We are in the second week of March, Human Rights Month as declared by the ANC-led government.
It is true that Human Rights Month has a different meaning for the people of KwaZulu-Natal, especially ordinary members of society who live in the townships and deep rural areas. Equally, those who reside in suburbs have their own interpretation of the meaning of the month in relation to human rights.
Twenty-nine years into freedom and democracy, a lot has changed in the lives of South Africans. The socio-economic transformation policies of the government, at all levels, have always been aimed at fighting the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Unfortunately, the changes we have all witnessed and celebrated since attaining democracy are slowly losing meaning to many citizens because of the rampant levels of crime in our country and, indeed, KwaZulu-Natal. Crime affects people who live in deep rural areas, townships and suburbs.
The Freedom Charter directs us to ensure that people live in security and comfort. This is a historical mission informed by the fact that if people continue to be victims of abuse, this political freedom we attained in 1994 will be meaningless.
As the leadership of the ANC in this province and in regions, we have decided to make it our mission, as the generation of today, to free our people from bondages of crime, drugs and other social ills. Crime does not only terrorise and leave long-lasting trauma to victims, but it also erodes investor confidence and impacts negatively on our global outlook as a tourism destination.
Whilst appreciating that KwaZulu-Natal has its own history of political violence, factional fights and taxi conflict, among many others, as the ANC, we believe that such should not haunt us 29 years down the line. The experiences have possibly contributed to the violent nature of the society we inherited and the proliferation of firearms.
In our recent two-day provincial executive committee lekgotla, we declared crime the number one enemy of the people of the province.
It is for these reasons that over the past weekend, we hosted regional general Councils wherein delegates focused on strategies that we have committed to roll out the fight against crime in our communities.
We have all agreed that now is the time to act and lead from the front.
This is not about sloganeering but a firm commitment to ensure that drastic actions are implemented to reduce the level of crime in various corners of our province.
Women and children must feel safe in our communities. Our loved ones must be able to move freely even in the evening, knowing that there will be no criminals that will take advantage of them. Workers, who wake up in the early hours of the morning to catch trains, buses and taxis must not be terrorised by criminals.
The fact that every day a woman is raped and killed, a person is murdered, business premises are robbed, livestock stolen, and vehicles are hijacked – is an indication that we live in an abnormal society.
As the ANC, we have singled out a few police stations which have recorded high levels of crime, namely KwaMashu, Inanda, uMlazi, Hammarsdale and Plessislaer in Pietermaritzburg.
We have called for the deployment of more police and the allocation of resources to ensure that crime-fighting initiatives have an impact.
It is true that over the years, the ANC-led government has invested resources and improved the capacity and sizes of these stations and deployed more personnel but the levels of crime persist. This means, while investing resources in fighting crime, we also need to focus on societal challenges.
Drug trafficking, drug abuse and drugs in general, have destroyed our communities. We have prioritised the implementation of the Provincial Drug Master Plan by the ANC government.
Equally, we are focusing on job creation by stimulating different sectors of our economy as part of absorbing the millions of people who are unemployed. The investment in socio-economic infrastructure is aimed at ensuring that even those who do not have formal qualifications as a result of external circumstances beyond their control are employed.
We have seen many young people drop out of school. Apart from creating opportunities for them, we are calling on the government and the private sector to work together to nurture the talent of these future leaders. We need to have role models in our communities to inspire young people to do more for their communities and the province.
The killings of public representatives, mainly councillors is another issue that the province is addressing. While incidents of politically related killings seem to have subsided, there are some concerning pockets of incidents. The Multi-Party-Political Intervention Committee which was established by the provincial government, Independent Electorate Commission (IEC), the SAPS and all political parties has a clear programme for addressing this challenge.
As a caring government, we remain concerned about the high number of fatal incidents targeting amakhosi and izinduna. Since April 2019, 10 amakhosi and 37 izinduna were gunned down. Several others have escaped countless assassination attempts.
The ANC will work with His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, the Zulu Royal House and the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders to improve the safety of Amakhosi. The Premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube highlighted this matter in her State of the Province Address.
The challenge of cross-border crime in uMkhanyakude needs all of us. The ANC will use its historical political relations in the region to raise this matter. If this is not attended to, it is going to strain relations between South Africa and Mozambique.
The killing of our comrade, Juda Mthethwa, who was at the forefront of fighting cross border crime, must be a sad reminder that until something is done, our people are not safe. This past weekend, Sandile Tembe, the nephew of Inkosi Mabhuda Tembe, was also killed. This barbaric act coincided with the visit by Police Minister Bheki Cele. We send our deepest condolences to the Tembe family.
We must, however, commend the police, who, in some cases, have worked tirelessly. At the beginning of February, more than 2 500 suspects were apprehended, 81 firearms and 818 assortments of ammunition were confiscated.
As the ANC we also support the call made by Premier Dube-Ncube to review regulations on the possession of firearms and ammunitions. As the ANC, we have mandated the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, to look into the matter and seek legal advice.
We also welcome the deployment of additional police by the minister of police. This will assist in improving the manpower in targeted stations. The ANC will also use its structures, including branches to provide tailor-made responses, to fight crime and mainly gender-based violence and femicide.
We are forging ahead with reviving the street committees. We have also mandated our government to conduct an assessment of police stations that were placed far from communities as part of the apartheid spatial planning. An assessment for the provision of satellite police stations is also being conducted.
As the ANC, we remain committed to providing safer living conditions for all our people in KZN. We, however, need all Africans to work jointly with us.
Mafika Mndebele is the spokesperson for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal