About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

08 Sep 1998: Mufamadi, Sydney

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POM     Minister, let me start I suppose by saying that I've been travelling around the country interviewing people from all walks of life, whether public, private, ordinary people, important people, and one issue seems to have become an obsession with everyone and that is crime. This year, I have been here since June, I think I've heard more about crime than in any other year. Now I have met with the Commissioner of Police and I've seen the statistics that crime has stabilised in many, many areas, yet there is a perspective out there that the police system does not work, that the justice system does not work, there is no respect for law and order, people almost cheer - you don't find widespread condemnation of vigilante action against alleged criminals and there is a perception that crime pays. So the question is, why do all those perceptions continue to exist in spite of the advances that you have made and what can be done about it?

SM     Well talking to you I am mindful of the fact that I'm not talking to a South African but I'm talking to someone who doesn't come from space, someone who will know that crime is a global problem. It affects different countries in different ways. I think what has become clear to many of us is that the period which we, in global terms now, have just come from, the cold war period and in our own situation in SA the apartheid period, allowed organised crime syndicates of all sorts to sophisticate their operations because they were taking advantage of the fact that governments were preoccupied with fighting cold war battles and not dedicating sufficient resources to law enforcement. I am saying that is one of the problems that we've had and it's very interesting that when you look at the South African situation it is actually a microcosm, it was a microcosm of this global scenario that I am sketching out because in our situation the successive NP governments were busy organising themselves to fight against the liberation movements, putting all resources towards, allocating most of their resources towards defeating this liberation movement rather than fighting crime.

     If you look at the SA Police Force of old you will find that it was organised and resourced in a way which confirms what I am saying. Very few people within the SA Police Force were trained as detectives, for instance, to investigate crimes. More resources were given to the Special Branch which was a division within the police force whose task it was to fight political opponents of the previous NP regimes. I am therefore making this point that the liberation of this country came at a time when indeed the single biggest threat facing, as I'm saying, the whole world was increasingly becoming the problem of organised crime. But because of the end of the cold war, and in our case the end of apartheid, this was, for me, a moment of glorious opportunity because it means that we are in a position to re-focus and direct our resources correctly towards fighting crime.

     Now you are saying that there are perceptions that this problem is overwhelming us, it's a big problem. I didn't expect us to change these perceptions overnight because let's face it, you can't change perceptions unless you change dramatically the facts. The fact is that levels of crime in the country are very high. It's a challenge we face, we need to be seen effectively and dramatically to be achieving a reduction in these levels of crime. We can talk later, depending on what your questions are, but I feel that we are properly focused. I feel that we are increasingly turning the tide against the criminals, but I don't expect people to say to you all of a sudden 'we feel safer than we used to feel two weeks ago'. It doesn't work out that way.

POM     Let me get down to a more microscopic level. There is just this report released by Transparency International which ranked SA 33rd among the world's 52 most corrupt countries, but among its finding was that the Department of Safety & Security was implicated in 19% of all corruption cases, that among cases involving government agencies only, the SAPS were involved in 30% of the cases. I recently read about a case, and after a week of past interviews in which everybody told me that what I read in the newspapers is a lie I'm even hesitant to say that I read it anywhere, but that it was that 89 members of one unit were under investigation. Yet in many of these cases where police are under investigation they are still on the streets, they are still on active duty. (i) Why such an extraordinarily high level of corruption among the police, and (ii) why if they are under investigation for being involved in crime are they still in uniform on the streets acting as policemen?

SM     Let me say anybody who knows where this country comes from will actually welcome a report like this because to me the fact that a report like this can actually be written enhances my confidence in the future of this country. Twenty years ago you wouldn't find any report which talks about the problem of corruption be it in the Police Service or in any sector of the public service because corruption was hidden. The moral fibre of SA society did not collapse in 1994, it collapsed a long time ago. You had a political dispensation in the country which encouraged a culture of criminality, even within the security organs. There was no way in which apartheid SA could have succeeded to get around the problem of sanctions and international boycotts unless you used organs of the state to circumvent measures that were in place to isolate SA, there was no way that could have been done. That is the first thing.

     Secondly, you must have been following the testimonies that are coming up in the TRC where senior police officers would sit and conspire to kill people and give orders to their subordinates for these things to happen and you have seen no less a personage than the former Minister of Law & Order confessing to his own role in the commission of these crimes that I am talking about.

