A Month of Defeat
As the curtain comes down on the month of August, I can’t help but marvel at what a newsy month it has been! I’m sure many beautiful things have happened in the course of the month. Sadly, bad news is always what dominates the headlines.
While being perpetual Pollyannas would definitely bring peace of mind, it’s hard to ignore the negativity around us. There is so much violence and cruelty. Shouldn’t we band together during the raging COVID-19 pandemic instead of inflicting pain?
Police Minister Bheki Cele released South Africa’s latest statistics on crime, which were quite alarming to say the least. The stats painted a very bleak picture of the country’s war on crime. At least 10,006 people were raped between April and June, while 5,760 were murdered during the same period. Those are definitely staggering numbers that speak to the kind of violence pervading the country. While there have been arguments that 2020 and 2021 statistics are incomparable because last year’s were recorded during the hard lockdown, I’d say things look really bad. Bearing in mind the scenes witnessed of the police response to the July unrest that rocked parts of Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal, it is terrifying to think of where we are heading. The nation watched in horror as looters walked nonchalantly past police officers, who watched the show helplessly with folded hands. One would be forgiven for thinking the same scenario is unfolding everyday – police getting so overwhelmed that the only course of action left for them is to do nothing.
War on women
August is a month devoted to the women folk, but it also appears to be the month during which some of the most atrocious acts of violence are committed. Much like the perpetrators are showing off and going, “Women’s month, you say? We’ll show you what we think of women!” August is the same month that the late University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered at the Clareinch Post Office in 2019. This year saw another gruesome killing of Nosicelo Mtebeni, a final-year law student from the University of Fort Hare. Her decapitated and dismembered body was found stuffed in a suitcase on an East London street. These are just some of those that caught the eye of the media, but many more go unreported. The spike in femicide can also be placed squarely at the booted feet of the police. Earlier this year, Cele apologised for the huge DNA backlog of over 200,000, with some of the cases spanning a few years. This means there are many criminals rubbing shoulders with upstanding citizens, and with every day of delay, comes a chance to hurt more people with impunity. When things go as wrong as they have, one is always inclined to witch-hunt so that at least someone can be blamed for the mess. However, the rise in crime goes beyond one person or institution. In May, parliament heard that the police force’s budget had been cut by close to R12 billion in the 2021/2022 financial year. Against that background, one might also start feeling sorry for the incapacitated police – from whom so much is expected amid many shortcomings in the system. Why cut the budget of those that are meant to be protecting and serving the country, yet allow other arms of government to be looted as they have been? Why not implement the necessary checks and balances to ensure the protection of the public purse. The mind boggles.
War on Corruption
As South Africa’s efforts to get rid of graft intensify, so have the woes of whistleblowers. These people have received a pat on the back for blowing the lid on corruption, and have been widely touted as some of the good ones. Being honest has, however, come at a cost. Some of the whistleblowers in the commission of inquiry into state capture have gone on to become unemployable, while others – if not all- live in constant fear of reprisal. A Gauteng Department of Health official, Babita Deokaran, who was a witness in a Special Investigating Unit probe into personal protective equipment tender fraud, was gunned down in Joburg. During her funeral, some speakers said Deokaran’s death should not be in vain, but should prompt others to come forward and expose criminals. However, her violent killing was meant to instill fear in the hearts of those who know “something”, and did very little to encourage them to do “the right thing”. How is it the right thing if her children are now looking at an empty chair, while those who decide to take what they know to the grave are tucking in their own children? How does the public have faith in a police force that fails to protect some of its own – think Charl Kinnear whose security was withdrawn and he was executed outside his home ten months later? How do you believe in a police force whose hands are tied by red tape so much that they helplessly watch criminals wheeling stolen fridges past them? How is there so much money available for looting and none for the things that matter? Who has the answers?