Letter to the Editor


The plight of our communities who continue to live their lives in warzones – pockets of fear, death and destruction that prevail as the rest of the country goes about its business – has once more received a flurry of media attention. While this return of the spotlight must be welcomed, the time has come for the narrative to change. Because once more, we are seeing another round of pondering on causes and solutions, just as we have so many times before.

The question that has to be asked is why? Why are we still talking about how to solve the issues and return to these distressed people their democratic and constitutional rights to not live in constant fear for their lives and the lives of their children?

And then: Why, despite the fact that we have time and time again identified how to address the situation, do we keep reinventing the wheel rather than implementing the solutions we have already agreed on?

As someone who has worked in the field of crime, crime prevention and offender reintegration for more than 3 decades, I struggle to understand why I keep hearing the same old refrain I heard when I started out in my career: lack of resources, under-staffed police, lack of funding.

If we are clear about the problems, why are we not dealing with them?

Why are we still having meetings, conferences, workshops, committee gatherings and well-intentioned but ineffective campaigns?

The real crime here is that we have not yet – and one has to wonder about the reasons for this – thrown all resources possible into this struggle. It is not complicated. All that Government needs to do is to ensure that the finances are available to institute the strategies that we have been speaking about for decades.

This is what is needed (and has been for decades):

  • A skilled, trained and trusted police force.
  • Well-resourced police stations, enough police vehicles and the people to man them.
  • For vacant posts to be filled as soon as possible.
  • For our court system to be efficient and effective.
  • For the community and police to work together to restore and build trust.
  • For civil society organisations to be capacitated to implement crime prevention and rehabilitation programmes.
  • Adequate resources to assist drug addicts at their rehabilitation.
  • Sufficient resources for crime prevention programmes.
  • A realisation that crime prevention programmes are key to ensuring that we don’t lose another generation, and another and another, to gangs, drugs and violence.

NICRO, in partnership with the Department of Community Safety, runs a project called Pro Peace, which aims to rehabilitate gangsters. We also focus on crime prevention in schools wheregangsterism is rife. Owing to our daily work, we know that addressing these so-called resource challenges will go a long way to ensuring the outcome we all dream of – less crime, opportunities for our children to grow and excel, and a more peaceful and safe South Africa.

As the gang warfare and its collateral damage once more makes front pages, here I sit once more writing about the need for adequate resources to implement existing strategies at community level. It all boils down to one thing: money. The question is, and perhaps this time we can get an answer, why is the money that we have available in this country not finding its way towards the solution that will enable thousands of our citizens to stop living a nightmare? That is the only talk-shop worth having at this stage of the game.

Soraya Solomon


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