Rich and poor, black and white, rural and urban and male and female South Africans are regrettably united in their fear of crime, and especially violent crime.
Across our country, millions of citizens spend hard-earned money on security gates, burglar bars, remote controls, panic buttons, higher walls and the services of security firms, to avoid falling victim to ruthless criminals who respect no-one’s life or property.
Apart from the financial cost of feeling insecure, many South Africans live with the trauma of witnessing shocking events with their own eyes or hearing tales of terror and bloodshed from relatives, neighbours, friends and colleagues.
To the criminals and their victims alike, the statement in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution that “everyone has the right of freedom and security of the person, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources” means little.
Government is determined to change this and to work with communities to ensure that all South Africans are and feel safe.
In recent weeks, I have visited communities in Gauteng and the Western Cape to demonstrate government’s sincere interest in helping communities imprisoned by crime.
In Soshanguve Township, Pretoria, I met residents, recovering drug addicts and the leadership of the South African Police Service to learn about the situation there and what is needed in the fight against crime.
I had a long interaction with young people who are addicted to drugs, particularly the drug called Nyaope. They explained their situations to me and it was indeed depressing to see our youth in that disheartening state. All of them have requested government to help rescue them from drugs and their current situation.
I have asked relevant departments to urgently assist these young people, most of whom have no parents or have been dismissed and disowned by their families for various drug related reasons. One of them is a University of Pretoria graduate who is in possession of a Degree in Public Administration and has been taking drugs for four years after struggling to get employment.
This shows that there are various serious reasons that will lead them to drugs and ours is not to forsake them but to assist those who want to be assisted and then deal decisively with drug traffickers and drug-lords.
I have also recently visited Nyanga in the Western Cape where residents live in daily fear of being attacked by criminals who roam the streets and terrorise law-abiding citizens.
As a caring government that will not allow criminality and lawlessness to rule our communities, we have decide to review and improve our programmes that are fighting crime and drug abuse.
We need to come up with new strategies to fight crime and its root causes, particularly drugs, simply because our people cannot live side by side with crime and we cannot be defeated by criminals in this battle.
The fight against crime and responsibility rests on all of us, and therefore I will be reaching out to various sectors including business, civic organizations and communities to join government in this campaign to ensure safer and peaceful communities.
As evidence of government’s commitment, Cabinet has been briefed that the Minister of Police wants to declare an amnesty in terms of the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000), for a period of six months from 1 April 2017 to 30 September 2017.
The amnesty will focus on the following holders of firearms and/or ammunition in South Africa: persons in possession of illegal firearms and/or ammunition in circulation, including those involved in one or more criminal activities, and persons who inherited firearms and/ or ammunition and failed to comply with the provisions of the Firearms Controls Act.
The amnesty will reduce the circulation of illegally possessed firearms which will in turn reduce contact crimes.
At the same time, Cabinet has approved the National Anti-gangsterism Strategy to address gangsterism in all its manifestations by way of an all-government approach.
This is aligned to the National Development Plan to ensure that people living in South Africa feel safe at home, schools and work, and enjoy community life free of fear.
This also recognises that crime and violence are not just a security issue, but have deep social and economic roots and consequences.
We urge all South Africans to work more closely with the police and other security agencies so that we can overcome the plague of crime that affects so many communities.
It is up to all of us to ensure that the only people who won’t be or feel safe in South Africa will be those who want to live outside the law.