As we start the World Economic Forum on Africa, we have to be very concerned about the escalation of crime and violence around us, and how we effectively deal with it. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
During the annual commemoration to honour members of the SAPS who died in the line of duty, Deputy President David Mabuza urged citizens to help the police ensure a safe and crime free South Africa.

It’s a fair request but one which raises concerns at a time of increasing tension and violence seen during protest action which has spread through some of our major cities.

In a stand-off between taxi drivers and drug dealers who operate with impunity in Pretoria, a driver was shot and killed. In response, taxi drivers came out stronger, threatening to intensify their war against drugs.

In some ways their commitment should be hailed by the police as part of Mabuza’s call for “visible and tangible co-operation from community members”.

But is dealing with drug users and drug pushers in the Pretoria CBD the task of taxi drivers?

In Joburg, “protesters” went on the rampage, looting and burning stores owned by foreigners, apparently in reprisal for a fire in a hijacked building in Jeppestown in which three people died.

Is trying to stop such crime in Joburg the task of residents? What can motorists do when buses block their city streets or truckers block the highway?

One common denominator in the violence is the blame placed on foreigners, and the targeting of foreigners in the protests.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has described the situation as a “national emergency” and says it is pure criminality but finally yesterday, ANC Gauteng premier David Makhura mentioned the “X-word”.

We believe the reality is that xenophobia is a key factor in the violence we have seen and until it is acknowledged, the problem will not be solved.

Africa Diaspora Forum’s Vusimuzi Sibanda accuses the government of not being serious about protecting migrants in South Africa while Makhura said yesterday that he would not hesitate to call for help from the defence force, as has been the case in the Western Cape.

As we start the World Economic Forum on Africa, with the eyes of the continent on us, we have to be very concerned about the escalation of crime and violence around us, and how we join forces to effectively deal with it.