Towards the end of last year South Africa introduced the ‘Shoo to Kill’ policy championed by the Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula.
Trigger-happy SAPS has been told by the Minister of Police to ‘Shoot to kill’

The Wild West movie-style crime ‘shoot to kill’ antic and the desire to lynch suspects or perpetrators, show government’s lack of understanding of the root causes of crime prevalence rate. Weak politicians, lazy bureaucrats and incompetent criminal justice system technocrats are running to populist sloganeering instead of facing the challenge head-on. This happens at the expense of proper structural inspection and analysis.

The behaviour of government leadership indicates that the high crime rate problem is not understood. High crime rate is a symptom of a failed society. The problem lies in the exclusion of African cultural ethos in the regulatory framework. At the core of this crisis is the collapse of previously resilient African culture. It is sparked by the big gap between the haves and have not’s, which is different from poverty. The problem is fueled by endemic corruption and sustained by inherent flaws in the criminal justice system.

There are three braches in the current system. The police with a mandate to prevent investigate crime and charging suspects. The courts have the responsibility to listen and decide on crime. The prisons have to hold and prepare criminals for reintegration to society. All this subsystems have failed in their mandate due inept management and
weak leadership. There are enough financial resources but crisis is lack of will and competency to combat crime effectively.

The coward model of policing is aggressive towards weak petty criminals; namely the poor citizens in general and African men in particular. It is soft wealthy criminals, white collar criminals and syndicates that manage drug pushers, vehicle thieves, stock thieves and foot soldiers in criminal activities. The police behaviour is extremely embarrassing when it comes to respecting the constitutionally protected right of communities to protest. Corruption of selling dockets and using the uniform for selfish reason is another area which needs attention.

The courts have draconic management crisis. The business processes are ancient, inefficient and ineffective. The wealth of technocratic capital in this segment is unquestionable and unparalleled but bureaucratic component is non-existence. There is no real reason for the uncontrollable numbers of suspects awaiting trial. Unnecessary postponements and lack of preparedness by court officials is evidence of poor management. The lack of appreciation of citizen’s time reflects undesirable arrogance on the part of the system. There are many forecasting and scheduling methods and technologies to assist in planning and management.

In metropolitan areas courts should be operating twenty four hours a day instead of operating about four hours per day. There is no reason why courts are not operating during weekends. The use of information and security technology is very limited. The technical aspects of sentencing need to review as prison and cash fines are not the only possible forms of punishments available. The obsession with imprisonment as a form of punishment creates unnecessary overcrowding in prisons.

Lack of clean bedding and other necessities in awaiting trailists section is reflective of management collapse in prisons. Corruption is chronic from top management in this segment. Correctional service procurement irregularities are well documented in this regard. The availability of dagga in prisons confirms corrupt collaboration between prisoners and officers. Instead of rehabilitation, prisons have become training grounds for criminals. Criminals come out with sharpened skills. The high numbers of repeat offenders confirms the suspension that rehabilitation programmes are not successful.

The solution to crime does not lay in crazy sloganeering but it will come through serious architectural analysis and design. It is found in attending to social inequality, correcting the colonial legacy and ensuring equitable distribution of wealth. The crime rate could be dramatically reduced by improving recruitment, training, business processes, exploiting technology and sound management of the criminal justice system as whole.

By Sbusiso Xaba



  1. belligerence or sabre-rattling can’t be a substitute for good policing. the deputy minister of police, who upstages his political superior, once told members of the media in Cape Town that it was inevitable that innocent members of the public are going to die when the police are exchanging fire with criminals. this is a reckless statement which was not well thought-out. it is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. this country is paying police officers poorly. given the prevailing state of affairs, the department won’t attract skilled professional civil servants and on the other hand elected officials get fat cheques. if elected officials could be paid according to their level of education then professional people would join in nunbers and improve the police service. how can that be when there are criminals in parliament who have swept the arms deal corruption under the carpet? the chairman of SCOPA himself a thug who stole more than 40 PAC seats, was given that position to steal PAC seats. he can’t do anything to get the rotten-to-the-core arms deal case investigated.

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