South Africans are bombarded daily with news of horrendous crimes committed without consequence, despite the severe impact these crimes have on our lives. Our newsfeeds are rife with stories of how lawlessness reigns in every aspect of our society, and there seems to be absolutely no plan, nor political will, to change the status quo. Sadly, the result is that ‘lesser’ crimes are ignored as society and the media have become more desensitised.
To demonstrate this point I refer to a case that ActionSA was made aware of in January this year – the case of a building hijacker in Primrose, Ekurhuleni. This case exposed the all-encompassing systematic failures of our criminal justice system and the collapse of the rule of law. Initially, we thought it was a matter of intimidation and harassment against a distraught resident whose pleas to SAPS had fallen on deaf ears. Our investigation, however, uncovered a much greater web of criminality.
The issue began with the illegal hijacking of at least three properties in Primrose by an undocumented foreign national. The perpetrator has several cases of intimidation and harassment filed against him, is potentially complicit in a murder that occurred at one of the properties, and further stands accused of dealing drugs. The properties under this criminal kingpin’s control were seemingly even illegally connected to the city’s power network, completing the utter criminality of this individual’s contribution to our society. Despite the SAPS being aware of these issues, no significant action was taken against him.
Following our intervention at the behest of the resident, the perpetrator was arrested. Absurdly though, upon his arrest he opened a case of intimidation and property damage against the woman who had brought the matter to our attention. She was swiftly arrested too, despite there being no substance to the case. The sad irony is that she – a law-abiding citizen – was arrested swiftly without investigation, while he had been operating with impunity for over a year despite the serious allegations against him. Fortunately, ActionSA’s legal team was able to have this matter was thrown out of court, but one can only imagine the fate of someone in a similar instance that did not have proper legal support. What does this tell law-abiding citizens about the hidden motives and impartiality of our justice system?
While her treatment alone should give us cause for concern, to add insult to the hijacker was released on bail only two weeks after his arrest – despite the seriousness of the allegations against him and his immigration status. I find it unconscionable that someone who is in the country unlawfully, and that further stands accused of a host of serious crimes, can get released so easily. Yet the case has received limited attention from the media or those directly affected.
Taken in its totality, the Primrose hijacker is a case study in the collapse of the rule of law, and how accustomed to criminality we have become. I am animated by this matter is because it so succinctly highlights just how broken our justice system really is: Home Affairs is incapable of enforcing our immigration laws, SAPS continuously fails to provide protection to our communities against criminals, and our courts allow criminals back on the street, despite prima facie evidence of wrong-doing.
What enrages me is that this is not an isolated event or a unique story. It merely demonstrates a pattern of lawlessness that has become pervasive in the mafia state we live in.
Recently this has been exemplified by the prison escape of the “Facebook Rapist” and murderer, Thabo Bester, who subsequently lived just a street away from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s private residence in Johannesburg. It is becoming increasingly clear that correctional services not only failed at fulfilling its most basic mandate of keeping criminals behind bars, but that Bester had multiple opportunities to manipulate, bribe and corrupt those tasked with maintaining order. The fact that all of this happened at a private correctional facility just further illustrates how this lawlessness pervades all walks of society.
Meanwhile, those who are attempting to uphold the law and fight crime and corruption are becoming easy targets in a country where the cost of a life is cheap. Earlier this month, Cloete and Thomas Murray were gunned down in a brazen hit. The duo have overseen a range of high-profile liquidations, including BOSASA, Gupta-linked Trillian, and Tubular Construction Projects, a company involved in major corruption at Kusile power station. This hit comes approximately 18 months after the assassination of well-known whistle-blower Babita Deokaran.
How can we expect citizens to stand up against crime when there is the real risk that they will get murdered for their efforts? How can we expect them to trust law-enforcement agencies when there is little hope of protection from the system that should exist purely to maintain law and order?
While some may argue that the Primrose case is insignificant in this bigger scheme of criminality, to the victims involved it is no less devastating to their lives. We cannot allow our society to become complacent about serious crimes because they are overshadowed by even more heinous ones. This is the same attitude adopted by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, when he remarked just days after the gang rape of eight women in Krugersdorp in August 2022 – some by as many as 10 men – that “the one 19-year-old was lucky [to be] raped by one man.”
The cases above are but four cases out of thousands. However, they are all inextricably linked by systematic erosion of the rule of the law by the ANC government that has enabled criminality to thrive and the corrupt to grow wealthy, while law-abiding citizens are left to defend themselves.
It is clear that addressing these issues is not just about allocating more budget to SAPS, or capacitating the NPA. These are certainly important aspects of the solution, but the systematic erosion of the rule of law can only be addressed through a holistic, systematic response. Policing cannot be seen in isolation from Correctional Services, the prosecutorial functions of the NPA, or social services and economic policy that offers our people alternatives to crime to make a living. These functions – investigation, prosecution, incarceration (where applicable) and rehabilitation – must work in lockstep to put criminals behind bars and uphold the rule of law, enabling the economy to flourish.
Finally, these reforms must be driven by ethical leaders with the political will to fight crime. If there is one thing in which the ANC is consistent, it that they are not only unwilling to provide South Africa with ethical leadership, but that are fundamentally incapable of doing so. This is what happens when a criminal organisation merely masquerades as a political party in order to loot the state. That is why I maintain that any efforts to fix South Africa must begin with the removal of the failed ANC government in 2024. We can fix our country, but to do so we must unite against those that have selfishly driven our descent in lawlessness.