|Charles and Joey Botha, who were found murdered on their farm. He had been hamstrung and her face was crushed with a brick. Photo: News24|
This is not a negative post. I remain committed to this country. Part of that commitment is being concerned about the negative things that jeopardise its future.
Every day we read horrendous stories of crime in the news. Many stories tell of sheer brutality on behalf of the perpetrators.
We have seen the unbelievable stories of:
- a baby being murdered by an ex-girlfriend because of jealousy
- a hit on a pregnant girlfriend because the baby belonged to someone else
- daily stories of elderly farmers being attacked
- the farmer whose achilles were slashed before he was left in the veld and his wife murdered
- elderly couples being murdered
- the 76 year old farmer who was beaten with a steel pipe and then had his wife run over by the robbers
- eight armed men who poured methylated spirits on three children, threatening to set them alight, as they demanded access to a safe on their grandparents' farm. During the attack, the nine-year-old had offered robbers R800 she had been given to buy a dog, to persuade them to stop hitting her 60-year-old grandmother
- and today the farmer who, together with his wife, had their feet burnt in boiling water by the burglars because they did not believe the couple's denial that they had any more cash
- massively organised crime
- brazen attacks on our policemen and women
- the daily stories of cash heists and petrol stations, hotels and store robberies
- violent crime in cell-phone theft
- one of the highest rape rates in the world
- crime hitting the poor and the rich indiscriminately
- the daily stories of corruption in our criminal justice system
- the daily stories of hijackings
I am a realist. We live in a miracle transformation of a country. We are lucky that the vast majority of poor disenfranchised people are as patient and peaceful as they are. We are a developing country with one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Other countries with similar issues have similar crime problems (e.g. Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico).
I am an optimist too. I have convinced friends to move back to South Africa - the latest moves to Johannesburg from London in a few weeks time. Our economic growth is fantastic and holds the possible solution to many of our problems. I even thought that perhaps it was possibly acceptable for the government to hide crime statistics from the public - so as to improve confidence in the country as a precursor to economic growth.
But while I am a realist and an optimist, I don't believe in excuses for unacceptable behaviour or performance (ask anyone who has worked for me!). There is no excuse for crime. Ask the guy at the traffic light who is trying to make a buck by washing windscreens. Or a hawker who sells less than a hundred rands worth of sweets each day.
There is also no excuse for the shoddy police work and corruption that sees criminals evade capture or go free. There is no excuse for underspending budgets and then blaming massive court backlogs on lack of funds (imagine if you were an awaiting trial prisoner - possibly innocent - for two years). There is no excuse for overcrowded jails that sees 100 prisoners in a cell and early releases for dangerous offenders.
Crime is threatening to ruin the miracle of South Africa's transformation.
I don't doubt that the problems our criminal justice system faces are difficult. But progress needs to be seen to be occurring. Preparedness to consider new alternatives is critical.
- "three strikes and you're out" - the Californian legislation that enforces an automatic life sentence with no parole after three (any three) convictions
- reevaluating the death penalty
- involving the army to support increased numbers of police raids and roadblocks
- intolerance of poor performance and crime in the police force
Of course there are problems with every possible solution - witness the problems with the three strikes legislation in the US. However, progress starts with an intolerance of the status quo.
I am in a position where I am considering my next job. There are many overseas opportunities. I am committed to this country and unlikely to move at this stage. But if I woke up with an intruder in my bedroom and shot him (hypothetically - I don't own a gun) to defend my family, as my cousin did, I would have to consider leaving - as my cousin did. I do not blame anybody for seeking greater security when they or their family are haunted by crime. When your kids wake up from crime-induced nightmares, I believe your perspective changes.
Perhaps most sadly, I am fortunate in that I have choices and I am fairly well protected in a security village. Most of South Africa live in townships and are subject to daily crime - being robbed of their wages or pensions by taunting youths or even their own families. You can be sure that if the wealthy are seeing increased crime, life for the majority of our population is becoming more difficult too.