You cannot open any newspaper without coming to that unfortunate realization. People get killed, raped, murdered, hijacked, assaulted, robbed and traumatized every single day. Despite this, some authorities that are supposed to deal with crime do not see or are not willing to see the scope of the problem.

Jackie Selebi, South Africa's Police commander, has said he does not understand all the fuss around crime and according to Andre Pruis, deputy national commissioner of the South African Police Service, visitors of the World Cup Soccer 2010 don't have to be worried because crime "is concentrated far away from the World Cup Stadiums."

Crime whingers

Charles Nqakula, South Africa's safety Minister, in June 2006 advised 'crime whingers' to leave South Africa if they are not happy. "Those ones can continue to whinge away, they can continue to attack everything that we do, they can continue to be as negative as they want, in the end it is the many people out there who for many years have been crying for peace and stability in South Africa who determine who rules this country," he said.
To my opinion, the authorities are failing to protect their own people and they are stabbing them in the back by calling them crime whingers. A figure of 59 murders per 100 000 people per year in the Western Cape province, or a national figure of 18 500 murders per year, says a lot. Note that these figures exclude the number of people who survived a murder, who were assaulted, raped, hijacked, maimed for life and traumatized.

Zero tolerance

The authorities – especially Nqakula - should listen to people's complaints and to their stories, and they should take zero-tolerance steps to protect them. That is their job.

Feeling abandoned by the authorities, many communities across South Africa have taken the matter in their own hands, and manifested themselves into anti-crime movements. Take Cape Town for instance. Hout Bay, close to the Mother City, has established an extremely effective neighbourhood watch (Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch) counting over 1800 people. Together they have managed to counter crime significantly. The same counts for Mannenberg, a coloured area in Cape Town that has lost quite a few members through gang wars.

But the public outcry goes even further, by praising ordinary people who decided to help out and to to prevent more damage, sometimes putting their own lives at risk.

South Africa's unsung heroes

This evening MNET – a national TV channel – dedicated the late afternoon to South Africa’s unsung heroes who, in their own ways, did something about crime. From five young boys who warned a farmer and his family about men who planned to attack the farm to an ex-police officer who got severely hurt when he saved a family from a blood thirsty robber. From an ex-convict who jumped in between a girl and her rapists – and now patrols the neighbourhood 24/7 - to a man who prevented an old lady from being robbed and stabbed. And more great, courageous and heroic people where put in the spotlights.

The motto of the evening was to keep your eyes open as someone’s safety might depend on you and your actions. Don’t walk away but help! And that is what the African ideology Ubuntu – meaning humanness - is all about: being there for one another. Because “a person is a person through other persons.”

Miriam Mannak / Africa in the News - Cape Town


Blogger Angeline said...

I guess coming from a country which parrallels South africa in so many ways (Northern Ireland-) I can understand alittle of how hard it is to find hope. Due to the huge police and army presence over the 25 years of conflict we did not escalate into such crime... however since the need for protection from the bombs has lessened so the crime has increased. Despite this with our new govt in place there is hope... our children walk more freely and we no longer need to check under our cars from bombs... Being a smaller country than SAfrica the progress is faster. It all takes time. ... and education ... and inclusion.keep up the writing! angeline

2:30 PM  

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