Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mbeki's double standards

17/04/2008 13:03  - (SA)      

Georgina Guedes

African politicians have to dance to two different tunes, representing their countries on a global stage, while still remaining sensitive to local politics.

Thabo Mbeki has proven himself to be a global thinker, and has often come under criticism for this from his own people. But the one issue upon which he has remained intractable has been Zimbabwe.

The concept of "quiet diplomacy", a euphemism for "looking the other way while atrocities are committed" if ever I heard one, is a bizarre one. But a step beyond quiet diplomacy, publicly stating that the world should wait for the Zimbabwean election results, is even stranger.

Standing by a lunatic dictator as he flaunts his own agenda in the face of derailed democratic processes is a very questionable stance for a head of state, notions of brotherhood in the struggle notwithstanding. Has Mbeki forgotten that it was democracy that installed him for two terms in South Africa in the first place? How can he stand by a man who seeks to stymie this process?

Not that I agree with much of what they have done in recent years, but the Americans invade countries for flouting democracy. Zimbabwe should count its (possibly last remaining) blessings that it doesn't have any oil, or it would have to contend with being bombed as well as starving and without essential services.

The global community

Realistically, Zimbabwe needn't fear invasion by democracy champions, but it does continue to be excluded from a global community, and in a rapidly shrinking world, inclusion is essential for survival.

Naysayers insist that it is only because of Western boycotts that Zimbabwe is in such a precarious economic and political position, but this is ignoring the fact that these same powers boycotted the Apartheid government in South Africa, with the result of bringing African leadership into power.

To participate in a global community, a country has to embrace democracy and steer clear of human rights abuses. Democracy isn't just a mechanism to install a leader, after which he can do whatever he wants, it's an ongoing process, involving free and fair elections, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and association and almost no accidents in prison cells with uneven floor tiling.

For Thabo Mbeki to stand by a man who is doing the same things in his country that were done to black South Africans only two short decades ago is a sickening double standard, and a very negative indictment on African politics indeed.

Georgina Guedes is a freelance journalist. She has nothing funny to say today


NPA stands up for Scorpions

Boyd Webb
April 16 2008 at 06:53AM

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has defended the Scorpions after the ANC accused the crime fighting unit of sheltering former apartheid security police intent on destroying the ruling party.

It was reacting to accusations by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who also accused the Scorpions of acting like an opposition party.

On Tuesday, Mantashe said some of the reasons the ruling party wanted to disband the Scorpions was its "unfair" treatment of senior members and the clear antipathy the unit had towards the party.

"We have committed a mistake by putting a lot of the special branch into the NPA and they see their erstwhile opponents as the same enemy today. That is why they have become a political organisation with an objective to fight the ANC."

But NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali hit back, saying: "The NPA is not a haven for criminals, nor is it there to shield those whose mission it is to destabilise democratic order in this country.

"Our conduct has to contribute towards enhancing public confidence in the institutions of state and not sponsor efforts to undermine them."

He said the NPA's business was to investigate and prosecute those it believed had committed crimes.

"We are not a self-serving political organisation, but an institution of state accountable to parliament and to South Africa by extension."

Tlali said all Scorpions staff members had the necessary security clearance to do their operational duties.

This is not the first time the NPA has had to defend one of its own from attacks by the ANC.

In January, the ANC's national working committee accused Gerrie Nel, the Scorpions' Gauteng head and lead investigator in the Jackie Selebi investigation, of being a member of the apartheid-era riot squad. The NPA issued a statement rejecting this as false.

On Tuesday Mantashe also said the Scorpions had to be closed to make way for a more aggressive crime fighting unit to deal with organised crime.

The Scorpions, he said, solved most of its cases through plea bargains.

"We need professional investigators and detectives who fight crime and corruption.

"We don't want people who will give plea bargains to everybody as long as you can incriminate the ANC," he said.

His statement followed a meeting with DA leader Helen Zille on Tuesday, when she again tried to convince the ANC that its decision to disband the Scorpions was foolish.

"We believe it's critical for all South Africans, especially the poor, to have a force that can prevent South Africa from becoming a state in which corruption is endemic," she said.


