Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Castle, My Prison

by George Annandale

The eventual and, understandably reluctant, release of the crime statistics did not fail to shake us in our foundations.

It again, as in past years highlighted the inability of the government to protect its citizens and shows a remarkable insensitivity to the roots and real causes of the crime problem. It is no wonder the ANC and the minister did everything in their power to keep the statistics hidden from the voters prior to the election and it is just another act of the deliberate deceit, so rife in the ruling party.

The minister continues to display his ineptness in tackling the root causes of the high crime levels. In announcing the ANC’s fifteenth “Crime Fighting Plan”, he was quick to point out and highlight the decline in murders and he made mention and emphasised the increase in robberies of shops and small businesses. However, the attention given to the sharp rise in house burglaries and crimes of a sexual nature was superficial.

The reason for highlighting the reduction in murders and the scant attention given to crimes of a sexual nature, particularly rape, and burglaries is typical of the propaganda machine in action. Rape is a sensitive issue and draws media attention, which is bad for the image of the government, whilst burglaries strike at the heart and mind of every law-abiding citizen. We all want to be safe in our castle, an age-old instinct and to find that you are most vulnerable in your fort is a chilling realisation.

The ANC government hasve allowed the development of a situation where the economically empowered citizen lives in fear and under siege, a condition that worsens year after year.

The much-acclaimed drop in the murder rate probably has nothing to do with the efforts of the ANC government and the effectiveness of policing. Those who could afford it have surrounded themselves with fortifications and armed guards which, to some extent, decreased their vulnerability to murderers. In the process those with the means are paying a premium and have taken over a large share of the financial responsibility for safety and security.

But why?

Why do we find ourselves in this precarious position? The inability of the state to protect us is not a matter of funds or the lack of funds. The budget for safety and security have increased from R17bn in 2000 to R 47bn in 2008. In addition to the state expenditure, we saw massive growth in revenues, of the private security sector, a result of additional expenditure by private citizens in a desperate attempt to buy peace of mind, from R2bn spent in 1995 to R18bn in 2004 and R35bn spent in 2008. Contributors to the “Enforced Security Fund” are however not allowed to complain about the high crime rate and those audacious enough to complain are quickly told, by the leeches, to either shut up or ship out to Australia.

Despite a huge increase in policeman, from 130 000 in 2000 to 170 000 in 2008, crime levels remain unacceptably high. In addition to the policeman employed to protect us, in our houses and businesses, we are employing 300 000 security guards and support staff, up from 190 000 in 1995, to protect us. The growth in private security expenditure and personnel amounts to the government abdicating it’s responsibilities in guaranteeing the security of its citizens, a basic human right guaranteed by the constitution. Unfortunately the skills and quality, of police and security guards, did not increase with the numbers. The only increases other than numbers were girth and salary, resulting in the taxpayer paying more for less.

The real reason, for our inability to get to grips with the crime problem, lies in a lack of leadership, poor management, incompetence and lack of basic policing skills. Leadership in government and the department of safety has been, and still is, lacking vision, imagination and commitment. Leaders have been ill-equipped with their focus on the interests of the party, self-interest and ideology, rather than results and a safe society. Denial and deceit has been a trademark of the leadership with successive police commissioners being political appointments, without the faintest idea of the requirements of an effective police force and with their only loyalty to their political masters.

Managers have proved to be corrupt and incompetent. Discipline in the force is non-existent, borne out by the number of obese police officers. Nepotism and cronyism is rife, a fact borne out by the ratio of constables to sergeants. Constables, in 2007, constituted less than 10% of the police force, resulting in a ratio of one constable for every four sergeants, this, compared to five constables per sergeant in Britain; a clear case of too many chiefs and to few Indians Affirmative action resulted in a severe loss of skills.

Experienced detectives and police officers joined private security firms and the forensics division was decimated. Skilled detectives were replaced with semi-literate uniformed policemen holding the rank of sergeant and higher. Specialist units were disbanded. The ineffectiveness resulting from the loss of skills and experience resulted in a sharp drop in prosecutions, which is often blamed on the judiciary thus deflecting attention away from bungled investigations by incompetent SAPS “investigators”.

Examples of corruption, throughout the SAPS, are dished up on a daily basis, the Yengeni affair a case in point. We read and hear about missing dockets, falsified crime figures, disappearance of firearms, and other examples of corruption on a daily basis.

I do not want to hear that I complain and do nothing. I make a substantial contribution to safety and security for myself and many leeches. I also do not want to hear I complain without offering solutions. I’m not being paid to find solutions. I suggest the government and the SAPS, who do get paid do their job and ensure my safety, and that of other honest tax-paying citizens. For those prepared to pay for incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism, good luck, I certainly will not shed a tear when you are gunned down in your castle.