ANC Today

Volume 4, No. 39 • 1—7 October 2004


When is good news bad news?

Last week the South African Police Service issued the annual Crime Statistics. What these statistics show is that overall, the incidence of reported crime in the country is declining, indicating a reduction in the number of actual crimes committed.

In his Foreword to the latest Annual Report of the SAPS, National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi says: "A matter of great concern to the SAPS and to the community is the levels of crime in South Africa.Special focus, during this period, was given to crimes such as murder, attempted murder, rape, aggravated robbery and serious assault. As a result of police efforts the following achievements, among others, were recorded:

  • Murder decreased by 1,7%. Since 1994 the incidence of murder has decreased by a significant 30,7%.
  • A decrease of 5,7% in the occurrence of rape was recorded. The rape ratio is at its lowest level since the establishment of the South African Police Service in 1994/95.
  • There was a significant decrease in high profile cases of aggravated robbery. The hijacking of motor vehicles decreased by 20,2% and bank related robberies (bank robberies as well as cash in transit robberies) decreased by 15,4%. Both these categories of crime reached the lowest levels recorded since 1996/97.

"Despite these gains in the fight against crime, a few categories of crime have increased. These include aggravated robbery, street robbery (especially in informal settlements and former black townships) and robbery at residential and business premises. Special efforts will be made to address these worrying crime trends."

By any measure, the decreases in some crime categories constitute good news for all our people. There is national agreement on the need to improve the safety and security of the people as an inherent and important part of the pursuit of the goal of a better life for all. The SAPS, the Community Police Forums, Business against Crime, and other activists in the struggle against crime deserve our collective and sincere congratulations.

The improvements in the crime situation are consistent with the progress our country is making in other areas. We were correct to celebrate our First Decade of Freedom because there is indeed much to celebrate. The latest crime statistics contribute to the positive mood among our people, indicating as they do that we are also making progress in the important area of safety and security.

However, despite the advances we have made, all of us know that the problem of crime persists. Among other things, we must therefore use the Crime Statistics to improve our effectiveness in both areas of preventing and combating crime. This requires a careful study of these statistics and their correlation with other elements that characterise our society.

This study would show, for instance, that most of the crimes against the person occur in poor, black, urban working class areas. This is consistent with all other countries, including the most developed, where this kind of crime tends to be concentrated in depressed and poor urban areas.

In this context we must take note of the concern of the SAPS at the continuing high levels of crime. We must also express our appreciation for the commitment made by the National Commissioner that the Police Service would make a special effort to give additional attention to the crime categories that continue to increase.

For those genuinely interested and involved in the national effort to improve the safety and security of our people, the crime statistics must indicate that more work needs to be done to prevent the commission of these "contact crimes" especially in their areas of concentration, as identified by the Crime Statistics.

Given the direct, obvious and well known relationship between poverty, community degradation and these contact crimes, all those of us who are engaged in the fight against crime have to find the ways and means successfully to motivate and mobilise even the most depressed communities not to impose additional pain on themselves by allowing for the perpetuation of a permissive atmosphere that encourages members of the community to do crime.

When the then Minister of Safety and Security, the late Steve Tshwete suspended the publication of crime statistics, it was because they did not accurately reflect the crime situation in our country. The Minister and the Police Service were very concerned about this, because it negatively affected their own planning and the effective deployment of our law enforcement human and material resources.

So concerned were the Minister and the Police Service about this matter, including Sydney Mufamadi, Steve Tshwete's predecessor, that experienced experts in the compilation of crime statistics were brought in from a number of European countries to assess our statistical methodology and the quality of the product.

These experts recommended unanimously that the entire system needed a radical revamp because the information that was presented both to the police and the public, then, was deeply flawed. They were especially concerned at the serious negative impact this was having on the quality of policing.

To ensure that we put in place a correct system, the Ministry constituted a group made up of both South African and international experts to design the methodology and systems that are now being used to assemble, process and compile the crime statistics that have just been released. Nobody elsewhere in the world today has questioned, or would have cause to question the integrity of our crime statistics.

Some in our country may think that crime statistics are gathered, compiled and published solely to meet the important requirement for government to be accountable to the people. However, a very important reason for the careful gathering and compilation of crime statistics is to improve our national effectiveness in both preventing and combating crime.

