By Boyd Webb and Angela Quintal
"What's all the fuss about crime and its effect on the 2010 World Cup given that the situation has improved since South Africa boasted the rugby World Cup 12 years ago," national police commander Jackie Selebi asked MPs.
It is a question that crime-weary citizens and diplomats might take issue with, but South Africa's top cop made it clear on Friday that there was no need for concern.
Selebi was replying to a question from PAC deputy president Themba Godi, the chairperson of parliament's standing committee on public accounts, during its hearing into the police's audited statement for the 2005/06 financial year.
Godi was interested in police training with an eye to the soccer World Cup.
Selebi replied: "I don't know why there is a frenzy around 2010. I want to say no that 2010 will come and pass just like the WSSD (World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002) passed, just like the rugby World Cup passed.
"At the time of the rugby World Cup anybody who has been concentrating on the work of the police would realise that the levels of crime was higher than today," he said.
It is a view shared by the ANC in its online newsletter on Friday said the concerted fight against crime "should be in reality."
"Contrary to the claims peddled by many in the public arena, these statistics indicate that the incidence of crime as a whole has decreased since the advent of democracy." ANC Today reported.
The crime rate, based on the number of serious crimes per 100 000 of the population, declined by 10 percent between 1994 and 2006.
Categories of crime such as murder attempted murder, assault, car theft and burglary have dropped steadily over the last four to five years, the ANC said.
Although there was no factual basis of the claim that the incidence of crime had increased significantly since democracy or that crime was out of control, the ANC acknowledged there was still much work to be done.
President Thabo Mbeki also said recently is was a perception that crime was spiralling out of control - a view that raised his detractors' hackles.
"Nobody can show that the over-whelming majority of the 40- to 50-million South Africans feel that crime is not under control, nobody can because it is not true," the president said in a television interview.
Mbeki's statement confused commentators, as only days before, he had promised crowds at the 95th ANC birthday celebrations in Witbank that 2007 would be a year in which he tackled crime.
An Institute of Security Studies analyst in Pretoria, John Burger believes the president's statements may have also been an outbreak of frustration over the public's inability to accept that crime was on the decrease.
Burger confirmed statistics that crime levels were on the decrease - but from such high levels that even the decrease was still eight times higher than the international average.
"But what aggravates the situation is that while crime levels are dropping the level of violence in committing the crimes is on the increase," he said.
Meanwhile, Selebi and his delegation received a glowing report from Scopa on Friday over the police's willingness to confront and deal with problems highlighted in annual reports by the Auditor-General and the National Assembly's portfolio committee on safety and security.
The SAPS was one of the few departments that had not received a qualified report for the past financial year, Godi said.
"Since the 2002/2004 qualified report, a number of issues have been resolved and we are happy with the progress made."