To win war on crime, we need to rid the police service of incompetent leaders, writes Herman Mashaba
Today it is the law-abiding people of South Africa who live in fear, and the criminals who operate with impunity.
There is something very wrong with that picture.
There is no successful country in the world, where people are prospering from a growing economy, which fails to achieve the rule of law.
Until we get this right in our country, we will continue to fail.
South Africa is now in the unenviable position of being among the top five countries in the world in terms of its murder rate, and in the top three for rape and child rape.
To bring this closer to home, one of our fellow citizens is murdered every 27 minutes and one of our women is raped every minute.
This epidemic of crime has touched us all. You will not find a South African who has not either been a victim of crime or had someone close to them experience this trauma.
We are also failing to raise men in our country who respect and treasure women.
The level of sexual crimes and abuse that our women are experiencing requires us to achieve major changes.
There are some personal perspectives that I will be offering next week, which represent my thinking on the subject of crime and drugs.
The political alternative that we are busy setting up in our country will not be guided by my views, but rather those of the South African people.
I would like to see the Constitution amended to bring back the death penalty. I have always been a proponent of this in a society as violent as ours.
In less violent countries, it is argued that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime.
Fair enough, but in a society where murderers tend to repeat their destructive behaviour, the death penalty would ensure they couldn’t do so.
Given our flawed criminal justice system, steps would need to be put in place to mitigate against wrongfully convicted people facing this punishment.
I also believe in introducing the death penalty for rape.
When you consider how rape destroys the lives of the victims, I would not lose a minute’s sleep over this kind of punishment.
This is something that I want to engage with the people of South Africa on.
We cannot afford to be soft on criminals; it is apparent that they do not operate with such a constraint of conscience.
I believe we need to talk about the number of officers in our SA Police Service.
Our police to population ratio is lower than that of any successful country, let alone a country with our level of violence.
Our detective services are hopelessly under-resourced, and this feeds into our pathetic conviction rate.
We also need to embrace the technology of our times.
Today, police forces can be augmented exponentially by CCTV cameras linked to sophisticated software that recognises both criminals and criminal activities.
Our police officers need to be supported. I believe they are failed by a system in which politics interferes with their ability to do their very difficult and dangerous job.
How often do criminals accuse our police officers and then we respond by demanding their suspensions?
These are the people who work under terrible circumstances to keep us safe – and we throw them under the bus at the first opportunity?
At the same time, there are police officers in the service who are failing us.
Some are incompetent and are rewarded with senior positions for all the wrong reasons.
Others are corrupt and are criminals themselves.
To win the war against crime, we have to rid our police service of such people and promote those who will lead effectively.
We need to establish specialised units, in which law enforcement officers are trained to tackle the particular crimes that are pervasive in our society.
During the 2010 Fifa World Cup, we established 24-hour courts to deal with crime around the venues.
Why do we do this for a special event but not for our residents thereafter?
Justice for the victims takes too long in our country.
I would like to see more courts being established, operating extended hours and ensuring that criminals do not commit further crimes while they are out on lengthy periods of bail.
These are some of my thoughts.
On Monday, The People’s Dialogue launched the discussion on crime and drugs.
I am engaging with citizens from all backgrounds on solutions that are needed to win this fight.
Our political alternative will be informed by the voices of South Africans.
Their collective views on how we can wage a war against crime and drugs, and win, will guide our policy.
Herman Mashaba is the founder of The People’s Dialogue