Diverging paths

April 16 2008 at 07:37PM

By Michael Georgy

South African President Thabo Mbeki's refusal to take a tougher line on neighbouring Zimbabwe has further damaged his credibility and handed rival Jacob Zuma another opening to improve his image.

Regional leaders last year mandated Mbeki to lead mediation between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition but his insistence on "quiet diplomacy" failed to make headway.

As a post-election deadlock deepened in Zimbabwe following the failure to release results from the March 29 presidential poll, Mbeki continued to downplay the situation, saying there was no crisis.

His steadfast refusal to change his stance has brought a flood of criticism and given Zuma a golden chance to strengthen his image abroad, where his corruption trial in August has raised concerns about the future direction of South Africa.

If Zuma can survive the case, he is front runner to succeed Mbeki in 2009, having already ousted him last December as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"If Jacob Zuma could broker some kind of resolution in Zimbabwe that the international community, particularly Britain and the United States would be happy with, that would probably go a long way to alleviate concerns that other countries have regarding Jacob Zuma's own leadership ability," said analyst Mark Schroeder.

Analysts say Zuma may be angling to become a leading mediator in the crisis to boost his international capital.

In his toughest statement yet on Zimbabwe, Zuma expressed apprehension on Wednesday at the post-election deadlock and its impact on the neighbouring region, and criticised the delay in issuing results that Mbeki has defended.

Mbeki is already seen by critics as a lame duck president and has been battered on a range of issues, where his reluctance to change direction has been similar to his stance on Zimbabwe.

He has presided over an economic boom but crime and poverty are still rife. A major crisis over lack of power generation has raised fears about the possible impact on the broader economy.

Critics blame Mbeki for ignoring warnings years ago that the country lacked the power capacity to fuel a booming economy.

He also infuriated Aids activists for years by questioning accepted Aids science while the disease killed about 1 000 people a day and by delaying the wide distribution of anti-retroviral drugs.

Zuma, without Mbeki's education and intellect but oozing with the charisma he lacks, portrays himself both as a man of the people and someone who can keep foreign investment flowing into Africa's biggest economy.

His decisive response to the Zimbabwe issue, backed by the ANC and his trade union allies, has raised his stature.

"If you take the new ANC leadership generally, I think this is positive for them. It will enhance their image in the eyes of the world. I think there has been lot of anxiety about what the new Zuma-ANC is going to be like. They are showing there is greater resolve than there has been under Mbeki," said veteran political commentator Allister Sparks.

Under fire for his domestic policies, Mbeki wants to be remembered as a champion of African causes, despite what critics say is ineffectiveness in Zimbabwe, which has flooded his country with millions of economic migrants and at times dented the rand currency.

"His political leadership is fragile but he is trying to work on a legacy and the legacy he is trying to work is very much in terms of Africa and southern Africa," said Susan Booysen, a political analyst at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Just before leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gathered for an emergency summit on Zimbabwe in Lusaka on Saturday, Mbeki flew to Harare for talks with Mugabe.

As Zimbabweans anxiously awaited results of an election they hoped would ease food and food shortages and hyper-inflation, Mbeki walked hand in hand with Mugabe on the airport tarmac. It's an image that may haunt him if Zimbabwe's catastrophic downward spiral continues.

Mbeki was under the spotlight again on Wednesday when he chaired a meeting of key members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the African Union at which Zimbabwe became a key topic despite his efforts to focus on other issues.

Mbeki, current rotating president of the Security Council, had resisted pressure from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Western powers to discuss Zimbabwe.

Mbeki is unlikely to budge, analysts say.

"Zimbabwe has been one of his leading issues. For him to accept backing down to the ANC right now would be a huge slap in his face, a huge embarrassment," said Schroeder, regional director for sub-Saharan Africa at risk analysis firm Stratfor, Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

"He is certainly a stubborn leader," Schroeder said.


Mbeki defends Zim stance

17/04/2008 10:36  - (SA) 

Johannesburg - South African President Thabo Mbeki defended his "quiet diplomacy" approach in Zimbabwe saying that "loud diplomacy" was no diplomacy and that his "no crisis" assessment had been misinterpreted, South African radio reported on Thursday.