The statistics released to the public are the same statistics that the Police Service uses to elaborate its own strategy and tactics further to reduce the crime levels and thus improve the safety and security of our people. It is therefore critically important that these statistics are as accurate and current as possible. They have therefore made an important contribution to the progress made by the Police Service to reduce various crimes, to which the National Commissioner referred in the comments we have cited in this Letter.

I have commented on the matter of the gathering and compilation of our statistics in some detail because there are some in our country who have questioned their integrity and reliability. Essentially, these people are making the firm assertion that the Police Service, the Ministers responsible for Safety and Security and our Government are together lying to the country when we say that gradually we are winning the war against crime.

To communicate this view, one of our newspapers published an editorial headed "Crime stats lack credibility". It said; "Crime statistics released by the government lack credibility. They are not believed by ordinary South Africans who experience the realities of everyday life in this country. Nor do the massaged figures carry any weight overseas, where the perception remains that SA is one of the world's crime capitals."

Another newspaper carried an article headed "Police statistics on child abuse do not reflect reality, activists warn". On the same page it had another article entitled "Rape has become a sickening way of life in our land". These two articles took up an entire page of the broadsheet.

The author of the article on rape is described by the newspaper as "an internationally recognised expert on sexual violence and post-exposure prophylaxis." In an article published by the US 'Washington Post' in June 2000, this "internationally recognised expert" wrote: "Here (in Africa), (AIDS) is spread primarily by heterosexual sex - spurred by men's attitudes towards women. We won't end this epidemic until we understand the role of tradition and religion - and of a culture in which rape is endemic and has become a prime means of transmitting disease, to young women as well as children."

In simple language she was saying that African traditions, indigenous religions and culture prescribe and institutionalise rape. The "internationally recognised expert" was saying that our cultures, traditions and religions as Africans inherently make every African man a potential rapist.

Given this view, which defines the African people as barbaric savages, it should come as no surprise that she writes that, "South Africa has the highest rates of rape in the world, according to Interpol." To her, this assertion would have been obviously correct, because, after all, we are an African country, and therefore have the men conditioned by African culture, tradition and religion to commit rape.

If she is telling the truth that Interpol has said what she says it said, it will have to explain how it arrives at this conclusion. In 2003 Interpol had 181 affiliated national police services. Of these only 21 submitted reports to Interpol on the incidence of crime in their countries. It would be most instructive to know how Interpol arrives at "world" figures enabling it to arrive at the conclusion about our country it is reported to have reached.

Incidentally, on July 7 this year, the US 'Washington Post' quoted the UNAIDS deputy executive director, Kathleen Cravero, as having said, "Most of the women and girls, as much in Asia as in Africa, don't have the option to abstain (from sex) when they want to. Women who are victims of violence are in no position to negotiate anything, never mind faithfulness and condom use."

Clearly, the views of our own "internationally recognised expert" are shared by other people in high places, that as African (and Asian) men, we are violent sexual predators.

However, it may be of interest to our readers that a Demographic and Health Survey for South Africa carried out by an organisation called Macro International, funded by the US Government through USAID, showed that rural African women in our country reported a lower rate of rape than women in the United States. The reference to our rural women is especially apposite because it is in the rural areas that we should find entrenched habits that derive from African culture, traditions and religious beliefs.

But of course, for those who are determined to propagate the view that our crime statistics have been "massaged" to tell a lie, and are therefore not credible, such research results do not exist. Indeed, they would not hesitate to assert that the results obtained by Macro International have also been "massaged" or are not credible, for other reasons they would adduce. Naturally, as with our Crime Statistics, they would not produce one single fact to substantiate their assertion, a "fact" whose veracity could be tested.

The June 2004 Vol 2, Issue 1 of the periodical, 'SA Reconciliation Barometer ', of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation carries an article entitled "Crime, Security and Fear of the Other", written by Nahla Valji, Bronwyn Harris and Graeme Simpson. Simpson is the Executive Director of the Centre.

They say: "For many South Africans today, our new democracy feels fraught with threats; in particular a fear of crime fuelled by the mythology that whites are the primary targets merely because of their race. From this perspective, the racialised discourse of crime not only misrepresents whites as the predominant victims, but conversely portrays blacks as the primary perpetrators. In the post-1994 context of rainbow nationalism, this discourse does not overtly employ a black and white vocabulary. However, race is commonly coded into everyday conversation. For example, 'the hijacker' frequently means 'the young, black, male criminal' in white suburbia. Consequently, young black men are still viewed with suspicion and fear and, similar to the past, they are often apprehended by the police in areas where 'they do not belong'.

