THOUSANDS of anti-crime protesters marched through South Africaâ€™s capital on Tuesday, shouting down a cabinet minister who received their petition calling on the government to make fighting crime a priority.
About 5 000 South Africans marched on Pretoriaâ€™s Union Buildings, where President Thabo Mbeki has his office, to protest against the sky-high crime rate.
Bearing posters like: “I may not see tomorrow”, the protesters called for decisive action, especially ahead of the Soccer World Cup which South Africa hosts in 2010.
“We say Mr President the people are ready. Safety and security is our collective responsibility particularly at this time when we are preparing to welcome to our shores the citizens of the world in 2010,” the memorandum handed to one of Mbekiâ€™s cabinet ministers said.
South Africa, which has among the worldâ€™s worst statistics for violent crime outside a war zone, is battling perceptions of being an unsafe destination ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
Murders, hijackings and rape are everyday occurrences. Police figures show nearly 20 000 people are murdered a year, sparking public anger at the inability of authorities to ensure safety.
The protesters booed and heckled prisons minister Ngconde Balfour, who received the memorandum in the company of two other cabinet ministers.
“Where is Mbeki, we want Mbeki”, some members of the crowd shouted.
Critics have slammed Mbekiâ€™s government for not doing enough to combat crime.
Many South Africans have been calling for the return of the death penalty but main opposition leader Hellen Zille said South Africa needed an efficient criminal justice system that was not influenced by politicians.
“Before you talk about the death penalty you have to be able to catch criminals, you have to be able to produce evidence against them, you have to make them appear in court and you have to produce forensic evidence,” Zille said. â€” Reuters.