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SAPU & SAFTU Media Briefing Statement
October 2, 2017

SAFTU calls for urgent action to end violent crime

The South African Federation of Trade Unions demands immediate action to end the carnage taking place in the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi as well as all other black residential areas of Cape Town.  Frankly this has been going on for many years. In one of the most terrific scenes of violence, 11 people were shot dead on Friday.

The SAFTU General Secretary was invited to address the Social Justice Network Coalition conference on safety in Khayelitsha and Cape Town on Thursday 29 September 2017. He, together with other leaders of all the Social Justice Network, listened to activists and ordinary members of the communities from Khayelitsha, Phillipi and Marikana East.

Just a day before we arrived 7 bodies were discovered in the morning and there was a total of 17 bodies in the previous week. The people of Manneburg, where gangs have taken over the streets, have exactly similar stories to tell.

This is as if the Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli inquiry in 2014 had not taken place and as if we are still living in the dark days of apartheid of “wit doek”!

These communities related horror stories of violence and counter-violence that maims innocent lives on a daily basis. The children in these communities jump on dead bodies on their door steps and they are strewn all over the streets on the their way to school. The psychological damage this is causing is unimaginable.

People are dying like flies and children are being exposed to horrific levels of violence, which will affect their psychological make-up and suck them into gang warfare as a way of life.

Marikana is an informal settlement with no infrastructure, no roads and no streetlights. Every night gets taken over by the marauding gangs who murder, rape, and break into people’s houses. Selling drugs under the cover of the darkness is happening with absolute impunity. SAPS members do not dare to go into that township at night, fearing that they too will be the victims. In the light of this communities have organised their own patrols. Unavoidably the clashes between these community members on patrol and the gangs of criminals result in more killings and counter-killings
Our country has a terrible culture of violence that we must eradicate. We are a country at war with itself. In 2015/2016, 18,683 people were murdered which was up 4.9% from 2014/2015. This means 51 people died every day, up from 49 the previous year.
Our judicial system, just like the public healthcare and public education systems, is sick! Police make arrests on only half of all the crimes reported annually. Of those arrested a meager 42% eventually appear in court; the rest are released. And less than a third of the suspects who do appear in court are found guilty.

Another grim statistic presented by the police themselves is that in 2009 the conviction rate for murder in this country was 13% and for rape it is 11.5%. But other estimates in 2014 said the conviction rate is as low as 10%.

There is no doubt that our people who were dehumanized by colonialism and apartheid and are now being dehumanized by the appalling levels of poverty, unemployment and inequalities that are getting even worse 23 years into so-called freedom.

Unemployment and a dysfunctional education system is affecting the youth most, which we have previously described as robbing the youth their very future. So it is unsurprising that the youth are the main victims of drugs, gangs, violence, HIV and AIDS, etc. The youth of this country have been betrayed by the maintenance of an economic structure inherited from apartheid and colonialism that has not changed after two decades of democracy.

Sadly the government have hardly ever even called press conferences to highlight the ongoing violent crime which is raging throughout the poor communities of the Western Cape. Yet if this was happening in wealthy, white residential areas it would hog the headlines every day, ministers and the President would be visiting the areas and the media, including the social media, would be full of graphic images.

The reality is that black lives remain cheap 23 years into democracy. SAFTU maintains that black lives matter including those from the poor marginalised communities.

SAFTU demands:

  1. Urgent collaborative action between the SAPS, the SANDF, intelligence services, local and religious communities, trade unions and national and provincial governments. Political differences must not be allowed to stand in the way of this collaboration.
  2. Shifting more resources to all the affected areas, including building police stations and appointing police reservists to full-time positions in the police. Police reservists are often called upon to go to these extremely dangerous places yet they are not employed to permanent positions.
  3. Improving the infrastructure, in particular installing street lights, of which there are none in Marikana, making it nearly impossible for police to patrol, as they become targets of the marauding gangs.
  4. All these and other measures are not a long-term solution. The only real solution to the hopelessness that breeds violence and gangsterism will be real radical economic transformation and a high quality public education system.

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