Cape Town—Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon has blasted government over its claim the crime rate is stabilising.
He repeated his party’s assertion that the murder rate is roughly the same as the death rate from terror attacks on civilians in Iraq.
In a speech delivered in Upington in the Northern Cape on Wednesday, he further accused government of failing to make crime a priority issue.
“The murder rate in South Africa, at about 43 murders per 100 000 people, is roughly the same as the death rate from terror attacks on civilians in Iraq.
“So despite the government’s claims that crime is ‘stabilising’, South Africans are still living in what amounts to a state of civil war between criminals and law-abiding residents.
Much room for improvement
“Clearly this situation must improve if we are to secure the future of our country. Crime is one of the most important concerns among foreign investors, as well as one of the major factors driving emigration from South Africa,” Leon said.
Government had moved many different issues to the top of its agenda, including a loan to Zimbabwe, land reform, and the renaming of cities, but crime was not among them.
“It would appear the government does not actually consider crime a priority, except for the ministry to which it is assigned.”
Leon suggested President Thabo Mbeki had lived with VIP protection and armoured cars for so long, “he has forgotten what most people have to deal with” when it came to crime.
The DA leader said the country’s justice system was in disarray.
Many unsolved crimes
“According to the South African Law Commission, only 6% of violent crimes reported to police result in a conviction, and 75% do not even make it to court.
“Last week, (Safety and Security Minister) Charles Nqakula admitted that 668 police dockets had gone missing and 48 had been stolen in the last two years.
“Moreover, half of crimes are not reported at all, according to the Institute of Security Studies.”
Leon described SA’s overcrowded prisons as “universities of crime”, and said they were not rehabilitating criminals.
An alarming recent trend was the rise in crime involving youths.
“(A total of) 44% of the children under 14 who were taken to Durban mortuaries in 2004 had been shot dead, for example.”
Young people were also, increasingly, the perpetrators of crime.
“The number of children convicted of violent crime jumped by 5% from 2003 to 2004, according to the National Institution for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro).
“One of the reasons for the rise in youth crime is that South Africa is failing to produce employment opportunities for young people,” he said.
South Africa needed to muster the political will to make the fight against crime a non-negotiable priority, Leon said.