Monday 27 May 2024

The Cure for Crime in South Africa

The months slide into weeks and the weeks slide into days, and suddenly the reality of our election eats at the dark coast of our future. Are we facing Armageddon, or just getting poorer? Will we stumble on or descend into civil war? Will we be ruled by gangsters or by law?

The omens are not auspicious. The litany of faults and failures grows ever longer. The solutions suggested by our leaders are ever more fanciful.

Amidst this gloomy prospect I see one bright hope for the future. The Western Cape may sever itself from the rotting national corpse and embark on a new path. If successful, and if full scale civil war can be avoided or won, this southern jewel may yet serve as an example to the rest of the country, exporting practical policies to the poor politicians to their north.

This raises the key issue of what these practical policies should look like. As the DA often demonstrates, the only thing worse than incompetent government is competent government, interfering where it does not belong.

South Africa’s biggest problem is rampant crime. We are at the bottom of the world statistics in almost every category - murders, rapes, thefts, child abuse.  A new and independent Western Cape government would inherit this dreadful legacy. Would it deal with it differently? 

 A fundamental change in policing, in law enforcement, in prosecutions and imprisonment will be required. The Free Market Foundation and its Rule of Law Project have the Section 12 Initiative, which seeks to propose deep reform to criminal justice in South Africa with the aim of reducing violent crime. Ordinary South Africans can read about the initiative on

It will not be enough to appoint a man in a fancy hat and then throw untold millions his way. Tried that, didn’t work. Who will be our Javier Milei, our Nayib Bukele? Who will sweep away the cobwebs of old policies, bad practices, past mistakes. 

Following are the essential steps required to be implemented by a new independent Western Cape government on assuming power:

First, cut the number of criminals in half in a single stroke - stop prosecuting victimless crimes, because it's easy and lucrative. Your citizens deserve much more respect. Your police  have much more important things to do.

Second, recruit a brand new police force. You will no longer be bound by racialised legislation and special interests. Make appointments only on merit. Pay only on results. Leave the deadwood to fade away.

Third, deal with the gangs, the syndicates, the special interests.  Nayib Bukele of El Salvador provides the template for how this can be done, quickly and successfully.  Make being a gangster the most dangerous job in the Cape. Plan for resistance.  Recruit and pay for mercenaries and security professionals. Show as much pity to the gangs as they show to the populace.

Fourth, recruit  a brand new judiciary. Just as with the police, make appointments only on merit. Review the work history of every incumbent, and lose the incompetent. Link pay to successful prosecutions. Leave the deadwood to fade away.

Fifth, take a new approach to imprisonment. Release all those accused of victimless crimes, thus making space for real criminals. Turn prisons into profit centres. Privatise their management, subject to oversight.   Make prisoners literally repay their debt to society. Make prison conditions dependent on behaviour. 

Finally, make citizens your partners in the fight against crime. Encourage and support local policing initiatives, such as blockwatches, security companies, neighbourhood online security groups. Extend the power of arrest to suitably qualified private citizens.  Lessen the privileges of the legal profession to charge exorbitant fees and impose endless delays. Allow citizens to choose their own manner of dispute resolution, thorough private arbitrators, lekgotlas, juries. Trust your people.

Our problem in South Africa is that we are too law-abiding. We bend over backwards to obey the insane maze of laws, rules, regulations and directives that flow from the open sewer that is our government. We slavishly obey rules made by crooks to favour crooks, that make criminals of us all.

Let's do it differently in the independent Western Cape!


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