The University of Cape Town on Tuesday morning confirmed reports that “four cars were set alight at .
It often happens that when you're struggling with a difficult, complex and inherited problem, while still trying to figure out the best approach to solve it, someone keeps harping on the subject, condemning every step taken and deliberately fails to acknowledge renewed efforts.
South Africans are still engaged in an emotional debate about crime. A number are accusing President Thabo Mbeki of burying his head in the sand and ignoring crime's harsh reality and its affect on the country.
A closer look reveals that the entire country has actually been doing what it accuses its president of doing. The focus on violent crimes plaguing our communities has been blurred by racial undertones, which dictate and shape thinking.
These subtle undertones are amplified and receive prominence in outbursts, attacks and retaliation from key role players concerned and the people affected. This illuminates one simple fact - this beautiful country is trapped in its racial past, the apartheid ghosts are still around and will, from time to time, rear their ugly heads, causing everyone to lose their focus and their grip on what matters most.
The response from the public to the unacceptable crime levels tends to match race and class profiles of those articulating these concerns. The cries for the return of the death penalty and lack of political will with a special focus on the president himself predominantly come from one section.
The unsaid assumption in operation here is that violent crimes are committed by Africans only, and without much debate capital punishment becomes the appropriate sentence. The insinuation at the lack of leadership by Mbeki is reminiscent of the past.
Africans were, and still continue to be, seen as inefficient and incompetent unless they conform to the "master's standards". Concerns from other communities are demonstrated by the increase in vigilante acts as a result of dominant claims, police inefficiency and corruption. Their heightened emotions are, therefore, not surprising.
The government in turn reacts directly to these nuances and in the process unmasks residual, simmering racial tensions. One imagines that the president's responses were shaped by restrained anger at those doubting his leadership skills.
The attack on his leadership actually borders on the sickening, untested generalisation of African incompetence. It was telling, for example, for Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula to respond and brush aside questions from the opposition party in parliament, by saying: "Let them take their bags and leave."
This exasperation demonstrates the sentiment that there are sections in our society that are quick to exaggerate weaknesses in the system, but are unwilling to contribute to lasting solutions. The latest utterance by the minister of defence, Mosioua Lekota, that they would rather "focus on people who want to build than those who walk away" confirms this resentment.
The odd feature about all these discussions is the irate individuals' amnesia regarding the origins and long history of criminal violence in this country. The fact is, in the past the bulk of resources were spent providing and protecting the minority and now it has to be spread across the land.
Into the 13th year of democracy there have been challenges and serious limitations that have led to poor service delivery, corruption and edgy communities.
The debates, in essence, are useful in offering people space to express their frustration and feelings. The use of race as a lens in dealing with crime can only entrench divisions and contribute to the fragility of democracy. The reality is that race is allowed to creep into this highly charged atmosphere, resulting in polarised and irreconcilable positions. It is no wonder that these debates do not produce anything substantial or new in enabling the country to move forward in the fight against crime.
At any given time participation and constructive engagement in finding a solution in this context will be compromised. It is critical for the country to confront racism head on, otherwise everybody stands to lose.
The challenge and complexity of crime require sober minds, multifaceted integrated strategies, short and long-term plans. The idea is not only to develop strategies that respond after the fact, but also to be proactive.
Commitment from both the government and the citizens of this country is crucial. It only takes a naive person to claim he can deal with crime in just six months. The road ahead is definitely long, let the work continue.
l Dorothy Khosa and Snothile Msomi are from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation