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Crime threatens more than public safety

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Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)/Taken November 5, 2019 – Zizamele Cebekhulumakhaza, president of Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), says combating crime is a crucial driver for sustained prosperity and stability. As a country, we must urgently embrace practical solutions to turn the tide on crime.

By Zizamele Cebekhulumakhaza

South Africa finds itself at a crossroads as the crime rate surges to alarming levels. But amid this crisis lies an opportunity to reignite economic growth and instil confidence in local and international investors, creating a secure business environment that will pave the way for greater prosperity.

To realise this opportunity, however, the government must make crime fighting a top priority. The country’s inability to fight crime has had a detrimental impact on its overall stability and economic growth. As sobering statistics from the Global Peace Index reveal, South Africa ranks as the 10th most unsafe place in the world, while violent crime costs the country as much as 19 percent of GDP.

Not only does this negatively impact the global attractiveness of the country as an investment destination, but costs millions or even billions through deterring international tourists from visiting our shores. Likewise, crime costs local businesses billions of rands in security expenses, impacting their ability to expand and create new job opportunities, while the financial losses caused by crime leave many small businesses at the risk of closure.

I firmly believe that combating crime is therefore not only a matter of public safety, but also a crucial driver for sustained prosperity and stability. As a country, we must urgently embrace practical solutions to turn the tide on crime, including the following three key focal areas.

1. Criminal justice synergy

To combat crime effectively, it is imperative to foster synergy and collaboration among the different components of the criminal justice cluster. The police, prosecution services, judiciary, and correctional services hold significant roles within the system and need to work more effectively together to ensure the swift administration of justice.

By enhancing information sharing systems between law enforcement agencies, South Africa can significantly improve the efficiency of crime prevention and detection. For example, integrated databases and communication platforms can facilitate the seamless exchange of relevant information in real time.

This would give law enforcement a more comprehensive view of criminal activities, enabling them to identify patterns and co-ordinate their efforts more effectively. Furthermore, by providing opportunities for personnel from different components of the cluster to train together and share expertise, we can foster a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. Joint operations that bring together law enforcement agencies, prosecution services, and correctional services will then lead to more comprehensive investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, ensuring that criminals face the consequences of their actions.

2. Political will

This is the cornerstone of any successful anti-crime strategy. There must be an unequivocal commitment and steadfast political will from the government to fight crime. By prioritising this, the government can demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding its citizens and promoting a favourable investment climate. One notable example of political will in action is the establishment of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.

The Commission was tasked with investigating allegations of state capture and corruption in the public sector. By holding public figures accountable for their actions, the commission showcased the government’s commitment to rooting out corruption and restoring public trust in the justice system.

The commission is a shining example of the power of political will and its ability to address deep-rooted issues that undermine the country’s stability and economic growth. South Africa can significantly enhance its appeal as a viable investment destination by demonstrating measurable results towards fighting crime.

Foreign investors are likelier to commit their resources and capital to a country with effective frameworks in place to tackle crime and corruption, and safeguard continued economic and social stability. Foreign investors seek environments where their investments are protected, and the rule of law prevails. By prioritising crime, the resulting inflow of investment would significantly stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and contribute to the nation’s overall prosperity.

3. Crime-fighting strategies

Effectively addressing crime further necessitates a comprehensive investment in human and financial resources. The government’s commitment to combating crime must be reflected in its allocation of adequate funding to law enforcement agencies. Equipping agencies with the necessary tools, training, and technology is crucial to effectively tackling the ever-evolving nature of criminal activities.

By investing in advanced technology, such as surveillance systems, forensic equipment, and data analytics, law enforcement agencies can enhance their crime detection, investigation, and prevention capabilities. Access to modern communication systems and databases can facilitate real-time information sharing, enabling a more proactive and co-ordinated response to criminal activities.

In addition, providing continued training and professional development opportunities for law enforcement personnel is essential to ensure their expertise remains up-to-date and aligned with emerging crime trends. Investing in crime prevention initiatives is equally important to tackle the underlying causes of criminal behaviour. Community policing programmes, which foster collaboration between law enforcement agencies and local communities, can play a pivotal role in crime prevention.

These initiatives create a sense of ownership and shared responsibility in maintaining safe neighbourhoods, while social development programmes address the root causes of crime by providing education, skills training, and opportunities for disadvantaged individuals. Ultimately, by strengthening the synergy within the criminal justice cluster, demonstrating unwavering political will, and investing in crime-fighting strategies, we can create a safer and more successful nation.

The fight against crime is not just about our well-being and security but also about positioning South Africa as an attractive investment destination. We must harness our collective strengths and make crime a top priority. Only then can we unlock the true potential of our beloved nation and shape a brighter tomorrow for all South Africans.

Zizamele Cebekhulumakhaza is President of Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru)