You/Huisgenoot Anti-Crime Petition

I received an e-mail today, purporting to collect signatures towards petitioning SA’s leaders that they address the country’s crime situation with verve and alacrity instead of the obtuse denialism we’ve experienced hitherto. The e-mail indicated that the petition was initiated by You and Huisgenoot magazine. Being ever wary - and weary - of spam, I sniffed around a bit to find out whether the petition is a genuine initiative.

And, yes, it is genuine. It can be found and signed here, which probably presents, from the petitioners’ point of view, a far more efficient option than blasting the entire contents of your address book all over the playing field.


I don’t see that it will do much good though. I can not think for a moment that Mbeki is not aware of the problem.
He’ll have to be pretty ignorant and stupid for that to be true. I think the current attitude has more to do with political reasons that ignorance.
Maybe thousands of signatures will carry a bit more political weight - I don’t think so.

To me this is another example of providing an outlet for people to vent their frustration. They can pat themselves on the back and say they tried to make a difference. It’s a quick and easy fix to make yourself feel better. But real change will require more effort than that. Most people just don’t want to move out of their comfort zone to make it happen.

The way I see it, the main issue is hardly whether our leaders are aware of the current social situation or not; the issue is the flagrant disregard for democratic principles, if not something equally disturbing, namely dereliction of duty.

Let me explain.

It is probable that they are at least as aware of the crime realities as any person living in this country, and yet they apparently choose to ignore, deny and repeatedly refuse to address them in any meaningful way.

These are the people who are the elected representatives of all voting South Africans, their point of focus and entry into matters that are of concern to the voting majority. Prime among their duties is protecting the rights enshrined in the constitution, which include the right to life, safety and security. This duty cannot be delegated for fear of abuses resulting from self-interest, so it is both spurious and indeed insulting to pass the buck straight back to the people who only ask that their elected leaders do their designated jobs.

At the same time, various media constitute the only real handbrake that stops government and/or business from committing abuses of power against people. Or so the theory goes. Our South African media have largely forgotten that they are meant play this rôle, and they have consequently in many cases served people poorly, especially with regard to violent crime to which we have become inured to the point of callous disregard.

Two recent TV-led opinion polls showed results in which some 98 per cent of respondents agreed that “crime is out of control,” and 86 per cent thought that “FNB was wrong to drop its anti-crime advertising campaign.” Now it is true that these polls were informal and without any controls against sampling error, and as such are open to criticism; nevertheless, in each case there were around 10,000 respondents, which is a statistically significant sample size. It is, moreover, reasonable to assume that, given the platform (TV and cell 'phone response), most respondents fell into the very groups most affected by crime, namely the lower and middle classes.

Even allowing for as much as 20 per cent sampling error, the results would still be compelling: at least 78 per cent of people think that crime is out of control, and more than 69 per cent think that FNB was wrong to abort its campaign. In any language, these numbers are majorities, yet our leaders continue to ignore them. Any alert democracy would, for the sake of its own survival, probably initiate remedial action. At the very least, a referendum would be launched to gauge properly the public sentiment.

We see nothing of the sort, and that is why I think that our leaders are delinquent in respect of democratic principles and their duties.


Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
– Thomas Jefferson

Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.
– Laurence J. Peter

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
– George Bernard Shaw

Two can play at this game:

“When the people are afraid of the government, that’s tyranny. But when the government is afraid of the people, that’s liberty.” - Thomas Jefferson.

I just think it is being perhaps overly negative when it is said that initiatives of the type in question probably won’t be effective. Such pessimism works in concert with a dearth of channels for popular expression (e.g. our media that mostly jigs to the government piper’s tune, when they should be needling it stridently over even the smallest of indiscretions) to preserve the government’s apparent complacency, so you’ve already resigned the game before it’s even started. But SA’s very own history refutes the idea that many voices, or, pushed up a notch, civil disobedience are ineffective tools of persuasion. It is time that this government be made to feel the force of the other end of the selfsame tactics they themselves employed to get into power in the first place.

With reference to the above Jefferson quote, it’s certainly not the case that “the people are afraid of the government,” but it is equally certainly not the case that “the government is afraid of the people.” I’ll leave it for the reader to work out the implications of that.


I agree with Anacoluthon64, this is not a functioning democracy.
To have working democracy requires more than just allowing the people to vote. In my opinion the officials elected are not supposed to be anything more than public servant number 1 through n (how many ever there are). I rather get the impression that they see themselves as a sort of elected royalty, getting elected into government gives a person duties, not privileges.

…and my contribution to ‘the game’:

Society in every state is a blessing, but [b]government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one;[/b] for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
-Thomas Paine

I’d like to think of it as being realistic, not pessimistic :wink:
It can’t hurt to sign a petition like this. But the problem like I said, is that it is not enough. And from what I’ve seen, especially among South Africans, is that people complain often, but they expect someone else to fix the problem. People will sign a petition and then wait for something to change. This is how governments survive. They rely on the complacency of people. Just give them enough to make them happy for a while and when they start complaining again, give them a little more.

I agree. And that is sort of the point. A petition like this won’t carry much weight and would not scare anyone in government.

I agree 100%. And people should be reminded of this.

Good one :wink:

People should realize that you can do much more than just vote every few years. Sadly that is the only contribution to democracy that most people make. And it is not in the interest of government to remind the people of this. So we have to do it ourselves.

The usual refuge of the incurable cynic, eh? :wink:

None of the above can be faulted if the petition is seen in isolation. That is why I keep harping on about the media largely shirking their collective duty. But the “movement” has to start somewhere: if the Prez’s office is handed a new petition with a few ten, or even hundred, thousand signatures every month, and is simultaneously berated by both business and the news media over its obdurate denialism on the crime issue, it will very soon become a “war of attrition” that the government can’t win. This is what a simple petition, in conjunction with the other elements mentioned, can accomplish, and is about as much constructive and proactive action that can be expected from the populace.

What other course(s) of action would you suggest for the common individual?


Agreed. Petitioning is only the starting point.

Don’t let the government, the media, or your neighbor for that matter get away with their complacency. There is also nothing wrong with trying to fix the problem yourself, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Then we’re effectively saying the same thing: keep the pressure on constantly, everywhere. It is the methods by which we are to accomplish this that we differ slightly on.

I can live with that. :slight_smile:

ETA: Here’s a letter to the President and another petition.