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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 resume as workplaces and schools reopen.

The holiday period saw criminals continuing to run amok - from house invasions to cash-in-transit robberies and kidnappings.

We are 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 of the SAPS. He is a politician.

Mbalula is entitled to a holiday and yes, we can argue, the timing of his break might 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 out on whether Mbalula is making an impact as the police minister. From the day he was appointed, I have said I was confident he would make a difference.

Like him or loathe him, he has achieved far more than 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.

Organised-crime syndicates are infiltrating our country. The gangs are dangerous and daring. We have seen it recently with a string of kidnappings where millions of rand in ransom were paid by victims. Police need to crack the syndicates.

We are also seeing an increase in cash-in-transit robberies. Security companies need to take urgent steps as 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 need 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 is 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 getting bail far too easily. The criminal justice system is a problem. Poor detective work often leads to criminals walking free. Fixing this must be a priority this year.

This year must be the year that the police embrace technology. From the use of apps and facial recognition to advanced fingerprint technology and vehicle and body cameras, we must adopt new ways. If we do not we are going to be left behind.

Late last year, the Namola safety app went national. It has been downloaded more than 125000 times, making it the fastest growing emergency app in South Africa. It guarantees a callback within 90seconds of pressing the panic button.

The good news is that Namola, supported by Dial Direct, 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.

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign ended last month.

Independent Media ran a successful #DontLookAway campaign that certainly created awareness.

We need to make it 365 Days of Activism. We need ongoing 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 expressed her department’s 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 post on 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 non-profit organisation, will be identifying programmes over the coming months and investing money.

The charity has a 100% donation policy. Every rand donated will be used to fight crime and assist victims.

One of the first projects will be to upgrade a room at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court which women can use when they are there to testify in sexual offences 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 ensure 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 free of corruption.

For how long will we live in fear?

South Africa is a beautiful country and crime is, sadly, killing our nation.

We were constantly asked about the evil of apartheid when travelling abroad in pre-democratic times. These days, when we visit most parts of the world, the first issue one is asked about is the evil of crime. It’s sad.

We have to start changing the negative narrative.

Every Uber and taxi driver I used in the UK during my recent visit asked me about crime.

When asked whether they would visit South Africa, they replied: “No. Never; to be robbed and killed?”

Let’s join hands and make 2018 a year where we prioritise the fight against crime.

The National Development Plan 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 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 #MakeSASafe

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star