"This story I said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe ... I haven't the slightest clue where it comes from," Mbeki said following a special UN Security Council session in New York, where African leaders were pressed to act on the post-election impasse in Zimbabwe.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mbeki said his declaration in the Zimbabwean capital Harare at the weekend that there was no crisis was in response to a question about "the elections ... not about the socio-economic conditions or anything like that".

Mbeki, SADC's mediator in Zimbabwe, has been under fire in recent days for downplaying the tensions in South Africa's neighbour to the north.

Examining criticism of his softly-softly approach to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Mbeki asked: "What is loud diplomacy? Well it is not diplomacy, it can't be."

While some countries "may shout", southern African countries had a responsibility to try to broker agreement between Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mbeki said.

"I am quite certain it would be wrong for us to be shouting at the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission)," he said.

Nineteen days after Zimbabweans voted in presidential elections the state-controlled ZEC is refusing to release the results.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he won the presidency, but Mugabe's party says neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won outright and that a run-off is needed.

'A stolen election would not be an election at all'

"The credibility of the democratic process in Africa could be at stake here," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council meeting on UN-African co-operation.

"If there is a second round of elections, they must be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with international observers."

Mbeki's remarks about "loud diplomacy" appeared aimed at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leader of Zimbabwe's former colonial power, who warned Mugabe against stealing the election.

"A stolen election would not be an election at all," Brown said in New York.

A close aide to Mugabe reacted angrily to Brown's remarks accusing Britain of bribing election officials to achieve "regime change" and Brown of treating Zimbabwe like a colony.

"We tell him (Brown) clearly and without ambiguity that we are not a colony of the British," Patrick Chinamasa, who was reappointed as Justice Minister by Mugabe despite the poll outcome being unknown, said in remarks reported by the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

Meanwhile, South African police said they had cleared a Chinese ship carrying weapons, allegedly for Zimbabwe, to dock in the port of Durban.

"There are arms on the vessel and the ship is on the outer anchorage of the port and it's been docked here since April 14," a spokesperson for the police explosives unit in Durban said.

A customs official told Sapa on Wednesday there was a shipment destined for Zimbabwe.

It was not possible to immediately verify the report with Zimbabwean authorities. - Sapa-dpa


US paper slams Mbeki

16/04/2008 15:55  - (SA)

Cape Town - The respected Washington Post newspaper has blasted President Thabo Mbeki for his policy towards Zimbabwe and accused the South African president of siding with Robert Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.

In a scathing editorial published on Tuesday the paper calls President Mbeki's foreign policy "perverse and immoral".

It says South Africa has consistently allied itself with the world's rogue states and against the Western democracies since serving a term on the UN Security Council last year.

South Africa "has defended Iran's nuclear programme and resisted sanctions against it; shielded Sudan and Burma from the sort of pressure the United Nations once directed at the apartheid regime; and enthusiastically supported one-sided condemnations of Israel by the UN Human Rights Council".

President Mbeki said on Saturday there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe after holding his first face-to-face talks with Robert Mugabe since the Zimbabwe's disputed March 29 elections.

Mbeki, who stopped in Harare on his way to join southern African leaders in Zambia for an emergency meeting on Zimbabwe, said people should wait for the election commission to announce the long-awaited presidential result.

The Post said in its editorial that the only good news in "this sordid story" is that Mbeki's policy is increasingly unpopular in South Africa.

"The new president of Mr Mbeki's own African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has distanced himself from the Zimbabwe posture, as have the party's secretary general and treasurer.

"Zuma defeated Mr Mbeki in a party election in December and is the front-runner to succeed him when he leaves office in a year. So democracy may yet rectify a foreign policy that is shaming South Africa - and preventing an end to Zimbabwe's misery".

Read the Washington Post editorial here.


Mbeki keeps mum on Zim

16/04/2008 21:20  - (SA)

New York - The UN secretary-general and the leaders of Britain and the African Union urged Zimbabwe on Wednesday to ensure that the outcome of the presidential election reflects the will of the people and is not rigged.

"A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on African peace and security issues.

After 18 days, Zimbabwean electoral officials have yet to say whether President Robert Mugabe or opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won March 29 presidential elections.

Brown, whose country was the former colonial ruler of Zimbabwe, was the most outspoken, saying "no one thinks, having seen the results at polling stations, that president Mugabe has won this election".

