Pretoria - Students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) have peppered Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa with burning questions since the release of crime statistics last week.
Mthethwa was addressing students at the fourth annual young men and women empowerment conference at the Ga-Rankuwa campus on Saturday.
The recent events at Lonmin mine in Marikana and several recent reports of alleged corruption in government ranks had students worried about the competence of police.
Mthethwa was bombarded with questions about the police’s alleged killing of the 34 Marikana miners.
One student asked: “It is the general view that police officers were brutal to miners and that it has created a rift between society and the police. What is your view on that?”
Another asked: “Why did police have to kill the miners?”
Mthethwa responded that he could not say too much as it was subject to a national commission of inquiry.
However, he did say little was reported on the events leading up to August 16. “The violence at the mine had been ongoing since August 9.
“People protesting with placards are acceptable but when they exchange their placards for dangerous weapons, that is not acceptable.
“Ten people were hacked to death and some of their private parts were taken. Two were security officers who were set alight after being killed and two were police officers.
“Let’s wait for the commission of inquiry to go through the process. People will then see what really happened. Let’s not blame anyone until we know more,” he said.
Somesto Boa, a second-year local government finance student, asked Mthethwa why ministers who had allegedly committed crimes were treated differently from the average man in the street who committed similar crimes.
Mthethwa responded: “The question is can those allegations [against ministers] be substantiated. I don’t know any ministers who are involved in crime. An allegation is an allegation and must be proved first.”
Afterwards Boa said he was not satisfied with Mthethwa’s answer. “He was avoiding the question and defending those ministers,” Boa said.
In his address, Mthethwa told students a very worrying aspect of crime was why it was so violent in SA.
The problem needed to be analysed and recommendations on how to tackle the problem were needed.
“Crime does not simply disappear; we must create conditions that will make it disappear. This requires concerted, united action by all citizens. It cannot be left to police alone.
He encouraged students not to become “armchair critics” but to become active participants in helping the government deal with crime.
Although he touched on various crimes, such as rape and robbery, he focused on drug related crimes that had shown an increase.
“We as a society should all be involved in a mass-based campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. We need to double our efforts to get young men and woman involved in sport and cultural activities to take the youth off the streets.”