In recent weeks, South Africans have been overwhelmed by the euphoria of good news, from the Springbok victory to the heart-warming tale of goodwill around the #KFCProposal. However, that does not mean that we have forgotten about the real challenges that we face, such as drought, load-shedding, the escalating costs of living — and it goes without saying — crime.
Crime affects all of us, whether poverty-driven petty theft for survival to serious white collar; corporate crimes, such the Steinhoff situation and state capture, which have a tangible effect on many South Africans; and, indeed, the often fatal crimes such as armed robbery, rape, hijackings and murder.
The Hatfield metro police satellite station is a new institution, which was recently opened in conjunction with the University of Pretoria, the Hatfield City Improvement District and the City of Tshwane. At the University of Pretoria, we see ourselves as an anchor institution of the communities in which we have our campuses. As such, we strive to ensure that we have a positive effect on the community, the local economy and the overall quality of life and environmental sustainability of the surrounds.
Our Hatfield campus is home to more than 40 000 students and nearly 7 000 staff members. This is a significant number of people who rely on the peace of mind of a relatively safe working, living, walking, and studying environment. The recent launch of the Hatfield metro police satellite station is an upgrade to the existing bicycle-mounted police service that helps to keep our area safe.
We know that just having a police presence and an active safety patrol service is not enough. So we constantly try to instil in our students the need for them to be responsible in terms of enhancing their own safety and to be vigilant when they walk around the area. It is unfortunate that, in their youthful exuberance and self-confidence, they often drop their guard and then fall victim to crime.
But what is interesting to note is that even though fighting crime on a round-the-clock basis comes at a cost, our local community has come together to help the City of Tshwane to achieve this. Local businesses, property developers and private homeowners all work together on this project for the betterment of the quality of all our lives.
If we are able to do this on a small scale that has such a big effect on so many people, surely as a country, we can replicate this in other towns? Yes, municipality budgets are overstretched; and yes, some might argue, “Why should we pay for services we are owed due to the financial loss of corruption?”
But on the flip side, we have just seen the magic that happens in South Africa when we all put our differences aside and work together. How many other towns or suburbs around South Africa can set in motion projects to augment crime-fighting initiatives? Business has a role to play in generating investment in South Africa, but does that investment need to be only economic cash injections? Or can job creation be generated from social justice and socially beneficial projects such as funding or training a group of police officers who will serve the local community?
Partnerships are crucial to progress. There is a lot that needs to be done for many people. Our current national infrastructure in terms of healthcare, safety and security, and basic education is barely holding on. There is no magic wand to wave to fix our crime situation in one go. We live in a complex and deeply unequal society. Very often, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in society who are at a higher risk of crime and seemingly bereft of any justice. We need to work together to build a new and equitable pool of services for all South Africans.
In our own Dickensian age of living through “the best of times and the worst of times”, I would like to propose that our efforts to uplift society be viewed not only in terms of material investment and successes, but used to celebrate social investment that benefits us all and encourages us to pool our resources for the greater good.
Why should we all not be free to walk the streets of our community as we shop, go to work and commute on public transport? We have managed it through proper planning, strategic partnerships and a practical desire to make a difference in our communities.
My challenge to all large organisations and businesses is to follow suit and contribute to the location that you are in or the feeder locations of your staff. This could be in terms of creating strategic partnerships for healthcare, education, safety and security, or even food and water security.
Partnerships, with people and society at the heart, are the crucial drivers that make the reality that we really are stronger together.
Professor Tawana Kupe is the vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria