We have known for decades that we have a deep, serious and stubborn problem of crime, particularly of the violent kind. An indicator or two may from time to time go slightly up or down, but the reality is that crime levels have been, and continue to be, unacceptably high.
Murder, rape and robbery have become part of daily life in many parts of the country referred to as “murder capitals”, hijacking “hotspots” and so on.
Police Minister Bheki Cele was right in saying “there was nothing to write home about”. Nothing exceptional or might boost hope.
In years past, our leaders tried hard to obfuscate, tweak and sanitise the figures. But Cele was blunt when he delivered the grim figures.
Fortunately, while Cele couldn’t find anything to give him hope in the statistics, he provided lots of it.
Ever since he took over the hot seat about seven months ago he has been providing good doses of hope. He seems to have the requisite will, commitment and understanding of our crisis.
But long-suffering South Africa is desperate to see action and real improvements.
In this regard, again, there is some hope. The police’s “high density stabilisation intervention” strategy targeting cash-in-transit robberies, car hijackings, murder, house robberies and gang and taxi violence while deploying desk-bound officers out onto the streets was welcomed a few weeks ago as a sound tactic. There has also been a serious clean-up in the police leadership echelons and strategic arms. But much more needs to be done.
Such targeted strategies and campaigns need to be scaled up, supported and sustained. Some are already bearing fruit.
But crime cannot be left to the police to deal with alone. We need to see equal, or even greater, enthusiasm and honesty from leaders of other arms of government such as justice, correctional services and social development, as well as civil society.
Cele needs to keep up and speed up the good work, but he needs our support to succeed.
* Mazwi Xaba is the editor of the Independent On Saturday