SA’s problem of lawlessness and disorder

Phumlani Majozi says President Ramaphosa should take the lead in addressing our crime crisis

South Africa’s problem of lawlessness and disorder

10 July 2023

South Africa's popular mainstream finance and economics newspaper, Business Day highlighted crime as a national problem that the South African government must address to create an environment that is conducive to safe economic activity in South Africa.

It was refreshing to see the issue of rampant crime being linked to investment and the economy. The negative impact of crime on economic activity is usually ignored by the intelligentsia, which is not right, because South Africans are greatly concerned about, and are affected by, the crime problem.

In an interview with South Africa's news network, eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) this past week, the President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Zingiswa Losi, said that workers are tired of crime. I fully understand. Every South African must be tired of crime. Crime is proof of South Africa's problem of lawlessness and disorder.

That leads me to a very painful story from Boksburg, Gauteng, this past week. In one of the squatter camps, a gas leak killed 17 people and 11 were hospitalized. The gas cylinders were in one of the shacks owned by illegal miners who used them for illegal mining activities.

Learning about the details of the story, I had two questions. The first question is, why is illegal mining not stopped cold in South Africa? That illegal mining continues to take place is testament to the fact that we have a country of lawlessness, which endangers our people, damages our reputation in the eyes of the world. Our leaders have failed us.

The illegal mining activities sometimes turn violent. You will remember that young women were raped by illegal miners in Krugersdorp last year. This is something that should have never happened in the first place. It could have been avoided, were the country governed by competent people.

In many developing countries around the world, crime is never tolerated. Where it takes place, it is punished severely. The question I keep asking is why do we not have the efficient and effective justice system that punishes crime in the country? This question can only be answered by South Africans.

Dealing with, eradicating, illegal mining is no rocket science. The law enforcement must just embark on a strategic, robust campaign to halt illegal mining in the country. Illegal miners must be rounded up, their citizenships checked. Those who are not from South Africa must be deported in a humane way.

In the Boksburg gas leak incident, some of the people who died were children. It was heart-breaking, and I hope the Gauteng government of Panyaza Lesufi will start to effectively deal with illegal mining as soon as possible.

My second question is, why do we have so many squatter camps in South Africa, and the people who live there, where are they from? The area of the gas leak is a squalor.

Asked by a journalist why people live in such dire conditions, Premier Lesufi said that the problem is that the people in squatter camps are undocumented, meaning they are illegal immigrants.

Lesufi’s comments were not surprising as the South African government has totally failed on immigration. We have too many illegal immigrants who come and live in shacks. Again, with good, competent leadership, such staggering levels of illegal immigration could have been avoided.

Dealing with illegal immigration is also no rocket science. South African borders must be secured and people who are here illegally must be sent back to their countries, because they have broken the laws of the country.

Many of the illegal miners are illegal foreigners, and that’s a serious problem.

On eNCA, one of the Gauteng Legislature representatives, Bandile Masuku, said that illegal mining contributes to crime. He also pointed out that the illegal miners are heavily armed, and that some companies could be involved in illegal mining. To hear such was disturbing.

Lawlessness impedes socio economic development. South Africa has many challenges that it must address. Addressing these challenges is an enormous task and can't be done effectively with rampant lawlessness in the country.

Poor countries in other developing parts of the world do not have these levels of lawlessness we have in South Africa. We have enough resources to eradicate lawlessness. With the right policies, our institutions can drastically reduce criminality in the country. That celebrity musician AKA was gunned down on the busy streets in Durban, and that hundreds die weekly from violent crime, shows that we have a serious problem of the culture of violent crime in South Africa.

Some people have said that South Africa has a first world constitution in a third world country. How true that is can be a matter of debate. One thing I can say, is that we have granted human rights even to monstrous people. We are a nation that tolerates crime.

South Africa's crime problem no longer needs the Minister of Police Bheki Cele. It's a crisis that must be prioritised by the President himself, Cyril Ramaphosa.

During the COVID pandemic, President Ramaphosa regularly gave a national address on the state of the pandemic and government’s response policy. I strongly believe he should have already given a national primetime address on the crime crisis. In that address, he would have to highlight the effects of the crime crisis and declare a war on crime.

Most South Africans would support the President. I would support him, as I've had a traumatic experience with crime in Johannesburg.

I have great faith in South Africa and believe that, with the right policies, its problems can be resolved speedily.

Lee Kuan Yew once said that building a great country takes the greatness of its citizens and its leaders. The problems of lawlessness and disorder exist because of the incompetence of the state, which can be reversed.

The fundamental question I ask is, when are we going to reverse this disturbing trend?

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