AU worried about high South Africa crime

A South African weekly said a confidential report prepared by the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism had urged the South African government to make the fight against crime its “top priority” or risk destabilising the country’s democracy.

The report, which is expected to be made public in January, has once again brought the Southern African nation’s high crime record – and the government’s apparent laxity in dealing with it – into the international limelight.

The APRM panel is understood to have been deeply concerned about crime, poverty, unemployment and the political domination of the ruling African National Congress.

It said the persistence of the trends “threatened the stability of South Africa ‘s hard won democracy” and that the country needed to do a lot more to curb the problems.

Government officials have declined to comment on the report until it has been delivered to the AU next month, “or at least until it has been made public”, which would be six months after its presentation to the AU in January.

The APRM was established as an arm of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and was intended to advance social, political and economic development across the African continent.

At least 25 countries are signed up for assessment by their peers, though reports have so far only been completed for Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya .

South Africa ‘s exorbitant crime levels have been a cause for serious concern across the country and abroad for several years.

Eric Bost, who is the new United States ambassador to South Africa recently warned that the country’s hopes of successfully hosting of the 2010 world cup could be jeopardised if crime continued at current levels.

Respected academic and World Bank director Mamphela Ramphele told a conference reflecting on the work of South Africa’s former Truth and Reconciliation Commission that they should “not be surprised” by the extreme levels of crime the country was struggling to rein in.

id the huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa was one of the major reasons behind the country’s extreme levels of violent crime.

Ramphele said the anger and brutality sweeping across South Africa was due to the country’s failure to acknowledge the socio economic inequalities that the country was facing.

A recent survey found that several South Africans were willing to bring back the death penalty as part of efforts to make the country safer.

76.5 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by research firm Plus 94 Research recently said they wanted an urgent referendum to decide whether or not to bring back the country’s outlawed death penalty to solve the country’s mammoth crime problem.

Of these, the researchers said 69 percent had said they would definitely vote to bring back the death penalty because crime in the country had become “severe and out of control”.

Recent crime figures released by the government confirmed that South Africa still had one of the highest crime levels in the world, despite a slight decline in levels of criminal activity.

While the government emphasised on the decline, concerns were still raised by the public over the violent nature of criminal activities that have left many victims either dead or seriously wounded.

Plus 94 said it had surveyed 3 000 people in all of the country’s nine provinces where many respondents said they were living in constant fear of being attacked or robbed.

The researchers said the majority of interviewees believed the government’s current policies on fighting crime were failing, and that more drastic measures needed to be taken.

“This (crime) is no-longer just a problem. Whatever has been done in the past is obviously not enough because there is still a lot of violent criminal activity out there.

“Maybe if we bring back the death penalty it will act as a deterrent (to criminals),” 27 year old Tshegofatso Mooki said.

December 2006
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