As far as crime is concerned we seem to be taking one step forward and two back. This issue has become South Africa’s Achilles heel and something the country is failing to get a handle on.
The statistics released by the Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko and national Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega covering the period 2014/15 show a dismal picture.
One area of particular interest for many citizens is the increase in contact crimes – murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, common assault and robbery.
But we can talk about statistics as much as we want to, the fact is the impact of crime goes far deeper than numbers. It causes feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.
Let me explain from personal experience. Seven years ago my wife and I arrived home with pizza which we wanted to warm up. We then realised our microwave was missing.
As we quickly surveyed the house we found that not only had items from our kitchen been stolen, but from almost every part of our home, including our bedroom.
As we sat in despair an alert neighbour came to tell us to cheer up. The suspects had already been apprehended. They had been busy moving items out of house when she realised that something was amiss and phoned the police who intercepted them.
We were elated and were able to recover all our items from our local police station.
With the fingerprints taken, the suspects caught red-handed with stolen items and a neighbour ready to give evidence, we thought the case would be watertight.
Well, the justice system seemingly does not operate that easily. The suspects were released on bail and disappeared, never to be found again. Seven years on the case has gone cold.
I wish I could say this was the last time I was a victim of crime, but it was not. I have lost count now how many burglaries I have experienced.
I come to realise that our police are overwhelmed by the enormity of the crime problem. They simply are unable to cope. The question is, what exactly is behind these run-away crime rates?
Some social commentators cite two possible causes. The first is the country’s violent past and the second is social conditions such as poverty and unemployment.
I am not a sociologist and therefore struggle to understand how social conditions can cause a person to be as violent and sadistic as some of the criminals in our country.
For one thing, there many countries with poverty far worse than ours, but without the vicious and violent crime that happens here.
For another, I am one of those who has experienced poverty and lived through apartheid, but I have never felt a compulsion to steal and take someone’s life in the process.
A few weeks ago I saw the body of a murder victim. His legs had been tied together and he had what looked like a gunshot wound to his forehead. It seemed he had been killed somewhere and his body dumped in a rubbish heap close to where I work.
That day the man featured among the 49 South Africans murdered daily.
I am sceptical of the idea that his killing was the result of intergenerational violence inherited from the 80s, or that he was murdered simply because his killers grew up under adverse material conditions.
Even if all the above were true, there is still the element of choice. Everyone of us is bequeathed with it. The reason of social conditioning seems far too simplistic.
Yes, we have high levels of poverty and have experienced a very difficult past but something more must account for our crime problem.
I do not know what it is but I do hope we find out quickly so that another 17 000 South Africans are not killed in the next 12 months.
Recently church and civic organisations marched against corruption because the current generation is responsible for this scourge. It is this selfsame generation that can end it. If we refuse to accept responsibility for rampant corruption we weaken our ability to deal with it.
We Christians know the key in dealing with all of these ills. It is the Gospel, the only proven antidote to the sin problem. Sin infects hearts and hearts affect behavior and therefore you cannot change behavior until you have removed sin in the heart of men.