POM     And the former Commissioner of Police.

SM     That's right, that's right. Now in a situation where the police were expected to go into communities that were rising up against the political order of the day, cultivate informers and sources who were to inform on any anti-apartheid activity, and it was not seen as wrong for them to even recruit criminals who would get as a quid pro quo indemnity against prosecution for the information which they gave on any anti-apartheid activity in their communities, I am saying in that kind of situation it was to be expected that there would be a lot of corruption in the public service generally, including in the police. Now whoever is monitoring our situation would not know the extent to which we are having to deal with the problem of corruption if we did not prioritise corruption or focus attention. We have established in all of the nine provinces what we call Anti-Corruption Units, and these are the units that are investigating incidents of corruption within the Police Service and those that you say are under investigation, some of them have been arrested and charged and convicted. They are not being arrested by outsiders, they are being arrested by their own colleagues which must tell you that we do have within the Police Service honest members who can be relied upon to investigate, arrest and even prosecute their own colleagues. I am saying all these factors that I have just pointed to, the fact that we are able to generate information about the extent of corruption and therefore we are alive ourselves as to the extent of the challenge we face and the fact that we've got people within the establishment who can be relied upon to expose and help us root out these corrupt elements must tell you that the future of this country is not bleak, in fact it is bright.

POM     If it were just on the level of what I call 'ordinary decent' crime, not syndicated crime or whatever, maybe even syndicated crime -

SM     I don't know what is meant by 'decent' crime.

POM     That's different from - you see you would have been called a political terrorist, but they would have called you a prisoner, you would have said I'm a liberation fighter you see. Now I make the differentiation between if you're in for -

SM     OK, that's fine.

POM     A struggle fighter, or what I call an ODC, ordinary decent criminal. What proportion of people arrested actually go to court and what proportion get convicted and actually end up in jail? Now according to the Minister for Justice your statistics would indicate to him that a majority of arrests do not in fact end up in court cases, that a majority of those that go before the courts don't end up in people going to jail. Either it's because the evidence isn't presented in the correct way or the dockets aren't in order or the prosecutor isn't properly trained or a technicality.

SM     Well you see he - I think these things need to be understood properly. On the one hand I told you that we inherited a police force which had all sorts of problems including the problem of having a very thin skills base. That is why one of the things we are paying a lot of attention to is to upgrade the skills of the members of the Police Service through training. We realise that this is not something that we can just do on our own. It's a lot of international assistance that we have enlisted. We have opened a Detective Academy here in Pretoria. I believe it is the only one of its kind on the continent and it is one of the only four that are known to exist in the world. I am saying we've established this detective academy because we think it's important to invest in the training of our people. So there's ongoing training to upgrade the skills of members. It is precisely because we want to solve exactly this problem that you are talking about, that our detection rate, our clearance rate has not been as impressive as it should be, but we have been monitoring some of the areas of work where we feel these are priority crimes which need priority attention.

     I will give you the example of the problem of robbery of cash in transit.  You see there are these private companies that transport cash either from these big chain stores or from banks to another institution. You know what I mean? And they have been targeted by organised crime syndicates and they have been robbing them in some instances, in one instance they would get as much money as R18 million and so on. So I am saying in order to ensure that crime does not continue to be profitable, it's not something that is seen to pay, we targeted this type of crime category, crime tendency and some of the police officers who had gone through our Detective Academy were put together into a specialised unit to deal with this problem. As I am talking to you now we've got more than 400 suspects, people who were arrested as suspects in cases of cash in transit robberies around the country who are awaiting trial. Some have been convicted already. I am saying, yes, there is a problem of lack of skills or insufficient personnel with the requisite skills but we don't stop at identifying the problem. Having identified the problem we say what are the solutions and that is what we are working on right now. So the minister is right to say that there are too many cases in which people were in the past, and it continues to happen, acquitted on technicalities or cases just did not proceed to court and so on, but we are consciously working at reducing this type of problem.

POM     This is just about a quote from one of the Assistant Commissioners for Police Reform, I won't name the person. He said, in essence what it said was that if you went back to the start, post-1994 police reform process the most important thing that should have been done differently would have been to have a more thorough change of the top management, that this would have sent an important message both internally and externally about doing things in a new and different way and that top management remains mostly white, male and Afrikaner. He said that decision making wasn't really done by consensus but even the few blacks in top management were from the old school.

