/ 13 March 2007

Business urges more action against crime

A South African business group called on government on Tuesday to adopt new strategies to combat rampant crime and make the police force and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development more efficient.

”The previous solutions weren’t going to achieve results. The level of commitment was low at the beginning and now it’s improving,” Siphiwe Nzimande, CEO of Business against Crime, told a forum.

Outrage over crime is growing as South Africa tries to show it is safe before hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Corporate leaders have forged a partnership with officials to mount a campaign against the country’s rampant murder, rape and robbery rates — some of the highest in the world.

A joint industry-government taskforce has collected $2,5-million in private donations for crime-busting projects — ranging from cracking crime syndicates to addressing social problems. The projects are due to roll out by next month.

The funds are also aimed at improving the under-paid police and justice system, drawing on top corporate minds.

Nzimande did not provide specifics but said one example of a new approach is to create a single database on crime to be shared by the police and courts, which face a backlog of cases.

”The responsibility resides with the government and we are there to support it,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande cited past business initiatives, such as the deployment of security cameras in the dangerous downtown Johannesburg, which he said reduced crime by 80%.

President Thabo Mbeki has often been accused of downplaying crime despite alarming official statistics — 18 528 murders in 2005/06 and an average of 150 rapes per day.

In his State of the Nation address in February, Mbeki acknowledged that many live in fear of crime and pledged to expand the police force.

His government has pledged more money for law enforcement but criminals are becoming more brazen in Africa’s biggest economy, blowing up ATM machines at will, hijacking cars and holding up cash-in-transit vehicles.

Nzimande said the government needed to shoulder more responsibility. ”It’s a tough assignment” he said. — Reuters