Wednesday, June 21, 2006

SA minister defends crime remark

South African Security Minister Charles Nqakula has defended a controversial remark in which he accused people of "whinging" about crime.

On Tuesday, Mr Nqakula reiterated that his remark had been directed at certain opposition MPs, and not the public.

"I was politicking - they were politicking. I would never say people who complain about crime should leave the country," he said.

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime.

Mr Nqakula has been under pressure since the publication earlier this month of remarks in which he said people who complained about crime could leave the country.

"They can continue to whinge until they're blue in the face, they can continue to be as negative as they want to, or they can simply leave this country so that all of the peace-loving South Africans, good South African people who want to make this a successful country, continue with their work."

A day later Darryl Worth, an MP from the opposition Democratic Alliance, spoke of a "tsunami of crime" during a debate in parliament.


Mr Nqakula replied by saying that opposition members were only now belatedly seeing "the ugly face of crime".

"Apartheid so insulated them, that they did not see crime at all," he said, referring to the fact that most DA members are from the white minority that was privileged under apartheid.

"So they think therefore that our country is tottering under such a wave of crime that they refer to it as a tsunami."

Community Police Forums, as well as opposition groups, were among those who reacted with shock to what they saw as a cavalier attitude by the minister towards a serious crisis facing the country.

Sam Mangena, of a Community Police Forum in the Pretoria township of Mamelodi, told the Pretoria News newspaper that criminals, and not whingers, were the problem.

"They are the ones who are hurting our people. They should be the ones to leave the country. The perpetrators have to go away," said Mr Mangena.

Apparently trying to debunk the myth that only wealthy white people have cause to complain about crime, the Mail & Guardian newspaper ran a report by Hazel Makuzeni, a resident of Cape Town's poor Khayelitsha township, on how she was robbed at gunpoint while walking to the station on her way to work.

"A gun was pressed against my chest, hard, and I was ordered to hand over my cell phone and my backpack," Ms Makuzeni wrote.

"Then the two young men simply turned away and robbed another woman who was coming behind me. I heard her cries, but I couldn't do anything."

The response from the police, according to Ms Makuzeni's account, was: "Hayi sisi, [no, sister], these things happen."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/06/21 13:25:07 GMT