SM     What sort of consensus? Did you ask him what sort of consensus was visualised here?

POM     No.

SM     You should have asked because I think this police officer is learning - you see words like 'consensus' are new entrants into the political discourse in SA. In the past you wouldn't call for consensus with anybody. I did not vote who was going to come to me for consensus. So I am saying this police officer is learning new words and is just throwing them around. Let me explain what I mean by this.

POM     Let me just finish. He said that the problem for the SAPS was not the poor quality in the lower ranks, i.e. blacks or illiteracy, but rather the lack of any management skills further up the officer ranks, that there was little understanding of how to deploy people practically. He said that strategies needed to be tailored to the provinces. That's about the gist.

SM     OK, fine. I was appointed here in 1994. About six months later or so I was addressing a conference organised by some non-governmental organisation, talking about the policing problems, prospects for the future and so on. One of the participants in that conference said to me that given all these problems that you inherited why didn't you dissolve the police force and start building a new one? So I said, well perhaps that would have been feasible if it was possible to enter into a contract with the criminals. You say, don't commit crimes for the next two years, give me a chance to build a new police force. Now you see it's easy for somebody who is not a practitioner to say all you needed to do was to change the top brass and therefore send a message that you want to do things anew.

     Frankly, I must tell you that when we were negotiating the transition we were not forced by anybody to go for a government of national unity. We, having done a thorough analysis of the situation, felt that that was the way to go. We knew that even if we were to win 80% of the votes in an election there are very important levers of power which we would still not be having a firm grip on, that includes the security establishment. When we declared national reconciliation as a policy of government it was because we wanted even those who were fighting to prevent the change to feel that we were prepared to go for a new beginning in which there is a role for them as well. I am saying that when you were to construct a new management command structure of the police you had to take that into account. That's one thing. But of course we could not do that to the detriment of transformation.

     I don't know if you know anything about police ranks?

POM     My father was a policeman.

SM     Well here we had actually military ranks for the police, the topmost rank would be General and then you have Lieutenant General below that, Major General, Brigadier. When I came into this office in 1994 there was only one, in a police force of close to 150,000 members, there was only one black Brigadier. I am not saying General, I'm saying Brigadier. General, Lieutenant General, Major General, Brigadier. There was only one black Brigadier in the police force and that was Brigadier Maharaj, Indian chap from KZN who is today a Lieutenant General. He was the only one. So I am saying that indeed whilst the command structures of the Police Service are not as representative as we would want them to be, they are certainly more representative than they were at the time when we came into office. Now it's not correct to say the problem is exclusively one of the lack of management skills. That is a problem, it is a problem. To then say on the ground police officials are not sufficiently skilled - that's what he said? What does he say?

POM     No, no, he's just saying that the real problem lies, even though there may be a lack of skills on the ground, that the real problem lies with -

SM     But that also is a real problem isn't it?

POM     Yes. In addition.

SM     That's a problem because what you read suggests to me that there is an attempt to soft-pedal the problems on the ground. You see more than 80% of the members of this police force joined the police force in the post-1976 period. Now that was a period when the unrest, the uprisings on the ground were becoming real, the 1976 student uprisings. Remember the UDF period, the COSATU period, serious - a period of heightened mass democratic activity in the country and therefore during that period there was a major recruitment campaign by the previous government to increase the size of the police force as they saw it in order to meet this challenge that was posed by mass democratic activity. They had no time to invest in the training of these people. You must have heard of something called Kits Konstabels. Kits, it's an Afrikaans word meaning quick. Quickly produced Constables who were trained for two to three weeks because they wanted to deploy them into the streets to quell the unrest and so on. Now there is a backlog in terms of actual training in order to produce properly skilled personnel. Now whilst we are indeed attending to the problem of inadequate management skills we are having also to attend to the problem on the ground of having people without skills. So these are simultaneous challenges we face, so it's not a question of either/or, to say the real problem is that one and not this one. We have got problems on more than one front but we are addressing them.

