Public 'misled' about crime letters
2/16/2010 11:46:00 PM
Cape Town - Trade union Solidarity was misleading the public about its 23 000 letters on crime from concerned South Africans, the presidency said on Tuesday.
Responding to the union's claim that the presidency refused to accept the letters, it said the union had not made the necessary arrangements ahead of the delivery of the letters, spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said.
"There were no plans officially from our side to receive those letters."
The union had spoken to a junior staff member in the president's office; its members did not identify themselves, saying only they had documents to deliver. The staffer then told the union where to deliver the letters.
"There was nothing extraordinary about that because we get documents all the time," Magwenya said.
Solidarity's deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann led a three-member delegation to Parliament to personally deliver the letters to President Jacob Zuma.
Hermann told the media the presidency had confirmed it would accept the letters at the visitors' centre.
After being shunted back and forth, the union eventually dumped the letters on the centre's steps, hoping the presidency would collect them.
Hermann claimed the presidency's action was a slap in the face for crime victims.
"South Africans have shared their pain with the president by writing letters. Parents wrote about the murder of their children.
"Women wrote about the pain of a spouse that died as a result of crime, and ordinary South Africans wrote about the influence that crime has had on them."
He said the presidency's refusal spurred the union to continue its campaign and urged South Africans to continue writing letters to Zuma.
While Solidarity had a democratic right to mobilise the public on issues, the presidency felt the union's campaign was "based on a false premise.
"They did not hear what they wanted to in the State of the Nation address, therefore they think this administration has reneged on its undertaking to fight crime. That is false," Magwenya said.
"It’s totally unnecessary to mobilise South Africans to write letters on an issue that the president has already committed himself to.
"Fighting crime and corruption remain part and parcel of government's key priorities," he said.
The revamp of the criminal justice system and more visible policing were among the initiatives to do so.
The government admitted that crime, particularly its violent nature, was a problem and it was "laughable" for anyone to say the government was not committed to fighting it.
"There is so much being done... we need to allow reasonable time for the police to do their work and for all the changes in the criminal justice system to take effect."
Magwenya urged Hermann not to proceed with the campaign and asked him if he had sought a meeting with the police ministry over the union's concerns. Magwenya said he offered to facilitate this meeting.
The government needed South Africans to help it fight crime, rather than take up its time through "publicity gimmicks".
Solidarity said earlier that by 13:00 on Tuesday, more than 27 000 letters had been received from South Africans on the website www.dearpresident.co.za.