You/Huisgenoot Anti-Crime Petition

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Mefiante (February 08, 2007, 12:52:12 PM):
I received an e-mail today, purporting to collect signatures towards petitioning SA's leaders that they address the country's crime situation with verve and alacrity instead of the obtuse denialism we've experienced hitherto. The e-mail indicated that the petition was initiated by You and Huisgenoot magazine. Being ever wary - and weary - of spam, I sniffed around a bit to find out whether the petition is a genuine initiative.

And, yes, it is genuine. It can be found and signed here, which probably presents, from the petitioners' point of view, a far more efficient option than blasting the entire contents of your address book all over the playing field.

bluegray (February 08, 2007, 14:42:38 PM):
I don't see that it will do much good though. I can not think for a moment that Mbeki is not aware of the problem.
He'll have to be pretty ignorant and stupid for that to be true. I think the current attitude has more to do with political reasons that ignorance.
Maybe thousands of signatures will carry a bit more political weight - I don't think so.

To me this is another example of providing an outlet for people to vent their frustration. They can pat themselves on the back and say they tried to make a difference. It's a quick and easy fix to make yourself feel better. But real change will require more effort than that. Most people just don't want to move out of their comfort zone to make it happen.
Mefiante (February 08, 2007, 17:19:57 PM):
The way I see it, the main issue is hardly whether our leaders are aware of the current social situation or not; the issue is the flagrant disregard for democratic principles, if not something equally disturbing, namely dereliction of duty.

Let me explain.

It is probable that they are at least as aware of the crime realities as any person living in this country, and yet they apparently choose to ignore, deny and repeatedly refuse to address them in any meaningful way.

These are the people who are the elected representatives of all voting South Africans, their point of focus and entry into matters that are of concern to the voting majority. Prime among their duties is protecting the rights enshrined in the constitution, which include the right to life, safety and security. This duty cannot be delegated for fear of abuses resulting from self-interest, so it is both spurious and indeed insulting to pass the buck straight back to the people who only ask that their elected leaders do their designated jobs.

At the same time, various media constitute the only real handbrake that stops government and/or business from committing abuses of power against people. Or so the theory goes. Our South African media have largely forgotten that they are meant play this rĂ´le, and they have consequently in many cases served people poorly, especially with regard to violent crime to which we have become inured to the point of callous disregard.

Two recent TV-led opinion polls showed results in which some 98 per cent of respondents agreed that "crime is out of control," and 86 per cent thought that "FNB was wrong to drop its anti-crime advertising campaign." Now it is true that these polls were informal and without any controls against sampling error, and as such are open to criticism; nevertheless, in each case there were around 10,000 respondents, which is a statistically significant sample size. It is, moreover, reasonable to assume that, given the platform (TV and cell 'phone response), most respondents fell into the very groups most affected by crime, namely the lower and middle classes.

Even allowing for as much as 20 per cent sampling error, the results would still be compelling: at least 78 per cent of people think that crime is out of control, and more than 69 per cent think that FNB was wrong to abort its campaign. In any language, these numbers are majorities, yet our leaders continue to ignore them. Any alert democracy would, for the sake of its own survival, probably initiate remedial action. At the very least, a referendum would be launched to gauge properly the public sentiment.

We see nothing of the sort, and that is why I think that our leaders are delinquent in respect of democratic principles and their duties.

bluegray (February 09, 2007, 00:11:50 AM):
Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
-- Thomas Jefferson

Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.
-- Laurence J. Peter

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
-- George Bernard Shaw
Mefiante (February 09, 2007, 08:12:15 AM):
Two can play at this game:

"When the people are afraid of the government, that's tyranny. But when the government is afraid of the people, that's liberty." - Thomas Jefferson.

I just think it is being perhaps overly negative when it is said that initiatives of the type in question probably won't be effective. Such pessimism works in concert with a dearth of channels for popular expression (e.g. our media that mostly jigs to the government piper's tune, when they should be needling it stridently over even the smallest of indiscretions) to preserve the government's apparent complacency, so you've already resigned the game before it's even started. But SA's very own history refutes the idea that many voices, or, pushed up a notch, civil disobedience are ineffective tools of persuasion. It is time that this government be made to feel the force of the other end of the selfsame tactics they themselves employed to get into power in the first place.

With reference to the above Jefferson quote, it's certainly not the case that "the people are afraid of the government," but it is equally certainly not the case that "the government is afraid of the people." I'll leave it for the reader to work out the implications of that.



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