POM     It was pointed out to me, in fact I'll ask you the question first and then tell you what was pointed out to me. You are Minister for Safety & Security, you are working day and night, 24 hours, trying to improve the Police Service, trying to catch the criminals, trying to deal with public reactions. Then you hear an announcement made on the occasion of the President's 80th birthday that 9000 criminals are to be given a six-month remission of their sentences that will allow them to be on the streets and within days cases are surfacing some of these newly released criminals have committed new criminal actions. You don't feel, Jesus, here am I working my butt off to get people in jail -

SM     And then they get released.

POM     And somebody says, hey, give them six months off. What kind of message, let me deal with two levels, what kind of message do you think that sends to the public? Were you consulted on that?

SM     Sure, sure. This thing could not have been done with consultation. The point is, you see, it is practice in many parts of the world in advanced democracies in particular that the President of the country would make this sort of gesture on an occasion of importance. Sometimes it's when the changeover occurs, a new government is elected into office and a category of convicted criminals come up for consideration, parole, remission of sentence. In some instances this remission of sentence is given to people who are left with even things like two years. These people, some of whom were left with three months to come out, others with six months to come out, would still come out at some point very soon, in the near future even if this remission of sentence was not given. Now, yes, in our case some of them have since been re-arrested because they committed other crimes after they were released. This phenomenon is called 'recidivism'. Again it's not a peculiarity of SA. The problem of recidivism has to do with the inability of prison systems to rehabilitate offenders. There are a whole range of reasons why it becomes very difficult to rehabilitate some of these offenders and one of them is overcrowding. Our prisons are overcrowded and therefore the warders do not have sufficient space to pay personalised attention to criminals who are serving prison sentences. It's like at school if your classes are overcrowded you are unable to say as a teacher, these are Patrick's personal weaknesses which I am working on. So I am saying that you, I hope when people make comments like this, you are still able to say, but what they are talking about sounds familiar because it happens elsewhere. But these are problems that we face.

POM     Minister, I'm talking about it in the particular of SA where crime is the obsessive concern of the public.

SM     No, I don't know of any country where people are not concerned about crime.

POM     The difference between being concerned about it and being almost obsessed about it - you don't think people - ?

SM     No, no, look as I was saying to you, take the problem of rape, we believe that we are one of the countries with very, very high levels of rape, but again I was saying earlier, we think that we are increasingly overcoming one of the problems which not many countries have been able to overcome, which is the problem of under-reporting. Women were raped in the past, children were abused in the past, people did not feel that they could take these problems to the police because they knew that the police were busy running around looking for terrorists. Right? So if my child is abused by a man next door in the past, what people would do they would get together in a residential area, sit down and solve these problems as families. You wouldn't even read about it in the newspapers. I am not sure if these discussions were a deterrent. But now you are increasingly reading about a rape case which occurred in this or that area and so on. I think what we have done is to lift the lid on the problem. So if the problem of crime has generated so much topicality in the country it does not necessarily mean that, I don't know how to put it, well you can say obsessive, but you see if you look now at the landscape of our country one of the things that you will see is what we call 'Community Police Forums' all around the country, in every police station area there is a Community Police Forum. It brings together people from community, representatives of the community as well as representatives of the police to discuss about solutions to the problem of crime. Now if there is growing also civic awareness as to what it is that people can do to help address the problem of crime, people are becoming anti-crime activists, I really think that an observer should be able to say this country is going somewhere. You get the point I'm really trying to make?

POM     But it's my function to probe and to say that when I talk to ordinary, that's the man on the street, black or white, township, white suburb or whatever, the reaction to the release of the prisoners was overwhelmingly negative.

SM     No, sure, but some of these problems -

POM     So it tarnished the image of a government that was fighting and doing its utmost to combat crime.

SM     No, no, I see what you mean but you see indeed it's important for government to be responsive to the concerns of the people and so on but government also has a responsibility to educate. It has. If people say that we are worried that you've released criminals who were serving sentences, you give them remission of sentence, I am saying if you release someone who was sentenced to twenty years six months before he was due to be released, in my view it ought to be understood that even if you did not release them six months before they were due to be released, they were going to be released in any case.

POM     But then that message wasn't sufficiently communicated to people.

SM     No, no.

POM     The headline was "9000 PRISONERS TO BE RELEASED".

