The recent murders of two South African Police Service (SAPS) members highlight the urgency for a better plan to deal with violent crime, especially in Nelson Mandela Bay, which has become a hotspot. The existing 72-hour activation plan has generally proven to be futile and has failed to bring these criminals to justice.
The sad reality is that criminals have become a law unto themselves, treating the province as the wild west, where gunslingers can run amok and law-abiding citizens are at their mercy. Residents and SAPS members are living in fear, and victims’ families are suffering heartbreak at the loss of loved ones.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance, Community Safety MEC, Xolile Nqatha, revealed that since its inception, the 72-hour plan has been activated 135 times across the province. Once in the 20/21 financial year, 44 times in the 21/22 financial year and 90 times in the 22/23 financial year.
These activations led to the arrest of just 91 suspects, and of those cases, just three convictions to date!
The 72-hour activation plan was introduced in 2020 to mobilise an intelligence-led investigation and combat teams to track, trace, and apprehend suspects within 72 hours. But statistics show that the initiative has failed!
The latest quarterly crime statistics, for October to December 2022, show that a tidal wave of violent crime continues sweeping across the province. The province has the highest per capita murder rate in the country, jumping from 19.7 last quarter to 22.5 per 100 000. In the three months under review, 1 501 people were slaughtered across the province.
Even when we trace these violent criminals and apprehend them, they are not being punished for their crimes or ending up in jail. The low conviction rate has been attributed to, among others, witnesses being intimidated, lengthy postponements of cases, long outstanding forensic reports and witnesses being paid to withdraw cases.
Drastic steps need to be taken to address conviction rates. We need to protect witnesses, improve crime intelligence and build strong, evidence-based cases against these criminals.
It is time for criminals to begin fearing the might of the law, and that only happens when they know that their criminal actions will have severe consequences.
The DA is calling for a review of the 72-hour Activation Plan and for urgent interventions to be applied to lead to the swift conviction of violent criminals.
They need to be nailed and jailed. This will be the biggest deterrent to the wild west mentality.