Parties must think harder about crime

Martin van Staden / Midjourney
Martin van Staden / Midjourney

This article was first published by Daily Friend on 19 March 2024 

Crime seeps into every aspect of South African society. Violent crime takes lives, sexual assault destroys them. Gangsterism imposes a brutal dictatorship on swathes of our society, sapping the lifeblood of commerce and innocence from our communities. Corruption reigns at the highest levels, leading to incompetence, decay, and bad governance. Infrastructure theft leaves communities in the dark, costing taxpayers billions to replace.

No party in South Africa should be ignoring crime as the Number One issue affecting this country. Yet, crime and the solutions to it seem to take a backseat to other issues amongst all the major parties. Often ignored, in favour of rants about land and racism, crime is a neglected issue.

Going into the elections this year, parties should be focusing squarely on freeing South Africans from the boot of crime; not relegating it as a minor point, buried deep within their manifestos.

When parties do discuss crime, it is too often in vague terms. A problem to address, but with no effort put into how to do so. And when suggestions are made, they are too often vague themselves, involving simply more cops, naïve notions of addressing socio-economic issues, or just punishing people more. No heed is paid to international lessons on crime prevention, or the costs that such an expansion of the police service would incur on our flagging economy.

ANC: Thirty years too late

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) talks big in its 2024 manifesto about solving crime, but as it has had almost thirty years to implement its strategies, this should be considered hot air. All the ANC’s promises amount to is sending more cops into the fray, establishing more arbitrary police units that will be underfunded, undertrained and corrupt, and continuing to blame alcohol and drugs for what is truly a societal issue, not a substance one.

DA: A rational strategy

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is far better, promising devolution of law enforcement. An essential policy that will see policing become locally accountable, and able to address community issues more effectively. The DA’s approach is far more on fixing the institutions around crime, than merely just mindlessly throwing police at crime. In terms of solving crime, the DA is the only party with a decent strategy in place.

EFF: Institutionalised insanity

As is to expected, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have an insane, long-winded, and terrible approach to solving crime. Their solutions all involve an exorbitant amount of spending. But the EFF truly think they can just print money out of thin air to fund all their grandiose schemes.

The EFF begins their section on crime by establishing white monopoly capital as the enemy, not the police. A point no other party has to make, as it is absurd to identify the police as the enemy. Perhaps, criminals should be the enemy?

The section then goes on to vaguely (if in length) establish how much intensive training the newly bloated police force must receive, how many new police stations must open, how campuses must have 70% female sexual crime units, and how the police must be used to instil loyalty and patriotism.

The EFF also wants to enforce even stricter gun control, make racism a criminally punishable offence, and implement a DNA database for all South Africans, a database that could easily be used by the powers that be to frame political enemies.

All of this lengthy section is irrelevant by the EFF’s very early points, however, as they claim that all crime is linked to socio-economic issues – and that there will be no crime once their social reforms take place.

As is the case with all its policies, the EFF need to be ignored and relegated to the annals of South Africa’s shameful history.

The real solution

The minor parties tend to be even worse than the big three in terms of crime policy. The IFP want to revisit implementing the death penalty in a country rife with wrongful convictions and political corruption. ActionSA doesn’t even make any suggestions for how to solve crime. The fledgling and deeply problematic MK Party makes the vaguest of assertions that we should “overhaul” law enforcement.

So, what should we do?

The DA is on the right track. We need decentralisation of the police to ensure local accountability and efficiency. Let provinces, municipalities and communities work directly with law enforcement, while ensuring the rot of central government doesn’t spread into local stations.

But much more must be done to free up the police resources. Decriminalisation of victimless offences must become a priority to ensure that police can focus on genuine crimes. Decriminalise drugs and sex work so as to disarm gangs of their primary source of income, while allowing police to clamp down on violence instead. Strike petty, arbitrary offences from the books, and stop fixating on policing what people are allowed to put into their bodies.


On top of decriminalisation, there must be deregulation. Eliminating damaging regulations on businesses, such as BEE, racial quotas, strict labour laws, and inhibitive minimum wage laws will stimulate economic growth that will lead to increased employment, thus eliminating the need to turn to crime for many, as well as generate extra tax revenue that can then be used to pay for overhauling the police service, so it can engage in a more rational, data-driven, and evidence-based approach, backed by skilled and well-trained personnel.

There is still time to go before the election, and every party should be focusing its attention on how to solve crime. But ‘more’ policing isn’t the solution. Better policing, backed by policy reform, is what is needed to save this country from the scourge of crime.


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The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author.




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