'There is no crisis'

Meanwhile, SA President Thabo Mbeki who chaired the council meeting, made no mention of Zimbabwe, focusing instead on UN-AU relations and especially the issue of funding regional peacekeeping operations.

After meeting with Mugabe in Zimbabwe on Saturday, just before the SADC summit, Mbeki said "there is no crisis".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned at the failure to release the election results.

"Absent a transparent solution to this impasse, the situation could deteriorate further with serious implications for the people of Zimbabwe," he warned. "The credibility of the democratic process in Africa could be at stake here."

Brown echoed Ban saying, "the credibility of the democratic process depends on their being a legitimate government".

"So let a single clear message go out from here in New York, that we are and will be vigilant for democratic rights, that we stand solidly behind democracy and human rights for Zimbabwe and we stand ready to support Zimbabweans build a better future," the British prime minister said.

Praise for SADC

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, whose country heads the African Union, praised the Southern African Development Community, known as SADC, for its "tremendous job ... that has enabled the people of Zimbabwe to hold peaceful elections this time around".

"SADC remains seized of the situation in Zimbabwe to ensure that the will of the people of Zimbabwe is respected," Kikwete said. "This is the spirit of the meeting last week and it will be the spirit of future meetings to be held soon."

The leaders of SADC held a summit in Zambia that ended before dawn on Sunday with a weak declaration that failed to criticise the absent Mugabe.

The declaration called for the expeditious verification of election results in the presence of the candidates or their agents "within the rule of law", and urged "all parties to accept the results when they are announced".

Tsvangirai says he won the election outright and has accused Mugabe of withholding the results to maintain his 28-year grip on power. Independent tallies show Tsvangirai won, but not by enough to prevent a runoff.

International observers

Ban said "if there is a second round of elections, they must be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with international observers".

"I urge the leaders of SADC to continue their efforts," he said. "The UN stands ready to provide assistance in this regard."

South Africa, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, organised the meeting to focus on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, and African crises on the council's agenda. South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo insists that Zimbabwe is not on the agenda because it is being dealt with by SADC.

Mbeki, Kikwete and Brown all welcomed Ban's proposal to establish an AU-UN panel to consider how to finance and support peacekeeping operations undertaken by the AU and other regional organisations.

Mbeki-Brown meeting cancelled

Brown's scheduled meeting with Mbeki just before Wednesday's council meeting, where Zimbabwe's post-election crisis was expected to be high on the agenda, did not take place. It wasn't clear whether it was cancelled or would be rescheduled.

Brown told the council that in line with Kikwete's comments, "Britain supports those in the African Union and SADC who are working to ensure that the will of the Zimbabwean people be upheld".

"We will do everything to encourage these efforts and I'm pleased that SADC is to meet again this weekend," Brown said.


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Mbeki's Zim mediation 'a joke'

14/04/2008 21:06  - (SA) 

Pretoria - President Thabo Mbeki's mediation on Zimbabwe has become a joke, Zimbabwean civil society bodies said on Monday.

Several civil society groups under the banner of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in Zimbabwe slammed Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) reaction to the delay of the announcement of the March 29 presidential election in Zimbabwe.

"For the SADC to have mandated President Mbeki to continue with the (facilitation) exercise, that is the joke of the year," said Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions.

This comes after an emergency summit in Zambia over the weekend where SADC regional leaders asked Mbeki to continue his mediation efforts and for Zimbabwe's presidential election results to be released speedily.

At a media briefing on Monday at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria near Mbeki's office at the Union Buildings, Zimbabwe civil society groups said Mbeki's utterances that there was no crisis following the election was disappointing.

Said Irene Petras of Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights: "There is a measure of dishonesty as a facilitator saying 'there is no crisis in the country', there is a constitutional crisis; there is no parliament that can pass any laws, we have a caretaker president who cannot act with any legitimate powers, we have an election process which is in disarray...

"There is no separation of power and the rule of law is under attack especially through the use of political violence.

"I think any reasonable person would see there is a crisis which should be addressed in an honest manner, and it needs to be addressed urgently."

Petras said her organisation had already confirmed 130 political attacks, including on two persons who were killed, and a further 29 who were taken to hospital for severe beatings.

