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Opinion Piece

Time to fight urban terror

The day I heard the desperation of a nation living in fear – by Yusuf Abramjee, 01 February 2020

ONE morning this week I spent an hour on the radio discussing South Africa’s crime problem.

As I always try to be, I was brutally honest about our national epidemic of lawlessness, and I called it what it is – urban terror.

I spoke to Eusebius McKaiser on TalkRadio 702 of the daily onslaught of murder, rape, hijackings, robberies, house invasions and other outrages routinely inflicted on decent citizens.

As my followers on social media will know, I regularly post reports and CCTV footage of these terrifying incidents to highlight the emergency gripping our nation. It’s urban terror.

The phone lines were flooded. Caller after caller complained about their personal experiences of crime and police inefficiency.

The picture that emerged was agonisingly clear: we have become a nation living in fear.

We lock ourselves away in virtual prisons to avoid being terrorised by criminals. Even then, we are unable to escape the attentions of these brutal thugs.

One caller told how robbers broke down security doors to his home before putting a gun to his daughter’s head. She was so traumatised that she can no longer live the innocent life of a child.

Such stories are all too common. But sometimes there are no survivors to tell the tale. Any sane person would say it is an intolerable existence.

As well as the physical toll, crime is destroying the fabric of our society.

I recently visited three countries in the space of three weeks. Everywhere I went, the first thing I was asked about – by everyone from taxi drivers to CEOs – was the high levels of crime in South Africa.

We have, sadly, developed the reputation of a nation riddled with violence and lawlessness. It is having a huge impact on tourism and other much-needed investment.

Drastic times need drastic action. We need to find solutions. Instead of sitting back, complaining and pointing fingers, we need to act.

Police inefficiency is common. No wonder the detection and conviction rates are low.

We need to hold law enforcement to account. They are here to serve and protect us. Let’s praise and support them when we have to, and criticise and condemn them when they fail us.

We have many hardworking, dedicated and efficient men and women in blue. We salute them.

The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), headed by chief David Tembe, is making great strides and other municipalities need to do the same. But useless cops need to be rooted out of the police once and for all.

We need the political will to make South Africa safe. Police morale appears to be slowly improving but a lot of work still needs to be done. There is some stability within the leadership of the police but it needs to be strengthened.

Technology in the fight against crime has become a must. From CCTV cameras at street corners to dash cams for our cars, body cameras for police officers and safety apps, we need to invest in new ways.

Court backlogs are massive and the criminal justice system is a mess. It needs an overhaul.

Crime statistics are released only once a year. It’s far too little too late. We need the figures each month to allow communities to look at trends and act accordingly.

Citizens have to mobilise and strengthen community police forums and neighbourhood watch groups. We all have to become active citizens.

We keep on talking and talking and little changes. It’s now time for action. Government, corporates, civil society and the man in the street have a role to play.

Cash vans constantly come under attack. We need urgent measures to stop these gangs. Cellphone tower battery theft is rife. Millions of rand are lost annually. MTN has taken the lead to raise awareness.

Companies such as 1st for Women Insurance have been recognised for their focus on gender-based violence and femicide and new preventative and response programmes in Diepsloot that takes into account and addresses the root cause of the epidemic. Dial Direct promotes safety through its partnership with the fastest growing safety app, Namola. Other companies need to do more.

We must roll up our sleeves now and fight this urban terror.

Amid our epidemic of terrifying lawlessness, organised crime has been allowed to grow unchecked. Drug dealing, money laundering and protection rackets thrive in a country that has given free rein to crooks.

In this environment illicit trade not only flourishes, it also helps to sustain and fund more criminal enterprises. It is a vicious cycle of violence and villainy.

To add insult to injury, the crooks engaging in the illegal economy are systematically looting the state of R100 million every single day.

They do so by pocketing the alcohol taxes, tobacco taxes, income taxes, sales taxes and corporation taxes that are needed to transform and rebuild South Africa.

To combat this evil, I have helped to found Tax Justice South Africa, an NPO to raise awareness and to campaign for tax criminals to be brought to justice and sent to jail.

Let’s get cracking! Let’s join hands and say NO to crime. Moreover, let’s fight crime at every turn and make it a national priority. If not, these criminal terrorists will continue to run amok.

This article was published in the Pretoria News Weekend and the Weekend Argus