The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
In another of his trademark, hard-hitting keynote, Action Society’s Ian Cameron highlighted deep-rooted issues within the criminal justice system in South Africa when addressing the BizNews 10th celebration, expressing frustration at double standards, corruption, and a lack of vision. He also suggests some practical steps to fix a disastrous situation where more South African civilians are murdered than their Ukrainian counterparts are killed by invading Russians. Cameron calls for a comprehensive, action-oriented approach to reforming the police service, addressing poverty as a root cause of crime, and restoring ethics and integrity. He also rejects the efforts by Corporate South Africa which, he believes, have failed the nation and making things worse by companies supporting the “criminal syndicates” that control the ANC and the SA Police Services. – Alec Hogg
Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.
Edited version of Ian Cameron’s keynote address to BizNews’s 10th birthday celebration.
When Alec asked me to speak, he joked, “Please don’t make everyone depressed.” But in the previous conference, I couldn’t get to the solutions – there were just so many problems. People sent messages afterwards, saying they were still depressed because they never got to hear the solution. I gave it some thought, and I realised we need to give people hope. What’s the one basic thing that all of us need to have hope? There’s a verse from Proverbs that kept on coming to my mind: “Without vision, people perish.” I believe there’s a shortage of vision in South Africa.
First, the negative stuff: the blue light mafia. You all saw the video of four people assaulted on the highway. One of them got very much hurt. We are representing him at the moment, and this incident symbolises the criminal justice system in South Africa. If you or I were to do the same thing and were caught on camera, we would be behind bars begging for bail. These policemen were treated with double standards.
The incident also illustrates a criminal justice system that has become an iron fist for a criminal cartel. The good cops who try to do something are either intimidated, transferred, or assassinated. For example, there were abalone poachers having a nice brisk swim on a Thursday evening, and after calling the police, they said they couldn’t respond. The new district commander has only 11 years of service, never did her firearm competency, and lacks practical training. Yet she became a brigadier and then a major general.
The Minister of Police has become the Minister of crime scenes and condolences. Recently, there was an announcement about a new operation, but the details were misleading, and within 50 minutes of the announcement, there were three gang-related shootings. So why the lies?
Now, I’m going to come to hope. I thought about vision, and it’s great that we have this vision. Write it down because we need to look forward to something. But it’s no use if we don’t have solutions. Solutions with action give us vision, and that vision can then be implemented. What are you going to do? When are you going to step forward? When are you going to attend court and support the victims?
I’ve put together a few basic steps to fix the South African police service from a policing point of view. We must have an integrated structure. It’s laughable that the Minister announces crime statistics without any accountability from the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. TikTok is now being done live every day from almost all of our correctional facilities, and they keep on telling us that they are solving it, but they are not. We need an integrated system or strategy where everyone can be held accountable together.
We must consider a three-pronged strategy involving the Department of Social Development, Department of Justice, and the police. Without this, we’re chasing our tails. If we don’t address the root causes like poverty, a massive issue, we can’t expect change. Poverty drives people to crime, and we need to tackle it head-on.
We must also stop blurring the lines between the Minister of Police and the Commissioner of Police. A minister walking around on an illegal mine site serves no purpose; it’s not his job. Applauding such actions as success is futile when the problem is much more extensive, such as 4 000 people mining illegally.
Next, we must consider restructuring the police, starting with sacking the top ten and conducting a skills audit. A subsequent polygraph examination can help identify corruption, a pervasive issue in our Police Service management. It has become too easy for organised crime to thrive in South Africa.
When I say we should ban the blue light mafia, I mean we need a new system with the right ethics and integrity. We need to stop any corrupt activities and make room for experienced personnel rather than politically connected individuals. We must also restore specialized units, like the Scorpions, who keep each other accountable. Government shouldn’t have all the power; policing bodies must keep each other in check.
We need Special Courts for bad cops to expedite cases, holding police to a higher standard. An example can be taken from El Salvador, where they reduced the murder rate from 110 per 100,000 to 8 per 100,000 within two years.
Regarding devolution, we must ensure that it doesn’t become a matter of egos and political showboating. It must be about civil society and political parties working together for a better future. In recent events, such as the July 2021 riots, civil society has proven its ability to change the narrative and stop violence.
We must vote and take responsibility as civil society. Get involved in local levels, be it neighbourhood watch, community policing, or social projects. We must take extreme ownership and make a lifestyle change.
In my concluding remarks, I would like to emphasize that associating with the ANC is akin to associating with a criminal cartel. They cannot say they don’t support crime. I would argue that the ANC and the South African Police Service are two of the biggest organised crime syndicates in this country.
Incidents like what happened at Eskom and the massacre at Marikana were known, yet improper appointments led to ineffective resolutions. The corruption runs deep, and we must face it head-on to make a difference.
Read more: If Ian Cameron were Minister of Police…
Masimola knew about Khomotso Phahlane and his corruption, but now he’s the National Commissioner. So, if you, as a CEO, associate with ANC and participate in this roundtable discussion, you’re squandering your time. And the next challenge to the CEOs might sound a bit facetious on my part, but I say it out of frustration. These CEOs are quick to speak. I see the CEO of Discovery, always well-dressed in a beautiful office, but I never see that same CEO sitting in court next to a woman who was gang-raped, helping her through her immense struggle. I’m not suggesting that everyone should do this, but I’d like to see these CEOs get involved at the grassroots level instead of scoring points with insincere charity projects. Start giving the money to organisations like ours and others who are committed to civil rights and who genuinely get the job done.
It always bothers me that everyone asks why I talk about it so much, and that when I walk afterwards, I must sanitise and change my clothes at the front door. I lost two points there. Nevertheless, I still have hope in South Africa. I say all these things to provoke something in civil society. There are too many complaints and too few people stepping forward. You must take responsibility for your surroundings; it’s too easy just to blame the ANC. Yes, they’re a criminal cartel. We all know that. But what are you doing in your local community to make a difference?
There’s a poem by Theodore Roosevelt about the man in the arena. A few years ago, General Roland De Vries showed it to me. It asks whether you are the man in the arena, your face marred by dust, sweat, and blood? It’s simple to criticise from the outside, but you must be the one getting down and dirty. I want to challenge all of you to start working in that space. I hope everyone watching this will join a CPF or a neighbourhood watch. I truly believe we can change things if the modern UDF system that Corne’ Mulder suggests works as it should. But politics alone isn’t the solution. It’s essential, but it must be balanced with civil society. And I won’t mention business here because big corporate South Africa has failed us in that regard.
I want to conclude this discussion by dedicating it to a very brave lady called Patricia Mashale. Patricia and I have become friends over the last year. You may have watched interviews with her; she is extraordinarily brave and speaks for thousands of whistleblowers in the South African Police service. I want to honour her today and say that we still have brave people in the South African police service and the criminal justice system who want to change the narrative. It’s up to us to start influencing that narrative.
- BN@10: SA’s imminent oil and gas boom – Lorimer shares latest facts on nation’s untapped treasure
- BN@10: GG Alcock – SA’s economy in far better shape than believed, growing too, just not where you think
- BN@10: Eskomite no more, Jan Oberholzer shines a light on the future of load-shedding
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.