My uncle was murdered

Phumlani Majozi writes on SA's crime crisis in the context of a family tragedy

I write this week’s column with a heavy heart. I am mourning the death of my uncle who was murdered in one of Johannesburg’s notorious townships last week. His sudden death and the heartlessness of the people who murdered him, shocked us all in the family.

When I was involved in a quad bike accident that almost killed me last August, I was reminded how short life is, and how shorter it can be. For my uncle, it was shorter. He was less than 40 in age.

Since I heard of his death, and since my return from the location where he was gunned down, I have been reflecting about the persisting shocking levels of crime in South Africa. The homicide rate alone is terrifying as the country ranks in the top 10 in global homicide rankings. 

I have written about South Africa’s crime before. I wrote in a piece published in the City Press in November 2015. I wrote on BizNews and News24 in September 2016. And wrote again in an article published on News24 in June 2018.

The high levels of crime have preoccupied me for years as a socioeconomic commentator. 

In my previous writings, I have gone as far as arguing that we must shoot and kill violent criminals. These are criminals who go around murdering and raping our mothers and sisters. BizNews has taken down the article where I argued this – an article where I advocated for self-defence using legal firearms. I repeat: using legal firearms in defence of our lives. Citizens have a right and must have a right to defend themselves in the face of death. I checked this week, it's no longer on the BizNews platform. I wonder why they took down such a very important article.

We will not succeed in building a prosperous society with these terrifying crime levels. Crime taints South Africa’s reputation around the world. 

When I flew from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg in December 2018, an old lady who sat next to me said that in Israel you can leave your car with open doors and nothing will happen to it. Contrast that to South Africa, where you know very well that leaving your car open is very dangerous. 

An American friend of mine who is also a colleague once told me that his son was almost hijacked when he visited South Africa a few years back. 

I’m sure there are many foreigners who think the same about South Africa – and have been victims of crime when they visited the country. 

Donald J. Trump, the former American President, called South Africa “a crime ridden mess” when he was still a private citizen back in 2013. His assessment was right. This country is a crime ridden mess.

Crime is the main thing that will make me leave South Africa. It may not be the economy or politics. And when we talk about leaving the country, the  so-called Pan-Africanists who support the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the Jacob Zuma faction in the governing African National Congress (ANC), call us all sorts of names. That's because they refuse to face up to reality - that we have a crisis of massive magnitude on crime. 

What is painful to watch is that this criminality is now normalized in South Africa. It’s just something people talk about in passing. Our citizens are more triggered by a white person who says something or does something alleged to be “racist” to a black person. The shocking 58 murders per day don't trigger our citizens.

The recent crime statistics published by South African Police Services (SAPS) and Statistics South Africa last month, tell a chilling story about crime trends in the country. The stats were for the third quarter of the 2020/2021 period; detailing crimes reported to the  police stations.

The great concern for Police Minister Bheki Cele, he said when he presented the data, is the increase in murders. The murders increased by 6.6% compared to the previous year. Contact crimes – which include attempted murder, murder, common assault and sexual offences rose.

I won’t bore you with the statistics. If you want to learn more on them visit the SAPS website.

We have a crime crisis – that the elite and the intelligentsia are dishonest about. The intelligentsia will tell you it’s poverty, inequality and the apartheid legacy that cause this crime. They excuse the barbaric behaviour amongst the citizens. Fail to acknowledge that our justice system lets our law-abiding citizens down.

These criminals are mostly young people who never lived under apartheid. And they are not first-time offenders. I doubt the murderers of my uncle took a human life for the first time. Minister Cele did acknowledge back in 2018 that these criminals aren’t first-time offenders. They have been arrested before and released back into society. And they are not poor. Even if they were poor, nothing entitles them to killing other people. Poorer countries in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have these shocking homicide rates.

The breakdown of values and absence of fathers in households contributes massively to this on-going crime. I wrote about the absence of fathers in one of my recent columns published on Politicsweb. We must be honest and confront the fatherlessness issue.

After a traumatic armed robbery in Roodepoort in November 2015, I wrote in a piece published on City Press that I wished I had my own pistol. Because I would have used it to defend myself and the two people I was with in the house that evening. 

Days after the robbery, I went for counselling. That is how traumatic the scene was. What made things worse was that the criminals shot and killed Banele Sindane, the former CEO of Athletics South Africa. Banele’s home was a few kilometres away from where I stayed.

South Africa’s Former President Jacob Zuma has said that our justice system is lenient to criminals. I agree with him. The leniency to criminals fuels crime in the country.

If there were a protest against the government's failure to reduce crime, I would join that protest. A protest not a riot. I abhor and do not tolerate riots in a democracy like South Africa.

My uncle is now no more. He became part of the 58 people murdered per day in South Africa. He died in a country ranked amongst the most dangerous countries in the world.

Herman Mashaba, Former Mayor of Johannesburg, has called for the death penalty to be brought back in South Africa. I’ve thought about Mashaba’s views on the death penalty for a long time. I still do not know where I stand on the issue. I’m still thinking about it. 

In a country where taking a human life is nothing, Mashaba is right to start a debate on the death penalty. My uncle was gunned down in front of a crowd - which is proof his killers didn't give a damn. They know they won't face any consequences from our justice system.

Something needs to be done about the disturbing crime crisis in South Africa. Urgently!

Phumlani M. Majozi is a senior fellow at African Liberty. His website is phumlanimajozi.com Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi