Ramaphosa lauds crime-fighting efforts during SONA but admits there’s a long way to go

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President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town on Thursday, has said tackling crime and insecurity is a key government priority and progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go to build safer communities, prevent violent crime, and protect infrastructure.

“South Africans deserve to be safe and to feel safe, to walk freely and without fear in their neighbourhoods and public spaces,” Ramaphosa told the nation. “During this administration, we have focused on equipping our law enforcement agencies, which had been systematically weakened, to do their work effectively.”

Government has strengthened the ranks of the South African Police Service (SAPS) through the recruitment of 20 000 police officers over the last two years, and another 10 000 in the year to come, the President explained.

“An extra 5 000 police officers have been deployed to Public Order Policing. The SAPS has launched Operation Shanela as a new approach to target crime hotspots, which resulted in over 285 000 arrests since May last year.

“The Economic Infrastructure Task Teams that are operational in all provinces have had important successes in combatting cable theft, damage to critical infrastructure and illegal mining,” the President said.

Through close collaboration with the private sector, South Africa has seen a reduction in security incidents on the rail network.

“We launched the new Border Management Authority last year to improve the security of our borders and have already stopped over 100 000 people who tried to enter our country illegally.

“Together with civil society, we developed the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence, as a society wide response to this pandemic. Around R21 billion was dedicated over the medium term to the implementation of the six pillars of the plan, including the economic empowerment of women.”

The President also noted other achievements, including the introduction of new laws to strengthen the response of the criminal justice system to gender-based violence, as well as the provision of better support to survivors of such violence.

He emphasised that the government’s ultimate goal is to end gender-based violence altogether by mobilising all of society.

“As part of this, we support the call for a pledge that men in South Africa are invited to take to demonstrate their personal commitment to ending this scourge. Women are also in the process of developing their own pledge.

“We still have a long way to go to build safer communities, prevent violent crime, and protect our infrastructure. But there is no doubt that a professional, well-trained, and properly resourced police force, working closely with communities, will make our country a safer place,” the President said.