President Cyril Ramaphosa says tackling crime and insecurity remains a key priority for government and his administration will continue equipping law enforcement agencies to ensure a safer and corruption-free South Africa.

Delivering the last State of the Nation Adress (SONA) of the sixth Parliament, the President noted that during this administration his government focused on re-equipping law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to work effectively. “Our first priority was to put a decisive stop to state capture, to dismantle the criminal networks within the state and to ensure that perpetrators faced justice. We appointed capable people with integrity to head our law enforcement agencies, government departments, security services and state companies, often through an independent and transparent processes,” he explained.

The President’s list of what the sixth administration has achieved in strengthening crime fighting initiatives included setting up of the Investigating Directorate as a specialised and multidisciplinary unit within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate corruption and other serious crimes. This initiative has achieved great progress in bringing those responsible for state capture to justice, with over 200 accused persons being prosecuted and many others under investigation.

President Ramaphosa told the joint sitting of Parliament that stolen funds are being recovered, freezing orders of R14 billion have been granted to the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit for state capture-related cases, and around R8.6 billion in corrupt proceeds have been returned to the state.

“A restored and revitalised SARS [South African Revenue Service] has collected R4.8 billion in unpaid taxes as a result of evidence presented at the Commission, while the Special Investigating Unit has instituted civil litigation to the value of R64 billion. We have taken steps, including through new legislation, to strengthen our ability to prevent money laundering and fraud and secure our removal from the “grey list” of the Financial Action Task Force,” he said.

The President believes South Africans deserve to be safe and to feel safe, to walk freely and without fear in their neighbourhoods and public spaces. To achieve this, the government has strengthened the ranks of the police through the recruitment of 20 000 police officers over the last two years and another 10 000 in the year to come. An extra 5 000 police officers have been deployed to Public Order Policing.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has launched Operation Shanela as a new approach to target crime hotspots, which resulted in over 285 000 arrests since May last year.

The President also reported that the Economic Infrastructure Task Teams that operate in all provinces have had important successes in combatting cable theft and preventing damage to critical infrastructure and illegal mining. Close collaboration with the private sector has seen a reduction in security incidents on the rail network.

“We launched the new Border Management Authority last year to improve the security of our borders and have already stopped over 100 000 people who tried to enter our country illegally,” said President Ramaphosa.

In his SONA the President also reflected on the development of the National Strategic Plan on gender-based violence (GBV), together with civil society, as a society-wide response to GBV.

Around R21 billion was dedicated over the medium term to the implementation of the six pillars of the plan, including the economic empowerment of women. New laws were introduced to strengthen the response of the criminal justice system to gender-based violence and provide better support to survivors of such violence.

Our ultimate goal, he said, is to end gender-based violence altogether by mobilising all of society, and as part of this, we support the call for a pledge that men in South Africa are invited to take to demonstrate their personal commitment to ending this scourge. Women are also in the process of developing their own pledge, he noted.

“We still have a long way to go to build safer communities, prevent violent crime, and protect our infrastructure. But there is no doubt that a professional, well-trained and properly resourced police force, working closely with communities, will make our country a safer place,” he said.

The government will continue to strengthen the law enforcement institutions, tackle gender-based violence and fight corruption to make South Africa a safe place for all.

“As the government, we have introduced laws and directed more resources to prosecuting perpetrators, providing better support to survivors, and promoting women’s economic empowerment. As a society, we must intensify our collective efforts to bring gender-based violence and femicide to an end,” President Ramaphosa.

Another highlight in the continuing efforts to strengthen crime fighting is to set up a digital forensic capability, with assistance from the business sector, to support the NPA Investigating Directorate, which in due course will be expanded to support law enforcement more broadly.

The President said legislation was currently before Parliament to establish the Investigating Directorate as a permanent entity with full investigating powers. “But there is much more work to be done to eradicate corruption completely”.

Sakhile Mokoena

9 February 2024