Is government going soft on crime?

Is government going soft on crime?
South Africans are fast becoming a nation of paranoiacs and the symptoms are plain to see.

We’re always in a state of persistent suspense and mental agitation, constantly looking over our shoulders, worried about some danger or harm lurking around the next corner.

We don’t walk fearlessly through our own neighbourhoods as we once did. In fact, we don’t feel safe in our own homes, even after bolting every door and window.

Have you noticed how we shudder with shock at every car exhaust blast, fearing it’s gun shots?

And how we now call our loved ones every hour on the hour to check on their safety when they’re on a night out?

We have become paranoid because we fear becoming another crime statistic - a victim of murder, serious assault, rape, violent hijacking, mugging or home invasion, all of which are now so pervasive in our country.

The statistics tell the grim story. Simply put, innocent law-abiding South Africans have become prisoners of crime.

Just listen to conversations these days and you’ll find two subjects predominate.

One is how pervasive crime has become and two, how pathetically incapable our government is in tackling this rampant scourge.

I was at a dinner party last week, and once the pleasantries were over, crime was all we talked about.

“I believe it all starts at an early age. I want my child to know right from wrong, but they (government) tell us we’re not allowed to spank our own kids,” a woman guest lamented.

A father joined in with a spirited defence of capital punishment. “We the people are bearing the brunt of serious crimes. We are punishing hardened criminals with a mere slap on the wrist. We need to bring back the death penalty.”

Others around the table chipped in, nodding their heads vigorously in agreement, although fully aware that reinstatement of capital punishment is prohibited in terms of the country’s constitution.

Their voices have become part of a growing chorus of calls for harsher punishment of criminals.

The ANC-led government is standing firm, arguing that everyone has the right to life in terms of the law. But it will find it hard to ignore this mounting campaign because people have a right to be heard - to protest, to organise and to lobby their public representatives to support their cause.

What’s given the pro-capital punishment lobby even more ammunition is news that the Department of Correctional Services wants to see fewer criminals being sent to jail. It argues that to reduce serious overcrowding in prisons, many of those behind bars at present should be granted parole.

It also wants those prisoners convicted of “lesser crimes” (whatever that may mean) to be sentenced to correctional supervision.

Is this a sign that government intends going soft on crime?

If that is so, the people have a right to know so they can start hanging their white surrender flags outside their front doors.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.