SM     Let me tell you one of the reasons for what you may call communication problems. You see the problem of crime, you and I agree it's a serious one, but there are people who have chosen to make it into a political football and that makes it also very difficult for government to communicate in that kind of environment because when you release 9000 people you must expect there will be a lot of people who make a lot of noise about that. Even if they know what your explanation is they are not going to help convey that explanation of yours. I will give you an example of the point I'm trying to make. We have decided that if we arrest you smoking dagga we are not going to oppose bail in your case but we will oppose bail if the court is considering granting it to a person who committed rape, murder or who is a drug dealer, who deals in drugs, not just smoke. You see what I mean? But someone may not understand why a dagga smoker is arrested and the next day he is walking out in the streets there. Or common assault, some of the people who commit these sorts of common assaults in a shebeen brawl, in the past you would find them sitting in police cells awaiting trial because they cannot afford the R100 bail. Now the prisons are overcrowded because people who committed very serious crimes can afford to pay R10,000 bail and somebody who committed really something which is a minor offence cannot afford R100 bail. So we choose to oppose bail in the case of a chap who may actually afford R100,000 if he or she has committed a more serious crime, than to oppose bail in the case of somebody who cannot afford R100 because they have committed a minor offence. So I am saying there is a lot of education that has to take place in our country for people to be able to understand some of these things.

POM     In fact I came across a report that said there are 20,000 people in jail who have been granted bail but can't afford the bail so they languish in jail. This is from Commissioner Fivaz, he neatly encapsulated in a way your problem. He said that we have capacity in South African jails for 92,000 people. At present we have more or less 160,000, totally overcrowded. So then you will have sympathy for the Correctional Services people because somewhere along the line they have to create space and capacity. On the one hand we are getting more successful, we are arresting more, we are channelling it into the criminal justice systems, the courts are getting fuller and eventually these people are incarcerated and those people are without any plans in terms of what could be done in addition to what we have because what we want to see, perhaps, is the doubling of jails. So we don't have the money to build new jails, so in a way the more successful you are in arresting criminals and getting them convicted and jailing them, the more overcrowded the jails become, the more the pressure is to release people or to grant them bail for minor offences to take the strain off the system. Meanwhile the money simply isn't in the budget to build more jails.

SM     Well you see even if you had a lot of money, which I believe advanced societies, more developed countries have, the United States, Britain and so on, you must not think that these difficult problems can only be solved by throwing money at them. There is a lot of creative thinking that is required. I grew up in the Northern Province in a rural area, in an area under a traditional leader, a Chief, and as we were growing up we used to have problems of all sorts in the community which would include things like stock theft. Someone's goat was stolen last night or someone's chicken was stolen, a live chicken, and there is a traditional court, a tribal court in the Chief's kraal where some of these minor cases were dealt with. So if someone steals my chicken I wouldn't go to the police and say - come and arrest him, I would go to the tribal court and that person would be made to do some community service as a way of punishment or they would be made to reimburse me, give me a chicken even if they have killed that one, another chicken, and give another chicken to the Chief. That was you were making sure that the criminal justice system proper is not overloaded with minor cases.

     One of the things that we are discussing as government is the whole question of diversion, to say shouldn't we be having community courts in which you can get respected people in the community like priests to deal with some of these minor problems? Then you've got a properly constituted court in the community with the competence to deal, as I'm saying, with some of these minor cases, properly defined, identified in law to say these are cases that can be dealt with there.  If you've got a way of properly distinguishing between these sorts of cases and cases that are serious to warrant the attention of the criminal justice system you will find that the solution is not necessarily to build more prisons. Well, if we have money we would build them, but we have got many, many other important priorities to attend to. We have to build houses for our people, we have to build schools, we have to ensure that these schools are properly equipped and so on. I am just giving these sorts of things as examples. I am not saying building prisons is not important but I am saying that there has to be prudent use of scarce resources.

POM     I've just finished a section on what I call 'the supply side of crime' on a series of polls, surveys that were carried out by IDASA which indicated that it was the low number of people, this one, the last two are in the Pretoria area, IDASA survey of policing in Pretoria found that only 29% of respondents thought the police were doing a good job. In Cape Town it was 23% who thought that the police had crime under control. Figures for Johannesburg and Durban were even lower. One of the interesting, in an odd way, was that more blacks were dissatisfied with police performance than whites, probably because they bear the brunt of the crime. But does that low confidence level in the police, is it of concern to you that even after three years or going into your fourth year of the new dispensation that public confidence in the SAPS is still that low?

