Drastic action needed to halt shocking rise in crime
Last week we received provincial crime statistics for the fourth quarter, that is the period January to March.
What the stats reveal is that we have a monumental task on our hands, to fully realise our priority of creating safe communities as envisaged in the Provincial Development Plan.
We understand that our people are feeling cornered by criminals everywhere, in rural areas, in townships and suburbs.
We have heard numerous cries for help from people in rural areas who are forced to sell their livestock due to theft that has turned violent in many of our communities.
This past weekend we laid to rest Brig Joe Jongile after he was gunned down inside his home in East London.
Imagine the psychological trauma his family went through during a violent home invasion that claimed the life of a man who gave his all in our liberation struggle and in service of our democratic government.
What upsets us even more about these crime stats is that they affect the vulnerable groups of our society.
When stats reveal the murder rate in the Eastern Cape has increased by 21.5% in quarter 4, we must know among those victims there are women, children and elderly people.
To learn that the lives of 938 citizens of our province were taken violently between January and March of this year, by other citizens, is shocking.
When we learn that rape cases are on the rise, we know women and children are on the receiving end of that heinous crime.
Consequently, Lusikisiki has been declared the rape capital of SA.
The men of Lusikisiki should hang their heads in shame for violating senselessly the 88 victims of rape that were recorded between January and March this year, in that area.
The awareness campaigns of government in the communities of Lusikisiki has led to an increase in the number of reported cases to the police by victims of uKuthwala, which is a customary practice of forced marriage that has been practised for a long time in some parts of our province.
Under our constitutional democracy which promotes the rights of all citizens, the customary practice of uKuthwala has been declared to be a criminal offence and has been incorporated into the Trafficking in Persons Act.
The criminalisation of the customary practice of uKuthwala is long overdue and is in line with the value system that is espoused in our constitution, of building a non-sexist and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and the inalienable human rights for all.
Ukuthwala is one of the patriarchal customs of our country that have disempowered women and violated their freedoms for generations and has no place in a society based on the principles of equality.
We will embark on an education awareness drive in Lusikisiki to transform the minds of men in that society and make them understand that uKuthwala is now outlawed and constitutes a rape charge.
When we talk of violent crimes, we understand that we are not dealing with upright citizens.
We are dealing with vicious predators who are lurking everywhere, ready to pounce and inflict harm on other innocent people.
Our response to such predators must communicate a message of disgust for their behaviour.
We have an obligation to ease the fears of our communities, to give our people hope that they are safe, with practical response programmes to curb crime.
We have established the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster which is made up of critical departments in the security space to develop integrated response strategies and plans to combat crime.
The cluster is supporting the efforts of our police who are doing a tremendous job of fighting crime in our communities.
Over the past few years government has increased the number of men and women in uniform. This has enhanced police visibility.
Government has also passed many laws to protect women and children from abuse, and those laws are beginning to bite.
We have changed laws to make longer sentences compulsory for violent criminals, and we believe this will serve as a deterrent to crime.
Over and above that, government has developed many strategies to prevent and combat various forms of crime in our country.
The Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy is the latest document developed by government and has six pillars, which are:
● An effective criminal justice system;
● Early interventions;
● Victim support;
● Effective and integrated service delivery for safety, security, and violence;
● Safety through environmental design; and
● Active public and community participation.
The first pillar puts the criminal justice system at the pinnacle of preventing and combating crime.
But for the criminal justice system to work effectively, communities must participate actively in the fight against crime.
Government is strengthening community police forums and community safety forums to do their work effectively.
The crimes that make up statistics are committed in community settings, not by aliens, but by human beings on other human beings.
So, it is communities themselves that must form an integral part of our response plan to these crime statistics, led of course by government.
We are emphasising the words led by government on purpose, because communities have unconventional ways of dealing with crime that can be counterproductive for the cohesion we want to build in our society.
Cohesion is broken in the villages of Ezingqolweni and Maqhashu in Cacadu District after residents took the law into their own hands.
Mob justice will never be tolerated by the democratic government that is led by the ANC. We must, however, address the causes that lead people to unleash mob justice.
One of the reasons we often hear is that people lose confidence in the criminal justice system because they report criminals and see them walking in their communities soon after their arrest.
That does not justify acts of mob justice, but it is those kinds of reasons that we must address.
We are on a mission to instil confidence in our people that the criminal justice system works in favour of victims of crime, and not for perpetrators of crime.
Government is in charge, not criminals.
- Oscar Mabuyane is premier of the Eastern Cape
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