It’s the promise every political party makes, but can’t keep

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Here is a quote from a political party manifesto “To prevent crime we need to overhaul the way public services and community organisations work with young people, restoring hope, but also stronger early intervention. We need action across society to tackle violence against women and girls, and we need policing rooted in our communities again – with a return to neighbourhood policing and town centre patrols.”

Sound familiar? Can you guess which party wrote that promise?

The Labour Party in the UK. You can find similar quotes from just about every country in the world.

The 2018 Manifesto of former Brazilian president Luis Lula de Silva, now back in power, is similar, if somewhat more poetic.

“I dream of being the president of a country where the judge pays more attention to the Constitution and less to the headlines. Where the rule of law is the rule, without measures of exception. I dream of a country where democracy prevails over anyone’s discretion, media monopoly, prejudice and discrimination.”

The point is every party promises they have a plan to fix crime. In England, knife attacks are the main issue, in Brazil it’s carjacking and ATM robberies, with a murder rate per capita half of South Africa’s. The highest murder rates are in the Caribbean – St Kitts & Nevis, Jamaica, St Vincent & the Grenadines and the Turks & Caicos Islands make up the top 4.

The point is there is crime everywhere, even in places like Singapore and Iceland – always rated on the top ten lists of the safest places in the world.

Source: Statistica.com These are the top ten “most peaceful” countries in the world, which takes into account both military conflict and violent crime

Our most recent crime statistics were released in February, and Minister of Police Bheki Cele painted a fairly rosy picture, suggesting the fight against crime is succeeding to some e extent. But if you look beyond the simple numbers, and the small percentage successes, we still have some very big, very serious problems.


Inside this information lie tragedies such as the fact that in the 3rd quarter, there were

4 882 arrests for murder and attempted murder, but there were 7110 victims. There were 75 cash-in-transit heists, and only 46 arrests, for a crime in which there are multiple perpetrators in each incident. And perhaps most telling, there were 4782 arrests for sexual offences in a country which recorded 12 000 rape cases over three months, but the police admit a woman or a girl is raped every 36 seconds in South Africa.

So what are the parties going to do about it? There are four issues that reoccur in many manifestos: community involvement, gender-based violence, corruption, and the death penalty.

The African National Congress (ANC) Manifesto is a professional marketing document, which contains very little in terms of concrete plans. It makes vague promises to wage a ‘war on crime’ and to ‘tackle corruption’.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) does have an original plan, to decentralize policing. The DA suggest that allowing local and provincial governments to tackle their own specific issues will make policing more effective. It hards back to the parties’ federal origins, with the idea to maintain a smaller national SAPS to handle cross-provincial and cross-border crime issues.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Manifesto is detailed, with specifics on their plans through each of the issues on their agenda. But as always, it’s a combination of big promises and rhetoric. The EFF promises to “acknowledge the police are not the enemy, identifying the real challenge as white minority capital and their political appointees. But the EFF does promises retraining, and redeployment of police to increase the numbers of police in high-population areas, adding another 100 000 members and paying them better.

Mkhonto Wesizwe (MK) also promise an increase in investment, in personnel, facilities and technology. MK also wants a referendum on the death penalty.

One of the other major parties to mention the death penalty is the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP). Although their focus is to increase further the involvement of traditional leaders, and in that way to allow a focus on communities, the death penalty is high on their anti-crime agenda. The IFP also promises to spend money on enhancing infrastructure, equipment and technology and to fight corruption.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) focuses on corruption, with a plan to set up an independent decentralised entity to deal with it. It also calls for more stations, forensic laboratories, courts and equipment.

Every single party focuses their crime plans on ending gender-based violence and femicide. But they all look at arrests and convictions and protecting women and children. There are no plans to prevent it from happening in the first place. GBV is only a small part of the Life Orientation curriculum at schools. A much bigger focus needs to be made to teach young children, both boys and girls, that violence is never a solution. Teach them to protect the vulnerable, instead of focusing on explaining to the youth, especially girls, how to protect themselves from aggression.

But the fact is little can be said against the plans any of the parties have. They all have the same idea about what they want to achieve. What none of them explain is this. In a corrupt and poverty-stricken country like South Africa, how are all these great plans going to be paid for?