The groups said this was evidence of a "silent coup" taking place.

"The people of Zimbabwe have spoken, they have voted, what else are they supposed to do?

"(President Robert) Mugabe is saying no to the electoral process, he's saying no to the constitution of the country," said Gordon Moyo of Bulawayo Monitoring.

He said Zimbabweans' hopes lay with regional leaders but that the outcome of the weekend meeting was disappointing.

Abel Chikomo of the Media Monitoring Project: Zimbabwe said the SADC should have insisted on timelines for the release of the presidential election results.


Tsvangirai shocked at Mbeki

16/04/2008 07:27  - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai expressed shock and bewilderment on Tuesday at remarks by South African President Thabo Mbeki indicating there was no crisis in his homeland.

"I'm sure Zimbabweans and the international community were shocked at the conclusion of that statement," Tsvangirai said in an interview with South Africa's channel.

"I'm sure that such a misrepresentation creates the perception of quiet approval, which I think is quite shocking," he said.

"I can't explain what informs his position; because that kind of position runs contradictory to my interaction with him."

Mbeki had been widely criticised for his stance towards Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whom he met on Saturday in Harare while on his way to a regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit to discuss the situation.

"There is no crisis in Zimbabwe," Mbeki told journalists at the time. "The body authorised to release the results is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, let's wait for them to announce the results."

Duarte contradicts Mbeki

On Monday night, a spokesperson for Mbeki's own ruling African National Congress directly contradicted the president's remarks at a meeting of the party's central working committee.

"The ANC regards the (Zimbabwe) ruling party Zanu-PF as an ally. However, it is concerned with the state of crisis that Zimbabwe is in and perceives this as negative for the entire SADC region," said spokesperson Jesse Duarte.

She watered down her remarks in a formal written statement on Tuesday, saying the ANC, "regards the situation in Zimbabwe as dire, with negative consequences for the SADC region".

Mbeki was the chief mediator between Zimbabwe's governing Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the build-up to the election and was asked to continue his role by SADC at the weekend summit in Lusaka.

"If there was no crisis why was he appointed the mediator? That's one; two, if there was no crisis why would he want Zimbabwe to go to the SADC's extraordinary meeting?

"If there was no crisis why would the SADC be concerned about what was happening in Zimbabwe?" said Tsvangirai.


Tuesday, 15 April 2008

DA: Mbeki out of touch with reality in Zim

April 07 2008 at 04:25PM

Opposition parties on Monday criticised President Thabo Mbeki's assessment of Zimbabwe's elections.

Mbeki's remarks made in Britain on Sunday indicated he was either woefully out of touch with reality in Zimbabwe, or he was attempting to "deliberately mislead the world's media about the extent of the crisis in that country," the Democratic Alliance's Dianne Kohler-Barnard said.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille lambasted Mbeki's "flawed logic".

"To suggest that Africans are claiming their space and that African leaders are taking full responsibility for their problems at home and in the same breath to refer to Zimbabwe as an example of this is not only misleading, it borders on the delusional," De Lille said.

The argument that Zimbabwe's election process had been "more satisfactory" this time around was just not good enough for the people of Zimbabwe.

"The fact is that the people of Zimbabwe may indeed be claiming their space and voting responsibly to deal with their problems, but [President Robert] Mugabe is doing everything he can to deny them their rights."

The delay in releasing the presidential vote outcome was just more evidence that Mugabe was a tyrant, and as long as Mbeki continued to remain silent and failed to act on his Southern African Development Community (SADC) mandate, he would remain a silent partner of Mugabe's tyranny.

Mbeki should be at home in Africa lobbying African leaders in the African Union and the SADC to speak with Mugabe as a matter of urgency and insist he allow democracy to take its course, De Lille said.

Kohler-Barnard said to ensure Mbeki did not remain misinformed about how flawed the elections were, the DA would provide him with a copy of its minority report on the elections.

Kohler-Barnard was one of two DA MPs in the SA delegation in the SADC observer mission.

The report detailed the material flaws in the way the election was conducted, and showed there was "no way that the poll can be judged as having been free and fair", Kohler-Barnard said.

"The reality is that the elections were held in conditions where the odds were heavily stacked in favour of the governing party, Zanu-PF.

