FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: How the state and its laws are failing us all


Years of the state’s indifference and the failure of law enforcement are finally showing. South Africa has become a continuously violent state where criminals are increasingly brazen because the state has allowed for this state of affairs.

Foreign nationals and women have become victims of this indifference by the state to ensure that there is law and order. In fact, even the term “law and order” is now dressed in politically incorrect language mainly because it was the language of the apartheid government.

That is why we have had ministers of “safety and security” and later of “police” just to ensure that the language and perhaps the mindset of the past is left in the past.

Stripped of its academic and sociological implications, I doubt if there is any South African who would not like to see plain old-fashioned law and order in our society.

To be clear, there is no law that can make people not be xenophobic. Put differently, one cannot legislate that individuals do not hold bigoted views against other individuals or groups.

That said, the law can do something about those who act out their hate. In South Africa, we have not seen too many criminal convictions and sentencing of those caught raiding spaza shops owned by foreign nationals.

In the same breath, we also know that the state has not acted when communities have complained that certain foreign nationals were dealing in narcotics or illegal prostitution rackets and doing so in their neighbourhoods.

The state has done nothing to prove or disprove regular complaints that some foreign shop owners were selling expired or even counterfeit food, drinks and even medication.

The state has done nothing much about the South Africans at Home Affairs who enable those who should not be in the country, to be here. When last did you hear about Home Affairs officials being arrested for being part of a racket selling citizenship or documents illegally?

Again, it would be naïve to hope that the state can prevent domestic violence and even rape – because these crimes generally happen in private spaces such as homes and are often committed by people known to the victims.

But the state can do better to ensure that those who rape, assault and murder women are punished swiftly and harshly enough to ensure that others who might be tempted to commit a similar crime, are dissuaded.

Unfortunately, incompetent and corrupt policing, prosecution and even the jail system ensure that perpetrators of crimes against women get away with murder – sometimes literally.

So, as we start reflecting on the events in the country in the last week, we will not do worse than dedicate a chapter to how the failure of law enforcement, along with other ingredients in this cocktail, brought us here.

As I said earlier, no law can make anyone like foreigners, as much as it cannot change men who hate women and see them as merely existing for the men’s pleasure and servitude. One cannot legislate patriarchy and misogyny away.

But there is plenty the law can do to ensure that whatever bad thoughts and inclinations you might have, you keep them to yourself, or even better, discard them soonest. So far, the law has failed in that respect.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.