We need to take back our community

Rozario Brown,
Mitchell’s Plain

It is with great sadness that I direct this letter to your attention.

I am sick and tired of reading newspapers and listening to news bulletins about another family having to bury their sons or daughters. This past weekend is no different.

Chad Arendse, a young man with a bright future and all the requisite qualities to end up a great leader within our community and society in general, were gunned down and murdered for no particular reason (“Drum major shot dead”, Plainsman, June 19).

The sad reality is this – Chad will become just another statistic and will only be mentioned by some politicians and so-called community leaders hoping to attract some mileage out of his murder.

Over the years, I have written and pleaded with many key stakeholders, politicians and persons in positions of authority and law enforcement officers, to do more and ensure that our communities become safer for law-abiding citizens, especially our women and children, and less friendly to these cold-blooded killers, gangsters and drug kingpins who use our children to do their dirty work.

Many innocent and well-intended people within our communities have spoken out, led marches, held pickets, protested at Parliament and pleaded with those in authority to do more to ease our plight. Many politicians have promised more action, more resources and vigour in the fight against gangs, drugs and criminals in general, however, the facts speak for itself.

The time has come for us, the people, to start a serious conversation about how we are going to take our communities back from these criminals and forward to prosperity, because those of us depending on politicians to do the right thing will long be in our graves and this country will long be in the hands of well-resourced and better organised criminal gangs and their international counterparts.

I said this before and I’ll repeat it now, you can’t declare war on crime without calling in the troops.

You can’t expect ordinary, law-abiding citizens to confront these well-resourced and heavily armed gangs with placards, banners, megaphones and posters.

How on earth is it possible for a 10-year-old child to find the drug houses, but our police appear to be unable to find the drug dealers in those drug houses?

How on earth is it possible that a 13-year-old child runs with a gun in the streets, fires shots and murders people, but our police officers and law-abiding citizens with legal firearms, can’t do the same?

How is it possible for a gangster or burglar to enter our homes, rape our mothers and daughters, steal our hard-earned possessions and when confronted, we can’t act against these criminals, because we will be brought before the courts, be dealt with harshly and treated like cold-blooded criminals?

Listen, I am relatively stable in my mind and I have a very clear idea of what is right and what is wrong, but for heaven’s sake something is seriously wrong in this country and its Constitution.

This Constitution of ours appears to be the root of all our problems. It gives way too much power to criminals and corrupt politicians. We are sitting ducks waiting to be murdered and we can’t do anything about it.

Our laws must change – it must change immediately. Our constitution must be amended to deal with the current and unprecedented high crime levels, especially the violent crimes and murder rate in our country.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that our laws need to be amended to fight these well-organised crime syndicates.

The National Prosecuting Authority and our criminal justice cluster should know exactly what the weaknesses are and what the requirements are to start winning more cases in our courts.

We need to find the resources to pay police informants well. In fact, throughout the country our government could potentially create 20 000 jobs simply be recruiting informants at each police station and paying them a small stipend on a monthly basis. However, government must create effective tools to ensure that these informants and their identities are well protected.

Police officers, state prosecutors and those employed by the state to fight crime, especially organszed crimes, should not have more than one mobile phone at a time. Government should have the right and it should be included in these police officers’ contracts, that the state will have the right to listen in on their conversations at any given time to ensure that police informants, witnesses, sensitive information, etc, are not being fed and sold off to crime bosses and witnesses and informants being murdered as a result of their actions.

Persons serving on community structures, especially structures involved in the fight against crime, should not be seen at or near to known gang and drug houses unless they are actively campaigning to have these houses shut down and its occupants locked up.

This horrific cycle of lawlessness and impunity must end and it has to end now.

I urge the government to start taking the safety of our people serious.

I implore our government, our premiers, our mayors and our community leaders to do much more to reign in these cold-blooded murderers and organised criminals.

Become a responsive and trustworthy government. Amend our laws and equip our law enforcement officers with the tools and legislation required to fight a good fight in the fight against crime and violence.

Make it easy for police informants to work with the police by providing stipends to them and assuring them of their safety. Create minimum sentences of life imprisonment for corrupt police officers who put the lives of our people at risk and those working to advance the interest of crime syndicates without turning our country into a police state.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should be brave and use his constitutional powers to declare a State of Emergency in known crime hot spots and empower the police to do their work better.

An entire generation appears to be at risk and government’s continued failure and lackluster attitude towards dealing with this criminality will eventually turn the entire country into a war zone.

Failure to deal effectively with crime in our country will eventually see the rand collapse, massive disinvestment, mass killings on a daily basis and even all our parliamentarians, councilors, mayors and other senior public servants, unable to move around without bodyguards.

Our country’s issues can be dealt with, however, we now need brave and committed leaders to make this issue a priority.

Letter shortened.