Steve Tshwete's letter to the Portuguese

Response by the Minister of Safety & Security to anti-crime protesters, December 2000

Ministry for Safety and Security

[Dec 2000/Jan 2001]

Mr M Ferreirinha,
Projecto Contra O Crime
P O Box 9027

Dear Mr M Ferreirinha,

On the 15th November 2000, you, together with other people you identified as coming from "the Portuguese community", delivered a memorandum at the Union Buildings addressed to the President of the Republic.

The President forwarded the memorandum to me for my action since you were seemingly concerned about issues of crime.

I have studied your memorandum very carefully and accordingly wish to communicate to you the views of our government on the matters you raise.

It is perfectly clear to us that your initiative to march to the Union Buildings and deliver a memorandum addressed to our President was a conscious political act driven by your opposition to the government.

I would even make bold to say that, in addition to your defining yourselves as our political opponents, you hold the government, our President and our continent in contempt.

The "demand" you made to our President that you must "receive a public response by no later than the close of business on 22 November 2000", is symptomatic of the contempt of which we speak.

It is also clear to us that you timed our initiative with the aim of influencing the outcome of the local government elections that took place on December 5, 2000.

Our country has had a considerable Portuguese community for some time, including the apartheid years.

We know of no occasion when this community marched to the Union Buildings to present a memorandum to the apartheid presidents demanding an end to the apartheid crime against humanity.

You know very well that in its campaign of repression, the apartheid regime claimed the lives of tens of thousands of our people and those of others throughout southern Africa.

In the face of countless massacres, you remained silent.

You took no steps to express the abhorrence of the Portuguese community of the wilful and countless state murders that contributed to making apartheid South Africa a pariah among the nations.

If we search the government archives, we are certain that we will find absolutely nothing indicating that you sent any communication to the successive apartheid regimes to end the slaughter.

Some among the Portuguese community you claim to represent, came to this country because they did not accept that the Mozambican and Angolan people should gain their freedom and independence from Portuguese colonialism.

Accordingly, South Africa became a second home for these people, because our own people were not free.

These came here because they knew that the colour of their skin would entitle them to join "the master race", to participate in the oppression and exploitation of the black majority and to enjoy the benefits of white minority domination.

It is perhaps because you have not outgrown these white supremacist ideas and practices that you wrote your memorandum, which you delivered to the Union Buildings.

We fought the system of white supremacy over many decades and defeated it. We will continue to confront its legacy and will eradicate that legacy whatever form it assumes and however long the struggle takes.

You are the only language community in our country that has sought to identify itself as being a particular and special victim of crime. Yet you know very well that all sections of our people have been exposed to the unacceptable levels of crime with which we are all concerned.

The black majority has been a victim of generalised crime for many decades, with police resources dedicated to the protection of the white population and the defeat of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Again, we know of no instance when you addressed even a mild protest note to the regimes that created the crime legacy with which we have to contend, calling for the protection of the black majority.

Your memorandum to the President and your march suggests that members of the Portuguese community are merely victims of crime.

You make no mention of the fact that this crime is committed, among others, by members of the same Portuguese community. You say nothing about any steps you have taken to assist the law enforcement agencies to stop these law-breakers.

Within the last 12 months these agencies have arrested and brought before our courts significant numbers of people who belong to the Portuguese community.

These have been charges with a wide variety of criminal offences. These include:

  • Armed robbery;
  • Hijacking of vehicles;
  • Drug trafficking;
  • Theft of containers;
  • Trading in stolen goods through unregistered businesses;
  • VAT and customs fraud;
  • Smuggling of goods across our borders;
  • Bribery and corruption;
  • Illegal trade in ivory; and
  • Illegal trade in liquor.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

We will have occasion in future to give you a more comprehensive report of the involvement of the members of the Portuguese community in crime in the hope that this will persuade you that you, too, like everybody else, have the responsibility to participate in the fight against crime.

You might, accordingly, change your "Crime Awareness Project" into a "Crime Combating Project".

You are aware that our government was elected by an overwhelming majority of our people. These masses do not share the contempt you have for our government and President.

They remain confident that the government they freely elected will, working together with them, succeed to eradicate the legacy of apartheid, which you seek to blame on our government.

These masses need to know about your view of their government. We will therefore take the necessary steps so to inform them.

The government will continue to take all necessary and possible measures further to intensify the offensive against crime.

The largest numbers of the victims of crime are the very people who elected us into government. They elected us because they are confident that we will persist in our efforts to guarantee the safety and security of all South Africans.

We will never betray on disappoint that confident, however long it takes us to overcome a scourge that has been part of the daily lives of the majority of our people for many decades.

Those, like yourselves, who believe that they have something to gain through the politicisation of the issue of crime, are free to pursue their counter-productive agenda.

The government and those of our Citizens who are interested in joining hands in the struggle to build a new and better South Africa, including members of the Portuguese community, will continue to do everything they can to achieve this objective.

Those who vainly hope for the restoration of white minority domination will not distract them and us from the path that the majority of our people have chosen


Cc President Thabo Mbeki
H.E The Ambassador, Embassy of Portugal.

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