What will it take to #MakeSASafe in 2018? Levels of crime continue to remain unacceptably high and this a real worry. 

Many readers are slowly returning from their holidays and within days normality will return as we return to work and schools reopen. The holiday period saw criminals continuing to run amok – from house invasions to cash-in-transit robberies and kidnappings. We going to need more than political will to create a safer South Africa. 

Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, came under fire for taking a holiday in Dubai while cops were forced to work. Let’s confront the facts: Mbalula is not a police officer. He is a politician and he is not the operational commander (national commander) of the South African Police Service (SAPS). He is a politician!

Mbalula is entitled to a holiday and yes, we can argue, the timing of his break may be problematic. But again, it’s the job of General Khehla Sitole, the top cop, to ensure that his men and women in blue are on the ground fighting crime. Had Sitole taken leave during this period, which I’m sure he did not, that would have been a serious issue.

Fighting crime must become the responsibility of every citizen. We must make it our civic and moral duty. The jury is still out as to whether Mbalula is making an impact as Police Minister. 

I have said from the day he was appointed that I am confident he will make a difference. Like him or loathe him, he has achieved much more already that all his predecessors and I’m sure he is going to ensure that we see real action this year. 

It’s time to put words into action. There is no quick-fix to crime. We need a strategy that is implementable and one that will bring down the high levels of especially violent crime.

Organized crime syndicates are infiltrating our country. These gangs are dangerous and daring. We have seen it recently with a string of kidnappings where millions of rands of ransom was paid by victims. Police need to crack these syndicates.

We are also seeing cash-in-transit robberies on the increase. Security companies need to take urgent steps and these cash vans are seen as easy targets. 

Sitole must start making his mark. The police need resources and community policing must form the basis of partnerships. We also need to see the police leadership on the ground constantly. The salaries of cops needs to be reviewed. The lower ranks especially are hopelessly underpaid. Little wonder corruption is so rife. 

Public confidence in the SAPS remains low. Service delivery remains a major problem. For as long as the police are not going to serve with pride and dedication, we are not going to win over the hearts and minds of the public. 

The police also need to treat citizens with respect. Yes, they need to be hard on criminals. But again, it must be within the framework of the law. Human rights should never be abused.

Criminals linked to serious crime are still getting bail far too easily. The criminal justice system is a problem. Poor detective work often also leads to criminals walking free and fixing this must become a priority this year.

2018 must become a year when the police embrace technology. 

From the use of apps, facial recognition, advanced finger print technology and vehicle and body cameras, we must embrace new ways. If not, we are going to be left behind. 

Late last year, the Namola Safety App went national. There are already over 125 000 downloads making it the fastest growing emergency app in South Africa. The app guarantees a call-back within 90 seconds of pressing the panic button. 

The good news is that Namola, supported by DialDirect, the Gauteng Community Safety Department and others is helping thousands of people and there are many success stories. 

We need to continue to hold the police to account and ensure they respond speedily. 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children ended in December. 

Independent Newspapers ran a successful #DontLookAway campaign that certainly created awareness. We now need to make it 365 Days of Activism. We need on-going and sustainable programmes. Far too many women and children are being abused. We must stop the blood from flowing!

Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, has committed her department’s on-going commitment to fighting the crime scourge. We need corporates to also come on board and do their bit. Now is the time!

We can sit back, tweet or facebook, point fingers and blame others. This will not #MakeSASafe. We need to all start rolling up our sleeves and start DOing. 

#MakeSASafe, a registered NPO, will be identifying programmes over the coming months and investing money. The charity has a 100% donation policy. Every rand donated will be used directly to fight crime and assisting victims. 

One of the first projects will be to upgrade a room used by women when they go to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court to testify in sexual offenses cases. We must ensure we support the good cops. They risk their lives every day to protect us. Let’s hope the SAPS gets rid of the criminal and rogue cops.

Far too many police officers are being killed in the line of duty. Let’s hope the SAPS makes it a priority to train our officers and ensuring they have the resources to protect themselves. Police funding must be used properly. It was concerning to read late last year how taxpayers money was being abused. Procurement must be corrupt free. 

For how long are we going to live in fear? 

South Africa is a beautiful country and crime is sadly killing our nation. In pre-democratic times, we were constantly asked about the evil of apartheid when traveling abroad.

Today, travel to most parts of the world and the first issue one is asked when mentioning South Africa is the evil of crime. It’s sad!

 We have to start changing the negative SA narrative. Every uber and cab driver I used in the UK during my recent visit asked me about crime. When asked will you visit South Africa, they replied “No…Never; to be robbed and killed?”

Let’s join hands and make 2018 a year where we prioritize the fight against crime. The National Development Plan (NDP) is clear about policing and what needs to be done. It needs to be put into action.  We need the political will. We need an effective and efficient SAPS. And we need ordinary citizens to do their bit to reclaim our streets. 

Let’s all work towards getting crime levels down over the coming weeks and months. 

 

Yusuf Abramjee is an anti-crime activist and Namola’s Chief Ambassador. He also heads-up #MakeSASafe, Twitter: @abramjee

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