Fight against crime requires citizens

30 October 2013

Phumla WilliamsThe brutal murder of two toddlers in Diepsloot recently has left South Africans searching for answers to this needless tragedy. In a separate incident two toddlers were allegedly poisoned by a parent and found dead in Kathlehong.

In another reported incident the body of young boy who appeared to have been abused and tortured was found in a field in Katlehong, and last weekend twins were found dumped in Muldersdrift. One died and the other is critical in hospital.

The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana described the Diepsloot murders as senseless and inexcusable. “As a society, parents, mothers and fathers we should be deeply concerned about these heinous crimes against children that are happening around us, in our communities.”

Following these incidents, emotions ran high as people tried to make sense of this tragedy. Whilst such reaction is understandable, resorting to ruthless violence and misguided attacks on foreign owned shops in the area does not in any way help us find answers.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa rightfully criticised these shameful incidents; "We condemn any form of mob justice," he said. "Destroying property, looting shops, cannot be a legitimate form of resolving challenges around policing," he said. Minister Mthethwa also called on the community to assist police to solve crimes.

Five suspects have since been arrested for the Diepsloot murders, and the prime suspect was arrested due to a tip-off by members of the public. His quick arrest following an appeal for information about his whereabouts is concrete proof of the crucial role the public plays in preventing and solving crime. The five suspects have appeared in court and face charges of kidnapping, rape and murder.

Government will never shy away from its shortcomings and will act to remedy whatever hampers our quest to ensure that people are and feel safe, especially the most vulnerable.

Our starting point in this pursuit is the Constitution, which offers notable protection for women and children; supported by various pieces of legislation and our commitment to international conventions to respect, promote, protect and advance the rights of women and children.

The work of the police in protecting the most vulnerable has further been strengthened by the re-establishment of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units. Plans are afoot to re-launch Sexual Offences Courts to help cut the backlogs of sexual offences cases.

Countrywide there are thousands of policemen and women, who serve with dedication and pride. Their service often comes at great personal cost to themselves and their loved ones, but they do so nonetheless.

The fight against crime, however, requires the help and support of every citizen. It is you and I who can be the eyes and ears of the SAPS; we often see crimes in progress or know of criminals in our communities. However, people tend to look away or choose to ignore what they have witnessed. The reality is that criminals can only thrive in communities where their actions are tolerated.

The time has come for every citizen to take a stand. Let us channel the outrage and anger we rightfully feel over the callous murder of our children and act. We must not let crime thrive at our expense, the expense of our children and our society. Join community policing forums, get involved and together we will stem the tide of crime.

Every member of society can get directly involved by attending Community Police Sub Forum meetings, which offer a platform to discuss plans and strategies to deal with crime in specific areas.

Citizens are encouraged to participate in neighbourhood initiatives to safeguard the area in which they live and work, or to do more to educate their neighbours about crime prevention awareness.

In the true spirit of Ubuntu let us focus ourselves on families that are in distress within our respective communities. The war of family violence, especially as it affects the most vulnerable in our communities, requires all of us to join hands in finding solutions. Community leaders, church leaders need to engage with their respective communities in discussions that seek answers to these crimes.

As Government we are fully aware that there is a long road ahead in ensuring that all people are and feel safe. Nonetheless, we are confident that our dedicated men and women in blue will continue to work hard every day to ensure a safer South Africa for all.

The sober words of President Jacob Zuma following the murder of the two toddlers in Diepsloot are a reminder of the challenge we all face.

"These gruesome incidents of extreme torture and murder of our children do not belong to the society that we are continuously striving to build together," he said.

"We condemn these murders in the strongest possible terms. Whilst we appeal to the communities not to take the matters into their hands, we also want to urge them to work with law enforcement authorities to find the perpetrators and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

We must heed the call from our President to work together to put an end to the scourge of child abuse and murder. It is our responsibility as parents, guardians and members of communities to do more to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable.

We urge all South Africans to play their part to make our society safer for all. Criminals must never be allowed to dictate how we live; that is not the South Africa that so many fought and died for.

Our children deserve our nurturing and protection for them to grow in an environment that will allow them to realise their potential. Crime must not be allowed to thrive!

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)