"A further consequence of the fear of crime has been an accelerating retreat of middle-class communities behind high walls and private security, prompting a withdrawal from public space and pre-empting the possibility of relationship-building. Although there is a growing black elite who can now afford to join the 'laager', a recent survey reveals that only 2% of blacks have a private security or armed response system - in contrast to 45% of whites - demonstrating that the preoccupation with criminal violence and victimization plays out in racially, as well as economically, defined ways. Viewing the new South Africa through a prism of fear creates an identity of victimhood that is linked to race, reinforcing the divided and racialised identities of the past."

There is an article on the Internet entitled 'Dangers of South Africa: Fear of Crime' written by one Bronwyn McIntosh, a white South African who has emigrated to the United States. She says: "Do you know that feeling of awakening at 3am? Ah yes, we all know that too well, that sudden knowledge that a loud noise has awakened you - the sound of a car starting, the sound of a gun shot, the sound of a scream, the sound of police sirens blaring, dogs barking, the alarm on the front gate triggered by someone opening it, the outside security lights blazing because of movement outside, the security alarm blaring. These were the daily realities of living in a wealthy 'white' suburb on the fringe of Cape Town."

After commenting on the difficulties she experienced trying to acclimatise herself to her new surroundings in the US, she says: "Sure life is cheap there, in more ways than one! And for foreigners, the climate, the scenery, the people and the opportunities available must seem boundless. However, I feel that if one considers relocating a family or business, one has to know and be prepared for the reality of life in the country that has the highest murder, rape and AIDS statistics in the world."

Of course what she is conveying to the rest of the world about a "wealthy white suburb on the fringe of Cape Town" is an outright lie. But people elsewhere in the world who do not know our country, might take her at her word, having no reason to suspect that there are some from our country who will not hesitate to tell the lies she tells.

Having convinced her listeners that she fled from her white suburb in Cape Town, because the black savages were at her door, some editor in our country will then seize on her victory triumphantly to proclaim that "overseas.the perception remains that SA is one of the world's crime capitals."

As Valji, Harris and Simpson said, "viewing the new South Africa through a prism of fear creates an identity of victimhood that is linked to race, reinforcing the divided and racialised identities of the past."

In an article in the 'Sunday Independent' Higher Education Supplement of September 15, 1996, David Williams of the University of the Witwatersrand wrote about "a psychosis in white society."

He said: "It is as if white people feel so deeply threatened they dare not allow themselves hope for the future, because the pain of having it dashed will be too great. So they look everywhere for evidence of decline, in order that they cannot be disappointed."

Jason Carter is a white American. He spent two years in our country as a member of the US Peace Corps, teaching in rural KwaZulu-Natal. In 2002, he was interviewed by "National Geographic News". Among other things he said:

"The other thing that really opened doors in my mind was the psychological residue of apartheid, that is really similar, I think, to what we're still dealing with in the United States. There are self-confidence issues in the black community, and powerlessness and fear in the white community. And they don't know how to reach out to the black community-the whites don't-and the black community is still developing enough self-confidence to take on, and to participate in, discussions with the white community in the way that they will someday.

"That's so much, that's almost exactly, like what we're doing in the United States, still. In Georgia we've been done with segregation officially for 35 years, and we're still dealing with it. South Africa is just starting on that process."

The psychological residue of apartheid has produced a psychosis among some of us such that, to this day, they do not believe that our non-racial democracy will survive and succeed.

They dare not allow themselves hope for the future, because they know that the pain of having it dashed, which they are convinced will happen, will be too great. So they look everywhere for evidence of decline, in order that they cannot be disappointed.

Crime in our country provides them with the most dramatic evidence of that decline, the evidence that they are right to foresee a hopeless future for our country, the proof that sooner or later things will fall apart.

The psychosis of which Williams wrote does not allow them to see the positive things that are happening around them everyday. It dictates that they must constantly deny that any good news is real.

For them our new democracy feels fraught with threats. They must continuously find negative superlatives to convey the story that South Africa is the world capital of all the negative things that affect all humanity.

