Crime & Fear: The Paralysis of Our Nation (& The Opportunities To Curb It)

2014-10-29 20:15

Not long after the release of the National Crime statistics by SAPS, yet another high profile murder has grabbed the headlines, placing the spotlight firmly on the situation of violent crime in South Africa. Subsequently, the performance and response of SAPS itself will be under [greater] scrutiny once again, leaving little room for error among an aggrieved and enraged public. Caution, patience and objectivity are hard to conjure in such moments, where identikits serve to enliven bloodthirsty mobs ready to exact vengeance at a moments notice.

The depiction of South Africa as a destination for tourists used to be contradicted with the darker image of violent crime and murder, detracting potential visitors. Given the current trial of Shrien Dewani at the moment, these seem to be conflated as dual factors for tourists. This has deep implications for the image of our country, especially where crime proves attractive in SA for tourists. Foreign arrivals won't only come to SA with extra cash lining their pockets but also with the knowledge that a sordid moral environment engulfs our nation, presenting various opportunities for ill will, or gain. This can only add to the woes already presented by cartels and organized groups (the Russians, Chinese and to a lesser extent, the Sicilians).

Preconceptions are hard to scrub off of the minds of foreigners who easily reach conclusions. These can be through friends who've traveled here or even through the headlines of our media. More importantly though, reforms in our national psyche should be for ourselves more than for our image, although the latter does help reinforce the need for social transformation.

As I write this, one of my extended family members had become another statistic of violent crime; this as he was casually strolling to the local grocer at 6PM. 1 in 3 South Africans will have experienced an attempted mugging or house break-in during their lifetime. Such stats make for a chilling reality, one where most can expect anything to happen to them, at anytime, or anywhere. The safety and sanctity of home is not something that's guaranteed, not as long as there are people who're paid to kill, or who value an electronic device over a human life.

Even our neighbours in Zimbabwe will easily attest to the levels of violence in the country. This is something S'thembsio Msomi in today's TimesLive highlights as he recounted his travels through the country while on sabbatical. The truncation of Meyiwa's life at his prime, is as much a shock to South Africans as it is a chilling reminder, that violent crime is an ever present phenomenon in our society. This does scare most, but the time for fear, I believe is over. assertive and more stringent measures against violent crime in our society should be called for.

Whether this comes at through an amendment in the constitution, or through a return to the more proactive responses of SAPS under Bheki Cele (whose return is being rallied for - I myself am unsure of this), or perhaps both, should be seriously considered by  and ministers/security officials.

Another aspect which needs to be addressed, is the construction and adoption of a universal 'value system' (as I remember a good friend once say). This should be driven through stronger communication by the state and with greater efficacy. Given the current Chief of staff of communications dept. (the result of unabashed nepotism) - this would seem more an improbability than a likelihood.

The role of the Dept. of Arts and Culture could well aid in such an endeavour, but alas, given the unsuccessful incumbency of Nathi Mthetwa as our former minister of police, political oddity and discomfort would be tacitly avoided by him and the government at large. His recent attendance to our campus with other high level party and state officials on the day following that of cultural heritage, yielded little to no encouraging discourse besides the orthodox retelling of brutal histories endured by the resistance. I for one am from a family that has contributed immensely to the struggle and will never deny or downplay their sacrifices (many of them were ultimate sacrifices) but the discourse of such departments like Arts & Culture should, (I feel)  address the causality of crime. This will of course depend on the institutional reform, preceded by political will.  Only these things can activate the social galvanism needed along the lines of aforementioned value systems, skillfully delivered by the Dept. of Arts and Culture.

I hardly mean for this to be an open letter, but I feel compelled to ask,"Honourable Member Mthetwa"....... as Minister of Arts and Culture, what is it you'd like our 'Culture' to be? Surely criminality and murder are not part of your vision?

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