Ensuring a safer SA: from national strategy to a local challenge

Pretoria: Supported by various institutions, civic organizations and the broader public, the democratic South Africa has made inroads in the fight against crime, though crime levels remain high.

According to the 20 Year Review, which looks at South Africa’s development since 1994, the country has made some progress in reducing serious and violent crime levels, although there has been more progress with respect to certain categories of crime than others.

The 20 Year Review was released on Tuesday by President Jacob Zuma.

Serious crime declined in the past eight years with crime statistics revealing that the level of overall serious crimes has reduced from 3 924 per 100 000 in 2008/9 to about 3 507.9 per 100 000 in 2013 against a 2014 target of 3 366 per 100 000 of the population.

Contacts crimes have been reduced from 1 407 per 100 000 in 2008/09 to 1 232.5 per 100 000 in 2011/12 against a 2014 target of 930 per 100 000 of the population. This translates into a 12.3% reduction.

Furthermore, two of the trio crimes, carjacking and robbery at residential premises have in general also shown a downward trend except for the robbery at business premises which has increased from 6 689 in 2006/07 to 15 951 in 2011/12, which translates to an increase of 138.5%.

The dawn of democracy

Contrary to assertions that the crime situation worsened after the attainment of democracy, its extent had already reached alarming propositions even before 1994, says the 20 Year Review.

Under apartheid, more than 20 000 people were reported to have been murdered in South Africa in political and criminal violence in 1992.

At the time, there were 380 000 rape cases in South Africa every year and 95% of victims of these were African. In the ten years from 1983 and 1992, the murder rate increased by 135%, robbery by 109%, housebreaking by 71%, car theft by 64%, rape by 62%.

From 1994 the murder rate started to decrease by more than 50% and a similar trend is evident for attempted murder.

Realising the 20 Year Review, on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma noted the efforts to address violent crimes against women and children, although the numbers are still unacceptably high.

The President said crime against vulnerable groups such as women and children require continued intensive focus.

“The country still faces a challenge of heightened violent and sexual attacks against the vulnerable, including, women, children, the elderly and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” notes the report.

This has necessitated the restoration of sexual offences courts to ensure that sexual offences matters are dealt with through dedicated court support services entailing the use of intermediaries, audio-visual equipment and training.

These will in turn guarantee that women and children as well as other victims get the necessary care, respect and support.

Government has also over the past 20 years introduced several interventions including accelerating the implementation of the Sexual Offences and Children’s Acts, has empowered prosecutors, police, magistrates and doctors with specialised skills and has kept dangerous sexual offenders under long-term supervision on release from prison.

Currently there are 176 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units nationwide attached to all police clusters in the South African Police Services.

About 2000 Forensic Social Workers have been appointed to deal with crimes against children and to provide expert evidence in court. From this initiative, 24 8022 cases were finalised in 2012/13 alone.

As of November 2013, 906 victim-friendly rooms were created at police stations throughout the country to render better services to victims of crime.

The report notes that more work still needs to be done on the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) and the development of a strategy to address gender- and sexual-orientation-based violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual and intersex-persons.

Currently the register is not open to the public, but rather kept confidential for employers in the public or private sectors such as schools, crèches and hospitals where employers can check whether a person intended to be hired is fit to work with children or mentally disabled people.

Managing service delivery protests

The dawn of a free South Africa also came with the occurrence of service delivery protests which erupt because of inflated expectations. The Review notes that this was also due to the weaknesses in the ability of local government to manage and mitigate the social tensions that arise from the high levels of social and economic inequality and political contestation that characterise the landscape.

In this context, the capability of safety and security forces to ensure public order needs to be strengthened as underscored in the Public Order Policy of 2011 and other government measures to stabilize the violent protest actions, marches and gatherings.

A committee has been established to focus on the implementation of policy provisions and guidelines to police public protests, gatherings and major events.

Rooting out corruption

Since 1994, the approach that the justice and constitutional development cluster has been based on is safeguarding and protecting the human dignity of citizens by police officers who uphold the rule of law and maintain stability in partnership with the communities, through initiatives like the Community Police Forums. The Review notes that the latter play a pivotal role in ensuring constant liaison between communities and the police stations.

With regards to corruption, government has over the years adopted a zero tolerance approach whether in the public or private sector and has continued to receive attention at the highest level.

A range of institutions, laws and measures have been put in place since 1994 to counter corruption.

“These are now being strengthened by implementing measures such as preventing public servants from doing business with the state and better management of the risks related to government procurement processes,” said President Jacob Zuma at the realise of the report.

Corruption, he added, is not only a public-sector problem and the country response has to include the private sector as well.

Notable progress from 2009 to date includes criminal investigations against some 242 persons, the successful conviction of 42 individuals for corrupt activities in incidents involving R5 million or more and releasing a list of the names of 42 people who have been convicted of fraud and corruption.

According to the 20 Year Review, since 2009, freezing orders totalling R1.07 billion have been obtained to date, while 302 forfeiture cases involving a sum of R118.4 million, have been completed.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) currently has 25 active Presidential Proclamations authorising investigations into ten national government departments, seven provincial government departments, six local government authorities and two state owned enterprises. Seven proclamations were finalised in the 2012/13 financial year alone.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster is currently developing an Anti-Corruption Framework whose purpose is to give effect to government’s Anti-Corruption Policies and to give effect to the National Development Plan (NDP) recommendation to establish a resilient multi-agency anti-corruption system.

Good progress has also been made regarding meeting the target of convicting JCPS cluster personnel for offences related to corruption by 2014.

Looking forward

The Review recommends strengthening efforts to reduce levels of serious and violent crime, ensuring an efficient and effective Criminal Justice System, safeguarding and securing South Africa’s border effectively, securing cyber space and ensuring domestic stability.

“The implementation of the crime prevention strategy will need to be accelerated, with particular emphasis on visible policing, crowd management, rural safety, intelligence policing, crime investigations and border control. The implementation of crime combating strategies will also need to be accelerated, to address serious and violent crime,” recommends the 20 Year Review.

According to the report, the human resource development across the value chain will be critical in this regard.

“There is an urgent need to provide sufficient capacity in areas of forensic, detective, investigation and prosecution services, which hampers efforts to reduce the overall levels of crime, particularly “trio” and “contact” crimes.

“There also needs to be continued emphasis on improving coordination of effort and integration of systems among role-players in the CJS. Implementation of the seven point plan to make the Criminal Justice System more efficient and effective must be expedited.”

Beyond this, the reports says efforts should be made to rejuvenate the moral regeneration initiative with the aim of instilling good values and morals among citizens, as well as community participation, as it is stipulated in the National Development Plan.

SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS