Address by President Nelson Mandela at launch of Crime Prevention Campaign, Johannesburg

19 April 1999

Distinguished Guests, and Friends.

My schedule seems to get increasingly busy as the end of our first democratic government approaches, and my own retirement from public office. But it was essential to find time to join you in the launch of your Crime Prevention Campaign. It is an important initiative to help our nation address a serious problem.

We are long past blaming all our difficulties on our past. But it is at our peril that we ignore the roots of South Africa's high levels of crime in the apartheid era. It left us with a justice system pervaded with lawlessness and criminality. It corroded the moral fabric of our society. It's legacy of poverty will take years to eradicate.

For all these reasons our fight against the unacceptable levels of crime must be a many-sided one and have the active participation of every sector of society.

On the one hand we must continue to mount tough action against the criminals. This means effective implementation of the tighter laws and bail conditions; a more effective police force whose investigative capacity continues improving by the day thanks to the detective academy government has established, and improved co-operation between all criminal-justice agencies. Those who commit crime must know they will be caught and punished.

On the other hand we must attend with equal vigour to assisting the victims of crime; to preventing crime; and to eradicating the underlying social causes of crime such as poverty and inequality.

When it comes to crime prevention, few initiatives can have more significance than the one we are launching today.

It takes us beyond the mere pointing of fingers, to a partnership for practical action to tackle issues that contribute to crime.

It has grown out of an inspiring initiative by men and women who have now succeeded in involving government, business, religious bodies, youth and cultural organisations as well as our international friends. It is aimed at breaking the cycle of crime at it most critical point, amongst our youth, inside and outside prison. And it takes the fight against crime to the grass roots.

For all these reasons this is a campaign that deserves the support of all of us.

One of the great tragedies of apartheid was its neglect of the majority of our children. It hindered the development of their potential to contribute to the community and the nation and many were pushed to the margins of society. And yet our youth are our future.

By combining education and crime prevention, by working in our schools and amongst young people who are unemployed or in prison, the campaign will indeed bring the light of hope to help break the darkness that feeds the ranks of the criminals.

It will, we believe, add strength to our efforts to change the culture of violence that pervades our society, and in particular too many of the schools and homes where our young people learn the values that guide them.

By adopting the strategy of training young people, including prisoners, to become themselves leaders in the campaign, we are showing that we do care. We are declaring our faith in their capacity to help free us from the scourge of crime.

To our youth we say: Seize the opportunities that this campaign brings to take your place as tomorrow's leaders in re-building our society.

Through this initiative Ithuteng Trust has opened a new frontier in the rebuilding of our society. To the Trust, and all those, including Eskom, whose moral and financial support have made this campaign possible, we owe a great debt, and we thank you sincerely. Yours is a shining example of the kind of partnership that will see our nation solve even its most difficult problems.

I now declare this crime prevention campaign launched. Let us all join hands to break the momentum of crime.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website