Crime in Our Country

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On 9 February 2007, South African President Thabo Mbeki acknowledged in his eighth annual State of the Nation speech that his government needed to work harder to combat the ‘ugly and repulsive’ scourge of violent crime. Mbeki, under pressure after recently saying that he did not think crime was a major problem, promised to increase police numbers, improve intelligence and forensic data, and reduce court backlogs. Mbeki’s recognition that violent crime was a problem came as a surprise to many critics who had accused him of not doing enough to cut crime and of being apathetic to the country’s security issues. Many in South Africa now hope that the government will bring the country’s rampant criminality under control. However, considering South Africa’s socio-economic imbalances and tensions, it is unlikely that Mbeki’s investment in the criminal justice system alone will be enough to bring about a significant reduction in the country’s crime rates. Political and social transformation have profoundly affected South Africa. New and non-racial forms of democratic government have been established and entrenched at national, provincial and local levels. The disintegrating economy of the apartheid era has been transformed into one of low budget deficits, low inflation, and year on year growth for the past eight years. However, the journey has been far from painless: while political violence has ended, violent criminality has increased. In 2006 alone, official figures show that there were some 18,500 murders, over 20,000 attempted murders, 55,000 reported rapes and 120,000 violent robberies. Despite these shocking statistics, the South African government has been slow to accept that there is a problem. As recently as last month, President Mbeki dismissed the issue of crime as ‘exaggerated’ and just a few days later, national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, asked ‘what’s all the fuss about crime?’. The comments caused public outrage. Mbeki’s political opponents labelled...
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