A muppet with a whistle and an audience: A response to Minister Fikile Mbalula

By Prof Changamire

Many years ago, in her soft tone and motherly wisdom my mum once said, if you go and bathe at the river and a mad man steals your clothes, there is no point chasing him naked, least the towns people apprehend you in the mistaken belief that you are mentally disturbed.

Such is the case today, a mad man has stolen my clothes, not only did he take my clothes but my Sunday best. Statements by the South African Minister of Police regards Zimbabweans’ involvement in criminal activity are not only unfortunate but also reprehensible; I would not have paid any attention to them, had it not been from the office from which the utterer occupies.

The minister had a lot of “truth” to talk about and in typical fashion of a motormouth he is, he didn’t at one point cite any statistics unless of course to give one example of a group of robbers that were arrested at Hyde Park. The problem with such an example is, it is not and should not be the yardstick or leeway to paint an entire people group as criminals.

The Hyde Park incident as unfortunate as it was, is not representative of the nature of crime in South Africa or the nationality of those that commit it. Mr Mbulula went on further to say it’s difficult to catch these criminals because he doesn’t have their fingerprints in a database, unlike South African citizens.

The problem with this line is, how does the minister know that they are from Zim, if taking his word, he didn’t catch them, did the criminals sign or run away shouting they were going back to Zimbabwe?

On him having all South African citizens’ fingerprints, the line sounds innocent at face value, however looking at the unstated premise and the immediate context, Mbalula is in effect saying South Africans don’t commit crime because they know that they will be apprehended because their bio data is in Mbalula’s database, as such all criminal activity is because of the foreign nationals.

Had the minister taken time to actually inform himself before the press conference, he would have found that according to the Department of Correctional Services, South Africa houses in her prisons only 4% of convicted foreign nationals, this numerically translates to about 4000 against a total prison population of over 110 000 inmates. If the honourable minister had also realised that the Internet is way much more than Twitter, he would have found out that according to a decade long study (1990-2000) by the UN Office on Crime and Drugs, SA has been a world leader in violent crimes long before their northern neighbours started trekking down south.

The minister further accuses the foreign nationals from Zimbabwe of smuggling guns into the country, well this is mute point, but it’s interesting to note that despite all its woes Zimbabwe does not record cash heists or violent crime juxtaposed to South Africa.

This is not to say there is no crime in Zimbabwe or that Zimbabwe nationals are engaging in nefarious activities in their neighbour’s yard, but like any diverse people there is bound to be malcontents who are hell bent on violating laid down laws, It’s not fair therefore to pin crime on a people group by being anarchical, in fact that’s intellectual dishonesty.

Crime is crime no matter who commits it , the victims don’t feel better by knowing that they have been violated by a local or a foreigner. The moment we start to label it by nationality we go down on a very slippery slope, and given the past xenophobic disturbances of the past, it will come as no surprise if the same repeats itself, and down the hole we sink.

  • Prof Changamire is a political analyst for Khuluma Afrika.