Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Ms Joana Cotar of Frankfurt asked the Dalai Lama, "How do you stay so optimistic and faithful when there is so much hate in the world?" His response was published in Time Magazine in June this year: "I always look at any event from a wider angle. There’s always some problem, some killing, some murder or terrorist act or scandal everywhere, every day. But if you think the whole world is like that, you’re wrong. Out of 6 billion humans, the troublemakers are just a handful."
I wish I could agree with my old friend on this. It would certainly make me more optimistic. But while I too look to the good, honourable and pleasing aspects of life and meditate on these, I am confronted by the facts of the society we live in and know that we cannot reduce the plague of criminality to a few evil hearts.
In October last year President Zuma addressed a large meeting of police station commanders and said, "We have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa. We must therefore apply extraordinary measures." That was the meeting that sparked the controversial "shoot to kill" dictum.
Why then does the ruling party insist on sticking its head back in the sand whenever a particularly despicable crime is highlighted? The tragic murder of Anni Dewani has been met with a flood of shock and sympathy from around the world. But in its response, the ANC said: "In essence, South Africa is not a violent country. Violent elements should be detained and dealt with the full blow of the law."
It seems the ANC would also like to believe that the daily scourge of crime is just because of a few bad people. One cannot help remembering the mistake of the Minister for Safety and Security, Mr Charles Nqakula, when concerns were raised about high crime rates during his 2007 budget debate: "The whingers can do one of two things," he said, "They can continue to whinge until they are blue in the face. or they can simply leave this country so that all of the peace-loving. good South African people. (can) continue with their work."
Following the Dewani murder, the South African Institute for Race Relations examined the figures of murder in Gugulethu since 2005 and remarked that the police are out of touch with reality if they are shocked by Anni’s death.
For five consecutive years, said the Institute, Gugulethu has experienced one murder every two and a half days. Thus, Government’s feigning shock and surprise is an insult.
South Africans, for whom crime is commonplace, were shocked, but not surprised. In fact, while the international response was one of horror and condolence, South Africans were singular in their bewilderment. Why would anyone go into Gugulethu at night? It would be like taking your wallet for a stroll in Mogadishu or Caracas.
South Africa is consistently in the top 5 list of countries for homicide, and Cape Town is singled out as the most dangerous city in South Africa. Did Shrien and Anni know this? Probably. But they likely believed what so many would like to believe; that there are a few criminals in a vast ocean of saints, so what are the chances.
Our prisons are not overcrowded for nothing. In the same speech that turned public ire against him in 2007, the Minister for Safety and Security explained that when people have no food, no work and nowhere to live, they will inevitably turn to crime. Thus we cannot blame crime on "a handful of troublemakers".
There is also a degree of guilt at the door of poverty, corrupt officials, a crippled judicial process, a breakdown in morality and value systems, a disruption of traditional family structures, the perverse nature of greed, and a government that refuses to face the facts and fails to act decisively.
We know that we need greater police visibility. We know that officers are undertrained, under-resourced and underpaid. We know that motivation is low and stress levels high. We know that the slow processing of evidence turns cases cold. And we know that going into Gugulethu at night is dangerous.
When we fail to act on what we know, tragedy will follow.
Having said this, I must express my pain over the murder of Anni Dewani. My sympathy and that of my Party are with Shrien, and with the Dewani and Hindocha families. There are no words to express how deeply this tragedy has affected you, or us.
The South African people mourn with you. We are saddened, and somehow deeply ashamed.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, 082 729 2510.