"The net result of this fundamentally undemocratic environment was that any opposition victory could occur only in spite of overwhelming odds designed to mitigate the possibility of such an eventuality," she said.

Mbeki had also suggested to the world community that it should wait for the results of a Presidential run-off before judging the situation in Zimbabwe.

"This position is nonsensical for a number of reasons including, most obviously, the question of how a run-off can be mooted before the results of the presidential poll have even been released.

"Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly such a run-off is likely to be held in an even less democratic environment, and one in which there is a real chance that all available measures (including violence and torture) will be used to stifle the democratic will of the people."

It was high time that Mbeki be honest and open about the true extent of the crisis in Zimbabwe, Kohler-Barnard said. - Sapa


Friday, 04 April 2008

Zuma remains flawed - Pityana

Cape Town - African National Congress president Jacob Zuma has failed to inspire confidence during his first few months at the party's helm, says University of SA (Unisa) Rector Barney Pityana.

"We now enter a new era. It is a time shrouded in anxiety and uncertainty with the looming presidency of Jacob Zuma and a new assertive leadership of the ANC," he told the Law Society of SA's annual general meeting in Stellenbosch on Monday.

"To many of us, Jacob Zuma, popularly elected by the branch delegates at Polokwane in December 2007, remains a flawed character in his moral conduct; he has been indicted for serious crimes that involve corruption and dishonesty.

"So far he does not encourage confidence in his understanding of policy, appearing as he does in the short-term to be making policy pronouncements on the hoof depending on whom he wishes to appease at any one moment.

"We have seen the leader flip-flop on crucial matters of policy - the death penalty, silence when his supporters mount a savage and uninformed attack on the judges, ostensibly with his concurrence, the dance of back-step on the reform of the labour market, and so on," said Pityana.

Would discredit the constitution

"Anyone aspiring to become a head of state must understand the obligation that binds one to honour the spirit and the letter of the constitution; to order their personal conduct as if it is an open constitutional text, to internalise its precepts as binding on one's life."

That was true of judges, ministers of state, and others who held public office.

Failure to do would discredit the constitution and erode an essential seal binding the nation, holding it together and inspiring confidence.

Pityana said: "That is the reason South Africans should be very concerned when the ANC Youth League confronts the deputy president of the Constitutional Court about remarks he is reported to have made at a private function, and the sentiment about the integrity and independence of judges that is thrown up, the effect of which is clearly to intimidate the judiciary.

"That is the reason that, as a people, we should be worried, very worried, when the integrity of judges is being put under question without justification,".

"We should equally be concerned when sitting judges appear to be behaving in a manner that is calculated to undermine the honour due to and status of judges."

'Popularising criminal conduct'

The fact of the matter was that when leaders behaved in a manner that showed a disregard for the law, or who were indicted for serious crimes, or who marshalled supporters to demonstrate within the precincts of the courts, they were popularising criminal conduct.

And when political rhetoric was being used as a shield to avoid or to stigmatise scrutiny, they made criminal conduct and the defence of those under criminal investigation, a political project of the same virtue as fighting for one's rights.

That was the same as electing convicted criminals to high political office, by advocating criminal conduct as political and thus making it acceptable to subvert the law.

Or to celebrate crimes by a certain class of criminals and turn entry into custody into a moment to be proud of.

"Malcolm Gladwell , writing about the manner in which New York City turned around the scourge of crime in the streets of New York, warns against normalising criminal conduct, or mainstreaming deviance such that leaders by their conduct 'give permission' to others to behave likewise,"said Pityana.

When leaders did that, they numbed citizens to aversion to such conduct and made it a very attractive "cat-and-mouse" game as long as one did not get caught.

"If that argument holds then rape and violence against women would not be an aversion that it should become, but a matter of affording the best criminal lawyer and succeed in casting doubt on the integrity of the accuser."

Society 'has become numbed'

The popularisation of crime of certain types put paid to the statements about leniency on crime.

The problem was less that criminals were "lightly treated" by the criminal justice system, but that society had become numbed by crime to the extent that citizens had become paralysed and unwilling to intervene.

Police did not receive assistance in their investigations from citizens.

"Trains are set on fire by commuters, and no one will come forward to report the criminals," he said.