SM     It's important to compare apples with apples. You see if somebody says a bigger percentage of blacks has no confidence in the police than the percentage of whites - or something like that, no-one is saying what percentage of blacks in the pre-independence period had confidence in the police because you will find that it was actually -

POM     Zero.

SM     Yes, you see. So that let's say for argument's sake now it's 20% in three years, this organisation called the SA Police was established in 1923, and I'm saying if in three years we've managed to get 20% of blacks to have confidence in the police, I'm just giving that as an argument's sake figure, we need then to ask ourselves whether this is a small achievement. That's one question. Two, if 29% of whites are saying they have confidence in the police, I can tell you now that in the pre-1994 period perhaps 80% of the whites had confidence in the police for all sorts of reasons, some of which had nothing to do with fighting real crime. One of the reasons was the fact that they were being protected to the extent that they were being protected because the rest of us did not matter. Now you have got a Police Service which is being directed to protect all South Africans and I think logic has it that when you begin to dedicate these resources to more people than you were dedicating in the past, some of the people who were more privileged then, because the situation was not one in which people were protected equally, may begin to feel less safe than they felt in the past.

POM     I remember President Mandela, when he had this famous argument with FW de Klerk on Hollard Street, and Mandela complained about the crime and apartheid and said that whites had been privileged, that 80% of police resources had been allocated to white areas and 20% to black areas. How has that distributed changed in the last four years, roughly?

SM     When you say policing resources were more concentrated in the white areas than in the black areas, I think we need to say what are these resources that we are talking about, because you see if you - again I will give you an example of where I come from. The nearest police station, nearest to the village in which I grew up was about 12 kms away from my village and you did not have the means of transport that you have to travel between the centre of Pretoria and Midrand. So in other words that police station was inaccessible to me because one of the problems was that there was no phone to speak of in my village, so if I am in trouble at night I have got no way of bringing this to the attention to the police. Now when we come into government, even if you talk about redistribution of resources, one of the things we couldn't do was to carry a building which is a police station from Sandton to Alexandra Township. It means that we must find money to build a police station in Alexandra Township and it does not necessarily mean that we must close down the police station in Sandton. We have been able to build a number of police stations in areas where there were no police stations before, in other words making policing resources accessible to the people. But again you find that the majority of the police officers in these rural and township police stations were not trained to the same extent as their counterparts in the white areas. So even if you've got a police station and a police officer, that does not guarantee you good quality service. That's where the question of training became relevant.

     So I am saying that everything that needed to be done in order to ensure that people's quality of life, changes in terms of access to policing resources and access to better quality service, we still had to invest something in order to make these things happen. As I am saying, we have build new police stations, not in all areas where we would want to have new police stations because we could not build all police stations overnight. The process of redistributing resources is actually an ongoing one but it's on course, it is on course within the constraints that we are operating in.

POM     Is this innovative idea of re-establishing community courts, they had their originals really in the old tribal system, of modernising them and having a team of elders, at the same time, and I've noticed this in maybe the last couple of weeks, it's just come to my attention of more and more cases of what they call 'township justice', of people taking the law into their hands and either administering on-the-spot justice to alleged criminals whether they are rapists or child abusers or whatever, is this a serious problem in the townships or is it something that the media just latch on to when there is a case here or a case there?

SM     Certainly the media does not invent these things. They exist. But I think what the media fails to do is to contextualise them in such a way that people will be able to understand why there are these problems and be able to assess from time to time whether we are making progress or even the lack of progress with regard to solving these problems.  I'll just give us five more minutes. I will tell you what I mean by this. Between 1995 and 1994, according to some researchers, more than 23,000 people in the country were killed in what was called 'politically motivated violence'. The overwhelming majority of these people were killed in KZN. The reason why the figure is so staggering is because the previous government made sure, as I said earlier, that some of the state organs would be involved in fomenting that violence even though I wouldn't have to elaborate on that, you know that history. Now it meant that the perpetrators of that violence were carrying it out with impunity and that culture of impunity gave rise to a cycle of revenge killings, because you know someone comes and attacks my family, there are ten of us, six of our people are wiped out and I have an idea as to who did it and these people don't get arrested so we make means to revenge. You know what I mean? Now there were a lot of revenge killings that were taking place in the country. In other words the rule of law was not respected because it gave people no reason to respect it but there is what I call 'relative stability' in KZN today. At least somebody who knew what used to happen will know, even if you read about an incident in Richmond you are able to say against the background of what used to happen that there is relative peace and stability in the area. The same thing applies to parts of Gauteng in the East Rand, Soweto, which were flash points of serious violence.

