‘Crime is like racism: it must be stopped’
South Africans must expose and ostracise criminals, and make them as abhorrent as racists, says Deputy Correctional Services Minister Thabang Makwetla.
He also believes there isn’t enough political will to make criminality the country’s number one enemy.
“You can’t have people enjoying life and say they must enjoy freedom when they are barricaded behind high walls, their stress levels are high, babies are killed because of guns fired in all directions,” he said in an interview with City Press.
“And we say we have got a better life? No, it’s not a better life.”
Makwetla said neighbouring countries that underwent similar national liberation struggles had managed to contain criminality.
South Africa should have followed their examples, he said, but a lack of political will after 1994 had resulted in an exponential increase in crime.
“Crime is anti-people, it’s anti-progress, it’s counterrevolutionary. But have we politicised crime enough as a leadership in charge of change in this country?
“My humble and honest view is that we have not done well enough in that respect.”
His words are bound to resonate with many South Africans who have been left reeling after a series of brutal crimes against children in recent weeks.
These include the death in Reiger Park near Boksburg of four-year-old Taegrin Morris, who was dragged behind the wheel of his parents’ hijacked car, and the death in hospital on Friday of three-year-old Luke Tibbetts, who was shot while gangs exchanged fire in Westbury, Joburg.
“Crime is as bad and as abhorrent an enemy as all of those things the apartheid system was doing to our communities,” Makwetla said.
“It’s just as destructive as all of those things that were happening under apartheid. The levels of intolerance to criminals have to be heightened as a matter of political obligation. Just as we abhor racism in South Africa, that’s what we should have done to crime.”
But he said overcrowded jails did not mean the criminal justice system was failing. Instead, this was a sign of success.
“You can’t blame those things on the criminal justice system. It is a societal problem that accounts for the high prison population and overcrowding. The criminal justice system would be failing if all of these things were happening and people were not ending up in jail.”
He said his department was trying to deal with overcrowding and corruption in prisons by working with courts to limit the number of detainees remanded after appearing in court.
Officials are also seeking forms of restorative justice rather than incarceration for non-violent offenders and working on managing the parole system better.
He said the department was also compiling comprehensive details of thousands of victims of crime so they could be included in the process when those who might have harmed them apply for parole.