South African safety troubles more than just a policing issue

SA's safety concerns extend beyond policing; RISE Mzansi advocates for a holistic approach addressing socio-economic factors for lasting change.
Written by
Mitchell Black
Published on
May 19, 2024

It is worrying that many of the political parties competing alongside RISE Mzansi for the trust of South African voters come May 29th , are approaching the idea of safety through a very narrow lens. To them, safety is first and foremost an issue of policing, where the goal of state policy should be to catch and punish criminals once they have chosen to commit a crime. This translates into the slew of “more boots on the ground” crime prevention policies advanced by parties such as the DA, EFF, and action SA.

A Holistic Approach to Crime Prevention

While bolstering the police and the courts are an important part of what it means to create a safer South Africa, especially in relation to priority crimes like GBV and crimes against children, we also know that this alone won’t solve the problem. This is because policing, investigation and prosecution-focused approaches frame criminals committing crimes as the entirety of the problem to be solved for, as if crime happen in a vacuum. But, ultimately such a narrow approach treats only a symptom of the problem and not its cause – the psycho-social and socio-economic conditions that cause people to turn to crime and anti-social behaviour in the first place.

Victims of Circumstance: Understanding Criminality

Criminals, for the most part, are victims of circumstance. These hurt, frustrated, and fundamentally disempowered people only resort to crime because it became the only viable way to support themselves, to survive. When the wellbeing of the people fell to the wayside of government priorities, it created a shift in conditions that allowed a broader culture of criminality to take hold.

Rebuilding Trust in Government

This shift makes sense, though. It is our society’s response to an uncaring and shameless government (and legal framework) that, as far as the people who have been left behind are concerned, does not deserve respect. The law is a joke to most people, and understandably so: not even the politicians in power take it seriously. No amount of policing will change this; the solution must be broader and consider more than just the fact of crime.

Beyond Policing: Building a Better Society

This is why RISE Mzansi will take a holistic approach to restoring trust in the government’s responsibility to keep people safe. To restore the rule of law, we must go beyond merely ‘stopping criminals committing crimes’ and approach safety by answering the question: how can we build a culture of respect for the law and human life, and for the boundaries around people’s bodies and personal property?

For us, this begins with a new generation of ethical leadership to rebuild the credibility of the state, and by extension, the law. From there, our approach

to safety interweaves successful policing and judicial policy with other policy areas like creating access to economic opportunities; educating, training and empowering our youth; ensuring access to arts, culture, sports and recreation; providing access to mental health care; and, emphasising psycho-social and health support, rather than punishment, for substance abusers.

Through this suite of co-operative and mutually reinforcing policies, RISE Mzansi will approach the issue of safety differently. We are not satisfied with only arresting and prosecuting an ever-increasing number of criminals through an ever-increasing number of police. Rather, we want to build a better society where less people are driven to crime in the first place. This is what we mean by safety when we spell out our vision for a safe, prosperous, equal, and united South Africa within a single generation.

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