Government not accountable

One has to admire all those who act against crime, with words, marches or petitions. But we must have become a schizophrenic nation if this is the only way we respond to the deep collective pain in our country caused by the ills of crime.

One has to admire all those who act against crime, with words, marches or petitions. But we must have become a schizophrenic nation if this is the only way we respond to the deep collective pain in our country caused by the ills of crime.

The most these actions could change is the official indifference to crime. The rules of the game must change fundamentally to bring about a shift in the current trend towards mayhem.

Bill Bratten, a former head of the New York Police Department, was invited here five years into our democracy. He shared his formula for making New York City a thrilling place to be. In summary it was accountability.

Here we have replaced the authoritarianism of the past with rights, but we have not replaced the injustices of the past with efficient policing. Hence rights have turned from entitlement to chaos, as criminals run rings around the criminal justice system.

Accountability requires clarity. We have confusion. Accountability requires decentralisation. We have wheels within wheels of authority and responsibility, under the baton of the National Commissioner of Police, himself an extended arm of the president, or perhaps the ANC. Now even that distinction is blurred.

Accountability requires rights to be limited by necessity, and public safety is a non-negotiable necessity.

Too often rights go to the wrong people: to criminals, perverted teachers, conniving criminals. Victims are handed charters. They must endure endless delays, lost or stolen dockets.

And when a prosecution does succeed, the most heinous criminal can expect to be released on parole or escapes.

Finally those who should keep our democracy independent and honest, such as the auditor-general, the public protector, public accounts committee, Judicial Services Commission, Electoral Commission and many others are all extended arms of the ANC. None is independent.

Bratten's ideas were not welcome here. Nor were the IFP's when we advocated a decentralised system of government, with accountability to voters, clarity to promote efficiency, rights limited by necessity and independent institutions to protect democracy.

Ruth Rabinowitz, IFP MP, Cape Town

X