15 March 2017

South Africa: President Addresses Border Communities' Crime Concerns

Pretoria — President Jacob Zuma says government will take visible action to combat crime in KwaZulu-Natal that is causing tension between South Africans and Mozambicans.

He made the commitment on Tuesday when he visited uMhlabuyalingana Local Municipality to meet the community and hear their concerns.

The Presidency said the visit has intensified the campaign of eradicating crime as it drew all the spheres of government to deal with the serious tensions in the area between citizens and migrants or visitors from neighbouring sister countries.

Last month, President Zuma took the fight against crime to Soshanguve Block L, in Pretoria - an area that was mentioned in the State of the Nation Address. He also visited Nyanga in Cape Town where residents live in daily fear of being attacked by marauding criminals.

The visits are part of the 2017 radical socio-economic transformation programme and the fight against crime, an apex priority alongside dealing with poverty, inequality and unemployment.

On Tuesday in KwaZulu-Natal, President Zuma went to the local police station which he found to be severely under-resourced and also went to inspect the borderline between South Africa and Mozambique

"He was shown where and how vehicles especially 4x4 or SUVs are taken by force from South Africans and driven across the border.

"The owners are told to pay a sum of money to get their cars back and some mentioned sums from R15 000 to R50 000 by the alleged Mozambican hijackers reportedly working with some locals," the Presidency said.

President Zuma urged the local communities of uMhlabuyalingana and surrounding municipalities of Umkhanyakude, Hlabisa and Jozini to renew their trust in the police and work together with them to combat cross-border crime, especially the car hijackings in the area.

He undertook to look into the issues raised by the community, especially the suspicion that some members of the police are alleged to work with the crime syndicates.

He encouraged the community to provide information on specific cases of police involvement and avoid generalisations.

President Zuma said national departments, particularly the Police, Defence, State Security, Home Affairs, Social Development Departments, and others would make a strong intervention after his visit, working with the provincial government and municipalities.

"The Department of Environmental Affairs will look into the complaints raised by the community about the Isimangaliso Wetland Park which was said to be not serving the developmental and transformation needs of the community," the Presidency said.

President Zuma emphasised that South Africa enjoyed strong and warm historical relations with Mozambique and that crime should not be allowed to sour these relations.

The President crossed over the border and greeted the Mozambican police and Mozambican residents living on the borderline and was greeted warmly by the Mozambican nationals.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said during the visit that the provincial government had set aside an amount of R48 million to fight cross border crime.

Premier Mchunu said rural communities living in borders are under a huge yoke of poverty and have to bear the burden of stock theft and car hijackings. The problem has heightened tension between South Africans and brothers and sisters from Mozambique, in particular.

He said the role of the police is critical in fighting cross-border crime, but will be enhanced by the cooperation between many other departments across all spheres of government.

The Premier said the President's intervention will strengthen co-operation with different government departments look set to play their role in creating an environment that will result in the eradication of cross-border crime.

While Government pushes for economic integration through free trade, the Premier added that it is unfortunate that the international criminal networks are celebrating as they believe that they will have access to this lucrative market.

"Reports suggest that the criminal groups have gained unlimited access to various trans-national networks using sophisticated technology and in most cases they are assisted by corrupt officials working for government departments and law enforcement agencies.

"There are lucrative criminal enterprises operating in Africa, Europe and Asia who have been, for many years trading in endangered species such as rhino horns, Ivory, abalone, copper, precious wood, precious stones and precious metals.

"In charge of these enterprises - are professional Kingpins who recruit vulnerable unemployed people especially the youth for a variety of illicit activities that generate millions of rands for them," the Premier said.

President Zuma was accompanied by the Premier, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of State Security David Mahlobo, Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi, Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu, MEC for Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda as well as Mayors and local traditional leader Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe.

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