An open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma has addressed the issue of growing crime rates in the country, sparking a social media campaign to gain the leader's attention. The letter challenges Zuma to stand up for his citizens and tackle the problem of violent crime gripping the country.
The letter was written by veteran broadcaster and community activist Yusuf Abramjee, who said: "I write to you with a heavy heart for the many men, women and children whose lives are lost or destroyed by crime." The letter has prompted South Africans to tweet their own message to the President, with #DearMrPresident quickly becoming a trending topic on Wednesday morning (16 September).
Data compiled by Crime Stats SA indicates that 5,900 crimes are reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) every day and over 43 people are murdered on average every day in the country. Furthermore, recent statistics released by the Institute for Economic Peace (IEP) revealed that South Africa is the 15th worst country in the world when it comes to societal safety and security, and the 8th most violent country in the world with a murder rate of 31 per 100,000 people.
However, while crime is still a problem in South Africa, SAPS data revealed that the situation has improved in the last decade. The total number of reported crimes fell from 2.7 million in 2004 to 2.2 million in 2014. Despite this, South Africans are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of muggings, burglaries and murders.
Hundreds of citizens took to the streets of Johannesburg on 6 September to denounce the crime epidemic in the country. Organised by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the march was said to be "a call for peace and divine intervention in the face of a rise in the number of murders, muggings, robberies, shootings, drug abuse, as well as the killing of police officers nationwide."
Johannesburg resident Nelly Khuzwayo told Voices of America: "We are facing a lot of crimes here. You can't even walk. I have seen a lot of people being mugged, during the day, night."
Others took to Twitter calling on President Zuma to resign. Twitter user @b_khumza wrote: "Zuma you have managed to unite the nation, almost all of us want you out!"
@YaseenMoosa wrote: "If left unchecked, crime and corruption in SA is gonna do more harm to our futures than apartheid did!!"
President Zuma called for South Africans to embrace new crime fighting strategies. Speaking at the SAPS's commemoration for officers who were killed since April 2014, the President said: "Crime is no longer affecting the ordinary people but it is affecting the police, the people who are meant to protect us."
Police statistics revealed that 86 police officers were killed during the 2014/15 financial year (1 April 2014 – 31 March 2015) and 58 killed between January and August 2015.