Mbeki critical of crime issues in APRM report

President Thabo Mbeki took issue with the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) report on South Africa, which suggested that there was an unacceptably high level of violent crime in the country.

This emerged when the APRM report was unceremoniously released as part of a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Union Buildings on Thursday.

The 380-page report, in book form, contains not only the APRM panel of eminent persons’ country-assessment report, but also the reply of the government on the report and the discussions of the African Heads of State APR Forum, which met in Accra, Ghana, in July.

According to the report, it was during this discussion that Mbeki signalled his displeasure with the issue of crime as contained in the panel’s country-assessment report.

He said the suggestion of unacceptably high violent crime appeared to be an acceptance by the panel of what he called ”a populist view”.

He challenged some of the statistics on crime, which he noted may have resulted from a weak information base, leading to wrong conclusions.

This included the rape statistics obtained from the South African Police Service.

”This only denotes the incidents of rape that were reported, some of which could have resulted in acquittals,” Mbeki indicated.

”On conceptual and methodological framework”, Mbeki also disagreed with some ”statistical underpinnings of the report”, particularly on crime, the issue of floor-crossing and xenophobia.

He said that while the report stated that floor-crossing was a concern to both the electorate and political parties, the truth was that it was only a concern to opposition political parties and not the electorate.

He said the report’s assessment that xenophobic tendencies prevailed was ”simply not true”.

Meanwhile, the report identified 18 best practices worth emulating in other countries, government communications head Themba Maseko said at the post-Cabinet meeting briefing.

These included innovations such as the Mzansi bank account, multi-purpose community centres and the black economic empowerment (BEE) charters.

The report also highlighted a number of strengths characterising South African society, including having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the largest and strongest economy on the continent and a political environment conducive to political debate.

Other strengths included First World economic and physical infrastructure, a strong public financial-management system, strong technological capability, good corporate governance, a robust legal system and a strong framework for protecting human rights.

However, the report also highlighted a number of challenges, including racism and xenophobia, under-representation of women in the private sector and high levels of gender-based violence.

Other challenges included the rise in education expenditure that was not mirrored in the outcomes of the system, insufficient contact between ordinary South Africans and political representatives, the pervasive legacy and distortions of the apartheid system, the high HIV infection rate and high levels of violent crime.

”In raising some concerns about certain aspects of the report, the government was of the view that the APRM process would be strengthened if the identified weaknesses were addressed,” Maseko said.

He said the next step was implementation of the programme of action to address the challenges raised in the report.

South Africa would be reporting progress to the APRM secretariat every six months and would table an annual report to the APRM heads of state and government forum in July.

The Cabinet noted that the APRM’s proposed programme overlapped with the government programme of action and that greater alignment between the two programmes would be attained in 2008, when the government finalised its programme for the year.

”All stakeholders, led by the government, are urged to work together to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the APRM country report,” Maseko said. — Sapa

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