/ 2 February 2007

Move to unite civil society against crime

The National Civil Safety and Security Action (Nacissa) has asked how government and the ruling party can promote a better life for all if crime is out of control.

“We are not against strategies that the government has put in place; we are here to assist,” Nacissa chief executive Ockie van der Schyf said in Pretoria on Friday. He was addressing the launch of Nacissa, which aims to unite civil society against crime.

Last week the ruling African National Congress (ANC) urged South Africans to “not become spectators” in the fight against crime, calling for the full participation of the public.

ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said the ANC plans to launch a mass-mobilisation campaign to ensure community involvement in the building of safer and more stable communities. He said the campaign will focus on the “reinvigoration of community policing forums as effective and credible sites for coordination, monitoring and popular participation”.

Crime statistics show that nearly 2,5-million people were victims of violent crime in the past three years and a recent study also showed a probability that more than 90% of people will fall victim to crime in South Africa.

“The statistics confirmed that the government has already lost the struggle against crime and it does not have the political will to accept that crime is a greater threat to our society,” Van der Schyf said.

Last month, in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, President Thabo Mbeki said most South Africans would agree with him that it was a perception that crime was out of control. “There is crime, but this does not mean it is out of control,” he said.

On Friday, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said 98% of South Africans felt the president’s attitude towards crime is mistaken. Writing in his weekly letter, Leon was referring to an e.tv poll that followed Mbeki’s comments; the poll asked: “Is crime out of control in South Africa?”, to which 98% of respondents answered “yes”.

“With regard to the devastating spiral of violent crime, my tip for Mr Mbeki is that he frankly admit the urgency of the crisis,” said Leon.

Also last month, the biannual Government Performance Barometer report published by the Markinor research company, affirmed the view that South Africans were increasingly pessimistic about crime, with just 40% of respondents feeling that government is doing enough to rectify the situation.

An African Union report of good governance also warned South Africa about growing levels of violent crime, which are undermining confidence in the country.

And Grant Thornton’s 2007 International Business Report (IBR), which surveyed 200 medium-to-large businesses in the country, found that more than 80% had been affected by crime over the past 12 months.

Nacissa will initiate campaigns to have crime declared a national priority, like HIV and Aids, and will raise funds for financial, legal and medical assistance for victims of crime.

With the murder of Anglo-Zulu historian David Rattray, crime in South Africa has become an international concern, member of the provincial legislature Gerrie Wolmarans said.

“We will go through all the motions to make the government act, even go all the way to the United Nations,” he said.

The Business Day on Friday reported that crime had increased by 7% over the past twelve years, with common robberies increasing by 89% over that time period. South Africa also has the world’s highest murder rate at over 18 000 a year.

Nacissa made a submission to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which was tabled on January 22.

The submission outlined the obligations the government has, one of them being to protect its citizens, according to the Constitution.

Van der Schyf said no ultimatum was given to the HRC, but he is aware the submission is being studied and will hear from the commission in due course.

Leader of the Freedom Front Plus caucus Rentia Landman donated R20 000 to Nacissa, because “they are a worthwhile cause”.

Van der Schyf urged other big business to follow suit as they have a moral responsibility to help the fight against crime.

The organisation will empower and assist communities proactively by working with them.

Nacissa, which has yet to launch a website, will be based in Pretoria with sub-offices in various provinces.