Address by President Nelson Mandela at the National Day of Safety and Security

15 October 1994

It is a great honour for me to be with you on this, the National Day of Safety and Security.

The people of the East Rand, and in particular Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus, have suffered more than most from violence and crime. But you are also showing that there is a way to deal with these problems.

It is because of the terrible conditions under which you live, and because of your determination to lift yourselves out of this crisis, that the project to rebuild and repair your townships was made one of the President's Projects, a priority within the RDP.

At this very moment, in every province of our land, senior members of the government and leaders of various political parties are sharing platforms to send out a message of peace and security. I am here today with my Honourable colleagues, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Minister of Home Affairs and Mr Pik Botha, the Minister for Mineral and Energy Affairs to say together with one voice:

Let us all take responsibility for freeing our communities of crime and violence. Let us not rob ourselves of the freedom which we have so recently won by allowing these evils to continue.

Every community in our country has a fundamental right to be free from fear. Each and every South African has the right to feel secure in their home, to feel safe in the cities, towns and rural areas. People should not fear the night. They must be able to travel to work, to school and other places without danger.

But these rights are being denied to many by criminals who do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their goals.

However, we say to you all: Do not despair. Together we can root out crime from our communities.

A lasting solution to the problem of violent crime will depend on the success of our Reconstruction and Development Programme. It is often poverty which drives so many to crime. It is deprivation which provides the barons of crime, the gangs and syndicates, with much of the labour force which does their dirty work for them.

However, the RDP itself can only succeed in an environment of security and stability.

There is much that we can do now to end crime and violence. And it is essential that we do so together without delay.

There are some who are urging that the death penalty should be reinstated. We know there is also concern about the granting of bail to criminals who then return to their evil trade. The access which accused people have to prosecution information is another source of concern. These are matters the government is looking at. A careful balance is needed: So that we should not end up denying ourselves rights which we should have, because of the actions of a minority.

Likewise the fact that illegal immigrants are involved in violent criminal activity must not tempt us into the dangerous attitude which regards all foreigners with hostility.

In any case, the solutions will not be found simply in our rules of criminal procedure or laws regulating immigration. The roots of the problem lie much deeper: in a partnership among all social structures to build a better life for ourselves and co-operation with our neighbours. To deal with crime and violence, a partnership between police and communities is central. This will also afford the police better conditions to do their work.

I would like to commend the Minister of Safety and Security and his provincial counter-parts, as well as the South Africa Police Services for the progress that has been made to transform the police service. They should also be congratulated for taking the initiative that has led to this Day of National Safety and Security.

The aim of this day is to promote the partnership between police and communities.

The difficulties in the way of such a partnership are great and we do not underestimate them.

Ours has been a bitterly divided society in which laws and the police were used to defend and maintain an illegitimate system. On top of this, communities have sometimes been divided within themselves. Here in the East Rand those divisions became deep and bitter.

What is important today is that we now have a truly democratic framework within which we can address these problems.

To succeed, we must break with the past.

Dear Friends and Comrades,

The message which the government has asked me to convey is this:

Crime and violence can be defeated only if society unites against it. Here in the East Rand, since the Self-Defence Units and Self-Protection Units started talking to one another, violence has subsided. We congratulate all those who are taking part in this effort.

Community-police forums need to be established at every police station, including satellite stations. They should have the active participation of the community.

It is time for all leaders - political, community, church, trade union, civic and others - to voice their total opposition to crime. No longer can we let criminals use progressive-sounding slogans to mask their evil activities.

Attacks on the police are totally unacceptable. The task of the police is to protect and serve communities. The community in turn should help protect the policy by denying refuge to the criminals who carry out such attacks.

Members of the South African Police Service are your police. They are not the police of apartheid. They are there to help you. Support them. Expose the criminals. If instances arise where police abuse citizens, do not hesitate to report this to the forums and other government channels. You can be assured of the support of the government and of structures of the South African Police Service.

We will strive to provide more policing on the ground. The satellite police stations which have been set up in this area are part of this programme.

We call on all who have unlicensed firearms and ammunition in their possession to take advantage of the Indemnity which has just been proclaimed and which will last until Friday next week. After Friday, the police, and members of the SDU's and the SPU's are going to work together to track down any unlicensed weapons.

So anyone who has weapons should hand them in. If there are any serious problems in your community, report them; and steps will be taken to ensure the community's collective security.

By acting in these ways, each and every person can take responsibility to contribute to their own security, in a way which contributes to the security of all.

Dear friends and comrades,

We come to you confident that a new era has dawned for our communities and for the police. The overwhelming majority of the people want to live in peace and go about their business under conditions of security.

I want to assure communities that, with your support, the government will deal effectively with crime. I want to assure our brave police-men and women that you have the full support of the government and society at large in your efforts to combat crime.

Now is the time to unite and deal crime and violence a fatal blow. Now is the time to make South Africa a safe place for all its people; for investors and for our visitors.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation