What will it take to make SA safer? Pretoria News, Saturday 6 Jan 2017

LEVELS of crime con­tinue to re­main un­ac­cept­ably high, as does South Africa’s im­age as a crime-riven coun­try, and this a real worry as we set­tle into 2018.

Many will be re­turn­ing home from their hol­i­days and within days nor­mal­ity will re­turn as they re­turn to work and schools re­open.

We are go­ing to need more than ex­press a po­lit­i­cal will to cre­ate a safer South Africa. Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula took some flak for tak­ing a hol­i­day while the po­lice had to work. But, bear in mind he is a po­lit­i­cal head, and not an op­er­a­tional com­man­der, and I have con­fi­dence he can make a dif­fer­ence to the po­lice.

I hope we will see real change and ac­tion this year. There is no quick-fix to rid so­ci­ety of crime, but we need a strat­egy and im­ple­men­ta­tion, es­pe­cially to com­bat the un­ac­cept­ably high lev­els of vi­o­lent crime.

Or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cates are in­fil­trat­ing our coun­try, and they are dan­ger­ous. Just look at the kid­nap­pings and cash-in-tran­sit rob­beries… these are not planned by “or­di­nary” crim­i­nals, they have mas­ter­minds be­hind them.

In 2018 we want to see Gen­eral Khehla Si­tole, the new po­lice com­mis­sioner, make his mark. He is a ca­reer po­lice­man, with ex­pe­ri­ence in op­er­a­tional polic­ing and with the right re­sources and sup­port he can make a dif­fer­ence. It is also time to re­view po­lice pay struc­ture be­cause many ranks are hope­lessly un­der­paid – and not hav­ing money can lead to the temp­ta­tion to be cor­rupt.

Public con­fi­dence in the SAPS re­mains low, and while there are some re­ports of fan­tas­tic ser­vice, over­all ser­vice lev­els re­main a con­cern. For as long as the po­lice do not serve their pub­lic with pride and ded­i­ca­tion, they are not go­ing to win any sup­port and trust.

They need to be soft on the vic­tims of crime and tough on crim­i­nals.

Let 2018 be the year when we work to­gether to en­sure we build safer neigh­bour­hoods and a safer coun­try.

In achiev­ing this, po­lice should em­brace the use of tech­nol­ogy such as ap­pls, geo-po­si­tion­ing, fa­cial recog­ni­tion, fin­ger­print tech­nol­ogy and ve­hi­cle and body cam­eras.

Another pri­or­ity is the train­ing of of­fi­cers and en­sur­ing they have what they need to pro­tect them­selves. We can’t have of­fi­cers killed in the line of duty.

We must em­power the pub­lic and one tool is the Namola crime-pre­ven­tion app. Al­ready it has seen more than 125 000 down­loads, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to ac­cess po­lice help in­stantly from a smart de­vice.

We must re­verse the neg­a­tive im­age of our coun­try when it comes to crime. 

When an ac­tor tweets about be­ing robbed in Cape Town, it is bad for us. On a re­cent visit to the UK I had taxi driv­ers ask me about crime. Their per­cep­tion is it is not safe to visit our beau­ti­ful coun­try as you might be robbed or even killed. Let’s join hands and make 2018 a year where we pri­ori­tise the fight against crime.

To this end, #MakeSASafe, a reg­is­tered NPO, will iden­tify projects in the months ahead, and all do­na­tions re­ceived will go to the fight against crime and as­sist­ing vic­tims.

One of the first projects will be to up­grade a room at the Pre­to­ria Mag­is­trate’s Court used by women who tes­tify in sex­ual of­fences cases.

● Yusuf Abram­jee is an anti-crime ac­tivist and Namola’s Chief Am­bas­sador. He also heads #MakeSASafe

Twit­ter: @abram­jee

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