Crime: Don’t look away

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION -

Two decades ago, Par­lia­ment adopted the Crim­i­nal Law Amend­ment Act of 1997 in re­sponse to des­per­a­tion from a pub­lic be­set by a crime-wave threat to our nascent democ­racy. The death penalty had been abol­ished in the adop­tion of a con­sti­tu­tion that guar­an­teed a right to life. Apartheid had been con­quered, only for our so­ci­ety to be un­der­mined by an­other, stub­born evil.

This has been a great week for the fight against crime and, in par­tic­u­lar crimes against women and chil­dren. It was also one in which the min­i­mum sen­tence regime pre­vailed.

Os­car Pis­to­rius had his sen­tence for the mur­der of Reeva Steenkamp dou­bled when the Supreme Court of Ap­peals handed him the min­i­mum of 15 years – mi­nus time al­ready served. Christo­pher Panayiotou re­ceived the min­i­mum sen­tence of life im­pris­on­ment for the pre­med­i­tated mur­der of his wife, Jayde.

While our pris­ons are over­flow­ing, South Africa is far from free of crime. In­stead our coun­try con­tin­ues to top the charts for mur­der, rob­bery and rape as well as gen­der-based vi­o­lent of­fences.

Clearly, more needs to be done be­yond com­ing up with leg­is­la­tion such as the min­i­mum sen­tences law adopted two decades ago. Harsh pun­ish­ments by the courts do not seem to be enough.

We all have to fight crime in all its forms and with all our might. Hence the need for all of us to play our part in the cam­paign,which re­sumed yes­ter­day around the world – the 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren.

In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s cam­paign theme this year is “Don’t Look Away”. Women like Steenkamp and Panayiotou could have been saved from vi­o­lent death if peo­ple had stopped look­ing away and mind­ing only their own business.

The 16 Days of Ac­tivism is a good reminder to all of us to redouble our ef­forts to rid our coun­try and the world of the scourge of vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren as well as other vul­ner­a­ble groups.

Don’t look away. Help make this world a bet­ter, safer place for all.

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