Much has been written about the criminality that permeates areas like Manenberg, Lavender hill and so on. A recurring theme that was cited by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele and others was the socio-economic problems.
According to media reports, Ramphele stated that “If people don’t have jobs, it doesn’t matter how closely you police”. In my view, this type of statement is made to appease the electorate and is riddled with discrepancies. Example, using poverty as the primary indicator of crime, suggests that poor people are prone to criminality. While Ramphele may be correct that “Constantia cannot remain safe while such levels of inequality exist”, she inadvertently suggests that the poor are a physical threat.
If this was true, how does it co-exist with the aim of Cosatu and others who strive to integrate poor people within affluent suburbs? What prevents Manenberg from being replicated in Constantia?
Ramphele in classic election mode also said that “The root cause of this was a corrupt government which had forgotten its people for 20 years. What is needed in this country is a clean, competent government.” With these few words, Ramphele exculpates Apartheid, the resident criminal’s behaviour, individual culpability and blames everything on the ANC.
Firstly, for centuries scholars have been debating if human behaviour is primarily influenced via material environment or inherent genetics. Only a belligerent reductionist would blame everything on the ANC. This reeks of expediency and a lack of insight since the issue is historic and multifaceted.
Secondly, the material and mental damaged done to those who were removed from established communities in District 6, Claremont, and Newlands and so on by Apartheid has been ignored. That people were forcibly mixed with others, imported to Cape Town from distant rural communities was ill considered. People of diverse social classes, cultures and histories were flung together purely on skin colour. Segregated group areas were a corner stone of Apartheid. However, for an honest analysis, this does not imply that all white or rich people are despots and all poor or non-whites are victims.
Thirdly, Ramphele did not consider that for decades many in the affected areas received grants and subsidies and their homes effectively for free. The subsidized electricity and water and the endless repairs to vandalised infrastructure is overlooked. The free education, play parks, clinics, libraries and access to sophisticated transport networks is also ignored. That some locals prefer not to work and choose crime is a reality. By blaming everything on the ANC, Ramphele reduces the affected people to historical and perpetual victims.
Inhibiting and eliminating the criminals before they affect others is a necessity. Though there are material faults in the areas, there is a lot wrong with some people who live there. Likewise many teachers, nurses and lawyers once lived in these areas. Comparably, communities in India are much poorer than ours; yet they have less violent crime. Ironically, the United States has high levels of violence yet their poverty levels are low compared to ours.
Then again, Confucius suggested that, the man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. We have to begin somewhere. I continue to support the army’s deployment as this will allow those who seek to improve themselves, the chance to do so.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress