May 26, 2004

Minister unveils plan to reduce crime / Programme to improve rural and urban housing presented

Government has set itself a target of reducing crime by between 7% and 10% a year over the next five years, says Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula. The anticrime plan would focus on the 63 most crime-ridden areas in South Africa and on serious crimes such as murder and rape, the minister announced. While there had been a reduction in the crime rate as a result of government programmes, it still remained at an unacceptably high level, he furthermore said. "We are moving in the right direction," Nqakula also noted. Police response times were shorter and more investigations were successful but rape continued to be a "source of concern". According to him, Khayelitsh, a poverty-stricken township outside Cape Town, has been identified as the area with the country's highest rate of murders, attempted murders, rape and attempted rape and violent assaults. Policing methods were not sufficient to deal with social crime that arose from economic deprivation. Ways of dealing with this were being investigated, Nqakula said.

A special task team has been established to arrest the 200 top criminals on the loose in South Africa. Nqakula said the 200 were known to the police and had been involved in organised crime involving drug smuggling, bank robberies, heists and murders. Every year, for the next five years, 10 more sexual offences courts would be established, bringing the total to 50. The Railway Police would be reintroduced, with the first 400 trained officers to be deployed from January next year on Cape Town trains, where there is a high incidence of criminal activity. A review of the criminal justice system would be taken to the cabinet soon, the minister moreover announced. In concluding he remarked that a major challenge was that 60% of convicted persons were repeat offenders and more resources would have to be devoted to rehabilitation.

In the meantime, it has also been announced that the Government is to invest R24 million over the next nine years, in a programme for rural and urban housing to comply with minimum health, safety and quality standards. It is also anticipated that some 43.000 direct jobs and 40.000 indirect job opportunities could be created per annum. In a statement, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu committed her department to beating the three month deadline set by President Thabo Mbeki in this regard by a month, to deliver a detailed plan on human settlements. "We will be able to deliver this in two months," she affirmed, saying the plan would deal with the rehabilitation of informal settlements and an enhanced approach on medium density housing. This will be in collaboration with the departments of agriculture and land affairs, provincial and local government, water affairs and forestry as well as public works. For this reason, she said delivery had to be sped up as the rapid rate of urbanization meant that the provision of housing at a pace of about 19.000 per year was insufficient to respond to the demand. According to her, the housing backlog was currently standing at 2.399.822 households, with backyard shacks and informal shacks constituting 4.8 and 16.4 percent respectively of all dwellings. "The bulk of the backlog is located at the lowest end of the income spectrum, constituting approximately 22.3 percent of all households," she said. She explained that research had shown that 2.1 million new households had to be built in the country to meet the housing demands, which necessitated the improvement of the capacity in terms of skills development to meet the needs. For this reason, a Provincial Support Unit would be set up to assist provinces and other spheres of government in project management and financial skills. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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