     Now the more the criminal justice system is seen to be effectively dealing with the problem of crime the more you become successful in urging people not to take the law into their own hands. No doubt about that. So I am saying that, yes, we still have this problem of people taking the law into their own hands but seen against the background of the problems that we had before I think no-one can deny that we are also witnessing a reduction in the levels of this particular problem. We used to have what were called Street Committees. You must have read about something called necklace. These are things that happened in a situation where there was no prospect, as people saw it, of us feeling that at some point the criminal justice system would -

POM     On from that, crime has stabilised in I think twenty categories, but categories in which it has still not quite stabilised or are still at an extremely high level are murder, rape and crimes of extreme violence. Why do you think, and a case I might take is maybe car-jacking, of a car-jacker coming to somebody's car and all he has to say is - give me the keys, and the person says - here, here are the keys, I'm gone. And instead he just shoots the person, takes the car and it's a motiveless killing. Why are these crimes of extreme violence, particularly crimes against women, you dealt with the under-reporting part, why do you think they are so high?

SM     Firstly the violence that attends crimes, again I will say I was talking one time to my French counterpart and I was telling him that we have a big problem of car thefts, car hijackings and we did a study which revealed certain things, which things led to us organising joint operations with police in the neighbouring countries and the outcome of those operations confirmed the results of our study, namely that there is a huge market for stolen goods in the southern African region and beyond, in the continent, all sorts of networks of syndicates that steal goods and they find a huge market within the continent, particularly within the region. Now we recovered a lot of stolen cars in Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique. In one operation we recovered about 2000, one operation, cars in all these countries and more than 90% of those cars were stolen from SA. This chap says to me, "But your position is not dissimilar to ours. Many of the cars that are sold in the markets in the former Baltic states are stolen from The Netherlands, France, Germany and they are taken to these countries via Poland and so on." And he said, "But you don't see the level of violence when these cars are stolen from their rightful owners that you see in your country, that you see in SA." So I said, "No, but it's simple to understand. This country is located within a region which not so long ago was a zone of turbulence. The wars in Mozambique, the wars in Angola, the war here. The result is that when you are getting political settlements there are many, many weapons that are abandoned in the bushes of Angola and Mozambique which the criminals help themselves to. In other words they find their way into the hands of criminals here. So we are dealing with criminals who are armed and this situation derives from these conflicts that I am talking about much more than is the case in France."

     But again you see if, which was the case in the past, if my car did not have a - these gadgets that people put in, demobilisers and so on - the chaps would know that if they take the car from me the chances are that by the time I reach the police station they will have crossed the border taking the car to Mozambique but now that there are all these sorts of things which I can use even to communicate to the police that my car has been stolen, the temptation is great to silence me even if it means that the police will come there after they have left and now attend the person who has died. So I am saying that there are many things which also make these armed criminals more desperate than was the case before.

POM     Taking rape, murder in general, is one of the legacies of apartheid a disrespect for human life?

SM     The brutalisation, the brutalisation of our people, yes. I used to head the Peace Desk of the ANC and therefore I used to go to violence torn areas trying to find solutions to some of those problems. Then I would go to an area like Mandini in KZN, you find that a whole village was attacked and you've got 60, 70 children who have become orphans because their parents were killed in their presence. You know what it does to these children? In a situation where there was nobody who would be doing proper professional counselling to these children who are being traumatised by these experiences, where they see their parents being shot, it is that these children themselves lose respect for the sanctity of human life. As they grow up they grow up bitter, full of vengeance and they want at the earliest opportunity to kill. So I am saying that in a society in which people are as brutalised as South Africans were, by all the violence that occurred not so long ago, indeed you must expect people to settle problems, that can be settled through dialogue, by violent means.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.