Max du Preez

SAPS could make or break SA - here's why

2017-10-10 08:40
A policeman shoots a child during the Hout Bay protest. (Justin Sullivan)

A policeman shoots a child during the Hout Bay protest. (Justin Sullivan)

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If the ANC elects the right leader at its December conference, state capture could possibly in time be halted, corruption minimised and state owned enterprises be whipped into shape.

But if we can’t turn the South African Police Service (SAPS) into a professional and clean crime-fighting and peace-keeping machine, out future will still be very dark.

South Africa has become more unstable in recent months. Instability is the biggest threat to a country that wants to grow.

The governing ANC itself has become very unstable and this could get a lot worse leading up to and after the December elective conference.

While the economy is unlikely to grow by more than one percent in the next year, the expectations of a better life among the working class and the number of unemployed citizens are on an upward curve.

At the same time, the credibility of the government and in fact the legitimacy of the state are on a sharp downward curve.

It is safe to predict that protest actions are going to increase in the months and years ahead and could even escalate into full-scale revolts, including the potential of violent land occupations.

As is happening right now in Venezuela where the economy has collapsed, we can expect crime, gangsterism and public violence to increase sharply.

Whatever the results of the ANC’s elections, we will likely see a further increase in political tensions in the run-up to the crucial 2019 general election.

These scenarios can only affect investor confidence and tourism negatively, which could lead to a nasty downward economic spiral.

It is therefore critically important that we have a well trained, effective police force with dynamic leadership that can contain criminality and control riotous crowds with minimum violence.

These qualities are exactly what we don’t have in the SAPS.

The Marikana massacre of 2012, the brutal killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane six months later and many other events since then have shown that the police simply don’t know how to control violent protests and that it has tendencies to be unnecessarily violent.

Reports of corruption and ill-discipline among police officers have become common.

Crime statistics of the last two decades show a steady decline between 1994 and 2011, but a significant uptick since then.

In Cape Town, for instance, the number of murders has increased by almost 40 percent in the last five years. In KwaZulu-Natal, political killings are at a level last seen more than twenty years ago.

The problem starts with political leadership and political interference, especially since Jacob Zuma became president.

We have seen a series of incompetent and sometimes corrupt commissioners and senior generals appointed over the last few years while the important crime intelligence unit of the SAPS has been reduced to Zuma’s political bodyguards.

In the white and especially Afrikaans community, farm murders are seen as the most important crime problem.

The killing of farmers, their families and workers is a terrible phenomenon that all citizens should be concerned about.

But the campaign by some to portray this as a kind of “white genocide” and to lie about the real statistics is counter productive.

In-depth research over the last few years has shown convincingly that very few farm attacks are motivated by race or politics, that robbery is the overwhelming motivation.

Unisa academic Willie Clack, who is also chairperson of the national livestock theft prevention forum, explained to an international conference on rural crime last week that, contrary to public perception, farm dwellers are not really more vulnerable to crime than other citizens.

Activists who focus on farm murders damage their own cause when they ignore the fact that people living in townships, squatter camps and certain rural areas are in much more danger of becoming victims of crime than farmers.

The recent murder of eleven people in one day in Marikana outside Cape Town, where there are only one police officer for every 500 people, and the spate of multiple murders in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands over the last week are examples.

The Western Cape government’s shot-spotter technology recently identified a hundred shooting incidents in one week in the Cape township of Manenberg.

Places like Nyanga, Diepsloot, Umlazi, Tembisa, Ivory Park, Evaton and Alexandra are among the most dangerous in the world.

We citizens have a right to demand that our government act more pro-actively to reduce the number of firearms in the country.

We should agitate more energetically for better training, stronger discipline and better leadership of our police service and mobilise more actively on a local level.

We should refuse to accept that crime and violence reduce our quality of life because our political leadership won’t fix the culture and professionalism of our police.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

Read more on:    crime  |  saps  |  corruption  |  south african police service  |  shootings

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