In this situation, fear of crime becomes the concentrated expression of fear about their survival in a sea of black savages, which they fuel by entertaining the mythology that whites are the primary targets merely because of their race.

In the end they fear freedom from their psychosis, convinced that this would destroy their sense of identity, in the same way that a drug addict is terrified by the prospect of loss of addiction. In this situation, good news becomes bad news.

Perhaps we will have to accept what Jason Carter said, that it will take us more than a generation to rid ourselves of the psychological residue of apartheid. For some, the truth we will always tell about the progress we have made and will make, in the interest of all South Africans, black and white, will always lack credibility.

Letter from the President


SALGA Conference

Seven key challenges facing local government

There are at least seven key challenges facing local government in ensuring quality service delivery and accelerated local transformation, President Thabo Mbeki told the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) conference earlier this week.

This is the third national conference of SALGA, a national association of all municipalities, set up in terms of the constitution to represent local government in its interaction with national and provincial government. SALGA also nominates representatives of local government to participate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC).

Among the functions of SALGA is to represent, promote and protect the interests of local government, and to work to transform local government to enable it to fulfil its developmental role.

Speaking at the conference, Mbeki said that while SALGA should not assume responsibilities that rightly belong to elected representatives or municipal officials, the organisation had an important role to play in ensuring quality service delivery and accelerated transformation at the sphere of local government. It needed to be a powerful tool "for the empowerment, capacitation and inspiration of local government".

Mbeki cited seven key challenges facing this sphere of government:

  • First, councils must get the basics of service delivery right: "It is important for local government to focus on the delivery of basic services to all residents. As we said in the Ten-Year Review, great strides have been made in this regard, with more than half of the poor now having access to basic electricity and water supplies." However, there remained many problems in municipalities across the country, including substantial backlogs in some areas. Councils needed to ensure that they attend expeditiously to the service problems identified by communities.
  • Second, councils must respond to local communities: "Local government is the sphere closest to the people. As a result, residents interface more with this sphere of government than any other and bring a variety of concerns to the attention of our municipalities." This means that service delivery plans should respond to the needs expressed by people at the local level and respond on time to subsequent problems around services. Existing legislation spells out minimum requirements of municipalities in terms of public participation, including communication, ward committees, consultation on matters like Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), budgets and others. However, many municipalities view this participation as an irritating compliance issue, rather than a necessary prerequisite for sustainable service delivery and accountable government. There are, for example, around 500 wards in the country in which ward committees have not yet been established.
  • Third, councils need to work with other spheres of government to transform the apartheid landscape: "With few exceptions, the apartheid landscape remains unchanged. New housing developments are generally located on the outskirts of towns and cities. We have not created opportunities to integrate previously divided communities."
  • Fourth, councils need to improve their capacity for service delivery: "I am aware that municipalities, SALGA and the national and provincial governments have taken some measures to address this matter [local government capacity]. Yet, we still rely too much on consultants and other outsiders. I think it is time to move beyond relying on consultants, crisis interventions, and other interim measures and put in place effective senior management in municipalities."
  • Fifth, councils need to make effective use of the financial and other resources at their disposal. Municipalities should maximise their revenue base, collecting revenue that is due and ensuring that spending is efficient and focussed on the delivery of basic services. There are resources in other spheres of government that can and should be harnessed. For example, local efforts to stimulate economic development should be coordinated with the provincial and national programmes so that the nation realises maximum value from the use of public funds. Mbeki said SALGA should assess whether the existing resources transferred to local government, such as equitable share transfers and infrastructure and capacity-building grants, are sufficient for municipalities to provide free basic services, fulfil their constitutional mandate, and improve the quality of life of the citizen.
  • Sixth, the issue of the allocation of powers and function between councils and other spheres of government needs to be resolved in a way that empowers councils to fulfil their responsibilities. While there has been a move over the past ten years towards the decentralisation of service delivery to local government, "it would obviously not make sense to add responsibilities to a municipality that is struggling to deliver basic services, without ensuring that these municipalities have the human and capital resources to honour these responsibilities".
  • Seventh, councils need to ensure that the deployment of community development workers is effectively used to promote public access to government programmes and services: "SALGA has a responsibility to ensure that there is effective harmonisation between these community development workers, the elected local public representatives, municipal officials and ward committees. The last thing we need is unnecessary competition and tension among government workers, whose collaboration should clearly ensure better, efficient and effective delivery of services to all our people. All these arms of government must work as a team."

