Rage and action needed to fight murders

Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Image: Esa Alexander

The reality of increased crime in our country, particularly murder, is concerning.

The crime statistics that were released by police minister, Mr Bheki Cele, last week, are quite alarming, to say the least. Of particular concern, is the worsening rate of murders! Whist all crime is evil and against common good, murder makes the Bill of Rights completely meaningless. Enjoyment of constitutional rights is dependent on the right to life. A human corpse does not exercise any of the rights enshrined in the Chapter 2 of our constitution.

Every government’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of its citizens. Linked to that, is the guarantee and reasonable provision of secondary rights, especially basic services without which people can only exist in misery, reduced to subhuman conditions. This is what should inform government policies, in broad terms.

Of grave concern are realities that statistically, the majority of murder victims are black and poor. The well to do can afford state of the art security arrangements for their homes, families, schools and neighbourhoods. They can pressurise the South African Police Service (SAPS) to patrol their residentials areas. Social conditions of the poor make them easy prey to violence, resulting in death. We often forget that it is the votes of the poor that send politicians to parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils.

The murder statistics of 57 people being killed in South Africa everyday, as announced by Cele, do not, as a rule, include unreported cases.

Whilst President Cyril Ramaphosa is wowing foreign investors to boost our economy, the state of insecurity in South Africa will deter some of them from risking their investments. The so-called “advisory” to the United States of America citizens about the dangers of visiting our country will not help Ramaphosa’s efforts. Granted, this must be dismissed as US president Donald Trump’s racist madness, it still has the potential to harm our international image!

The murder statistics focus on private, unarmed civilians, while members of the SAPS experience many casualties as well. This makes the problem even more complex. It suggests the police cannot win this war alone. Even in an open war situation, civilians have a role to play.

Apparently, not even the notoriously thriving security industry in south Africa seem to be making much difference in saving lives, especially of the most vulnerable.

What is even more worrisome is that the culprits are known in the community. They are feared, because protection for whistle-blowers is lacking. But what is the role of religious organisations in this epidemic? Schools, universities, businesses? Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM)? Ordinary citizens, traditional leaders, student’s youth organisations, political formations, faculties and media? Where are the erstwhile street/area/regional committees? Where are community leaders not affiliated to political parties? Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, and more.

We are of the view that joint projects between SAPS and the broader civil society can play a very important role. Focus on ethical values, the way people behave individually and socially, is informed by social values taught to them from youth. That’s where MRM comes in, as informed by late President Nelson Mandela’s call for an RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) of the Soul. 

Whilst the president’s war against corruption and state capture is critical, the murder epidemic should be heard more forcefully. When the minister of police confesses that South Africa is like a war zone the situation must be very grim indeed

Government cannot use ordinary measures to combat an extraordinary/abnormal national threat. Citizens cannot live in a state of perpetual fear for their lives.

There is an urgent need for rage and action.

Father Mkathswa is the chairperson of the Moral Regeneration Movement.

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