In contrast to US election norms, Barack Obama would appear to have won the recent Democratic presidential nomination with the dollars and cents of the ordinary American people. His was not a campaign spent appeasing big corporate backers. His was a campaign that ultimately celebrated the power of individual Americans.
I have noticed a similar trend in the fight against crime in South Africa. According to a recent report in The Mercury newspaper, community-driven crime-prevention organisations are mushrooming. They are working with police, government and the public to tackle crime. Civil society, tired, frustrated and fearful is beginning to acknowledge that wars are not just fought by generals.
According to Brian Jones, director of SA Community Action Network (SA CAN), there has been a significant increase in the number of crime-prevention organisations formed in recent years. "Communities have realised that they have to stand by the police. This is a positive response."
From a police background, Jones began SA CAN six years ago to assist the police in the upper highway area of KwaZulu-Natal. "Previously communities used to plead with the government to release the (annual) crime stats, but now they have realised that they do not need them. They are instead concerned about how they can assist the police," says Jones.
At the same time, social activation campaigns – such as Heartline's "For Good" initiative and "Stop Crime Say Hello" – have been started by marketers and media practitioners to give ordinary South Africans practical tools to help fight crime in their everyday lives.
As a founder of Stop Crime Say Hello, I have noticed an increase in crime-fighting organisations. Since we began the campaign about a year ago, we have reached over 6 million South African's with the help of the media. People are moving away from feeling helpless and pointing fingers at government and the police. They are now forming their own strategies to get involved in dealing with crime.
There is however a danger that these disparate efforts will lack the clout to tackle the problem and make a significant difference. Enter Roelf Meyer and Barbara Holtmann, founders of soon-to-be-launched umbrella organisation Action for a Safe South Africa (AFSSA).
AFSSA is a collaborative effort of IDASA, the Institute for Security Studies, the CSIR, RAPCAN, SA The Good News, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the International Marketing Council for SA and the Gordon Institute of Business Science amongst others. AFSSA will work to unite the various efforts and tackle the root causes of crime focusing on reducing pressure on the straining judicial system.
"AFSSA aims to enable every South African to contribute to making South Africa safe through sustained actions that prevent crime. It is not our aim to duplicate or compete with any other initiatives that have similar or complementary objectives, rather that each should strengthen the other, through cooperation and a constant building of critical mass of those who respect the rule of law and work constructively to build a safe society," says Holtmann.
Whilst the recent drop in overall crime of 6.4% is short of Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula's target of between 7% and 10%, it is certainly a move in the right direction. The aim is that with a strong call to civil action and a well coordinated and sustained effort on behalf of crime fighting organisations, these targets will be met and exceeded in the years to come.
To get involved visit:
By Justin Foxton, founder of Stop Crime…Say Hello (www.scsh.co.za)