Friday, April 21, 2006

'Does any grievance now justify any violence?'

Cape Town, South Africa
21 April 2006 01:30
Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has castigated the government for refusing to acknowledge the reality of crime and not doing enough to address the issue.

President Thabo Mbeki and senior leaders of the African National Congress do not understand because they are almost completely insulated from crime, he said in his weekly newsletter on the DA website on Friday.

Leon cited a litany of recent murders, including that of actor Brett Goldin and his friend Richard Bloom in Cape Town last weekend. "This terrible crime has sent a shudder throughout South Africa and around the world.

"The awful reality is that Brett and Richard are not alone among the recent victims of South Africa's crime wave," he said.

Other incidents include several people murdered in recent days in a gang war in Cape Town, last month's murder of the four-year-old granddaughter of Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, the murder of renowned South African Broadcasting Corporation producer Ken Kirsten, and three workers at a laundry in Vereeniging who were murdered in January and their bodies stuffed into a washing machine.

"Last week in KwaZulu-Natal, an elderly couple was attacked on their farm by a group of armed thugs who burnt the 82-year-old farmer's feet so badly with scalding water that his soles came off.

"What kind of society has ours become? Does any grievance now justify any violence?

"And where is the outrage and the concern of the government at this moment of crisis for our communities and our people?" Leon asked.

He accused Mbeki of attacking those who speak openly about crime.

Instead of railing against racists -- real and imagined -- Mbeki and the rest of Cabinet should spend less time roaming the world and a little more time tending the fences at home, which have been breached by the army of violent criminals performing acts of gratuitous violence almost at will.

"There is no doubt that global issues such as peace in Israel/Palestine and the reform of the United Nations are important.

"But ask the average South African whether he would prefer the president to concentrate his time on those issues, or to secure his neighbourhood or township from the scourge of criminality, and for his wife and daughter to be free from the fear of rape -- and the answer is, as they say, a no-brainer.

"But the president and the senior leaders of the ANC do not understand, because they are almost completely insulated from crime. They surround themselves with bodyguards and VIP protection officers.

"President Mbeki himself has more protection officers, and travels with more security vehicles, than any president in our country's history.

"The big men and women of government live in a safe and luxurious bubble and have no idea what ordinary South Africans go through every day," Leon said.

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad even dismissed crime as nothing more than "an ever-handy swart gevaar tactic".

"Perhaps he should visit victims of crime -- white and black -- and repeat that comment to them."

The reality is that crime haunts black communities just as much as, if not more than, other communities.

The ANC boasts of statistics that indicate a steady decline in murder and some other categories of crimes.

"But government refuses to acknowledge the reality beyond the numbers, the fear that stalks our streets and homes, the danger that those of us who must live without VIP protection must face."

Leon said even reinstating the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes would not be enough. "It is almost useless to talk about sentencing when less than 10% of violent crimes result in a conviction.

"More than the death penalty, what South Africa desperately needs is bold leadership in the fight against crime.

"But the president and the ANC have responded with evasion and indifference. How many more must die before they take notice, and act?" he said. -- Sapa