President Mbeki said the first decade of freedom had given government an opportunity to address weaknesses in governance and service delivery systems and in modes and styles of political leadership. The SALGA conference should there make use of the opportunity to ensure local government improves its capacity to build a better life for communities.

"We have indicated before that municipalities are at the coalface of delivery, and are an important front desk of government that should assist us to reach our strategic objective of reconstruction and development. The elected representatives of local government must work together with those located in the national and provincial spheres, to implement our government-wide programme of action, as announced in May 2004," he said.


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Draft framework aims to transform and develop agriculture

The deracialisation of agriculture and its development as a growing sector in the South African economy are among the objectives of a draft empowerment framework published this week for public comment.

The draft Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Framework for Agriculture, known as AgriBEE, proposes a number of commitments for the redistribution of agricultural land, development of skills, and the achievement of greater representivity in the management and ownership of land and agriculture. These commitments include specific targets in each area over the next few years up until 2014.

Releasing the document for comment, Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza said the framework establishes the guiding principles for broad-based economic empowerment by building on the experience of transformation efforts over the past decade: "It defines the building blocks for the elimination of skewed participation and inequity in the agricultural sector."

The framework recognises the importance of ensuring greater representivity in the ownership and use of "high potential and unique" agricultural land, which is a limited and scarce resource in South Africa. It therefore proposes that stakeholders work together to ensure that historically-disadvantaged individuals have ownership, leasehold and use of such land. To this end, it proposes that established agriculture help realise the objective of ensuring that at least 30% of agricultural land is owned by black South Africans by 2014, and at least 20% of such land is available for lease over the same period. At least ten percent of such land should be made available to farm workers for their own animal and plant production activities.

For its part, government would undertake to use existing programmes to increase access to land by black South Africans, and acquire land for redistribution through buying suitable land that comes on the market and using land that reverts to the state through foreclosure.

The framework places important emphasis on developing human resources in agriculture. It aims to eliminate illiteracy in farming communities by 2010, and set up training programmes for farm and enterprise workers in technical and management skills by the middle of next year. It also proposes a mentorship programme for young black professionals, which targets 5,000 black graduates a year for the next five years. In 2005, government plans to undertake a review of demand for human resources in the agricultural sector.

A related matter is the achievement of greater representivity, both in terms of race and gender, at all levels in the agricultural sector. It is proposed that by 2008, black people should make up at least 50% of senior management of each enterprise, 60% of middle management, and 70% of junior management. By 2006, at least a third of executive managers should be black.

With respect to gender, it proposes that by 2008, black women should constitute at least 25% of senior management of each enterprise, 30% of middle management, and 45% of junior management. By 2006, at least ten percent of executive managers should be black women.

The framework notes that "historically, the interpretation of ownership in agriculture has been understood to be dependent upon ownership of land". It, however, makes a distinction between land and enterprise ownership, and sets a number of targets for transforming the ownership of agricultural enterprises.

It calls for the established industry to undertake to ensure 35% black ownership of existing and new enterprises by 2008. It should ensure that where investment initiatives are undertaken on the African continent, 10% of the portion of the South African investment is allocated to black South Africans. At least a third of export market opportunities should accrue to black-owned enterprises by 2007. There should also be at least 10% farm worker ownership of farm level enterprises by 2008.

Procurement should also be used to promote black empowerment in agriculture. It is proposed that agricultural enterprises implement targeted procurement strategies and policies to ensure that at least half of all procurement is sourced from black-owned companies by 2010. This would rise to 70% by 2014. Enterprises should report annually on their black empowerment procurement spend.

In terms of the draft framework, both government and established agriculture would work to provide support to empowerment initiatives in the areas of finance, infrastructure, information and knowledge systems.

"Over the next few months we expect this document to promote engagement between the Department of Agriculture and the various groups, black and white, rich and poor, who are involved or who wish to become involved in order to ensure that our transformation agenda is unambiguous, comprehensive and reflective of the complexity of the agricultural sector," Didiza said.

Interested parties have until 20 December to make written comments and representations to the Department of Agriculture on the draft framework.


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