Statement at the 15th Interpol African Regional Conference, Cape Town – 1999/04/12

Cape Town, April 12,1999.

Chairperson,
President and Vice-Presidents of Interpol,
Chairperson of SARPCCO,
Distinguished delegates.

I am honoured to join my compatriots who have spoken before me to welcome you most warmly to South Africa on behalf of our President, Nelson Mandela, our government and people.

We would also like to thank you most sincerely for giving us the privilege to host this important Conference. We hope you will have a pleasant stay in the city and in our country and that your deliberations will further advance the universal cause of the struggle against international crime.

When the sceptics and pessimists look around Africa, all they see is a Continent doomed to failure.

If you, our distinguished guests, listened to and believed what these sceptics and pessimists in our own country will be saying even during the few days you will be here, you would depart convinced that, since we attained our freedom in 1994, all we have done is to descend to hell itself.

As we all know, what these prophets of doom would be focused on would be such serious matters as poverty on our Continent, conflict and war, the displacement of millions of people, the scourge of HIVAIDS, corruption and the issue about which you have convened here, crime.

It remains for us, the Africans who are grappling with these problems, to tell the story of how we are engaged in a mighty struggle to confront the very same challenges; to tell of the successes we are making and the reverses we are experiencing.

I others have lost hope because it is in their interest to lose hope, certainly we who inhabit this Continent cannot afford to lose hope. Neither, indeed, can we afford not to tackle these problems head-on, confident that we will emerge victorious, however difficult the path we have to travel may be.

That resolve to confront our real challenges, including the problem of crime, obviously begins with our own recognition that indeed a problem exists.

The determination to succeed begins with our own recognition that indeed a problem exists.

The determination to succeed begins with our acceptance of the fact that it is the reality of the existence of the problem which gives credibility to the strident voice of the pessimist.

It would be a matter of common cause among us that as a Continent, we are indeed confronted by such transnational crimes as terrorism, illegal trade in narcotics, firearms, vehicles, the smuggling of goods and persons, illegal money transfers and money laundering and the use of mercenaries.

Clearly, we have a common responsibility both to do everything we can within each of our countries to combat these crimes and to enhance the degree of co-operation among ourselves as Africans and between ourselves and the rest of the world.

Accordingly, we trust that the deliberations of this 15th Africa Regional Conference of Interpol will take all of us yet a step further towards achieving these goals.

Basing ourselves on our own experience in our own country, we must make the point that one of our critical challenges is to create a national climate that hostile to crime.

Successful law enforcement must, in part, be based on generalised, public opposition to crime and criminals and therefore a willingness and readiness among the people to cooperate with and assist the law enforcement agencies in their work.

For us, this has brought to the fore the challenge that faces especially the political leadership of our country. To create and entrench the climate hostile to crime, of which we have spoken, it is critical that this political leadership should occupy the front ranks in the sustained propagation of the anti-crime message and the encouragement of the masses of the people to participate in the work of ensuring greater safety and security for all citizens.

Needless to say, for this message to have credibility and thus produce positive results, it is vitally important that the messengers must, themselves, have credibility.

If I am, myself, involved in crime, corruptly misappropriating public resources for myself, my family and my friends, co-operating with criminals who may have outwardly respectable profiles, and otherwise show no respect for a law-governed society, clearly anything I say against crime will fall on deaf ears. More than this, what I do will serve as encouragement to the rest of the citizens themselves to follow the example of the leaders, to seek to enrich themselves by illegal means. In this situation, it becomes easy, and almost inevitable, for members of the criminal justice system themselves to participate in the commission of crime.

What we are trying to suggest is that this matter, a sustained national offensive to create a climate hostile to the commission of crime, must, surely, be one of the matters we discuss at gatherings such as these, which bring  together the most senior police officers of our Continent.

The second matter we must raise relates to the urgent need to enhance the capacity of all our criminal justice systems, including the police, to ensure that we make the necessary impact with regard both to combating crime and crime prevention.

Again relying on our own experience, we can say that we clearly face the challenge of ensuring, among other things, that we have the capacity to discharge our responsibilities with regard to crime intelligence, investigation, processing, storage, retrieval and correct and timely distribution and sharing of information, as well as preparation of cases for prosecution.

All this we have to do cognisant of the fact that we are fighting a war against crime syndicates, some of which originate outside of our countries and Continent, which have the money to finance successful and sophisticated criminal activities.

What this points to is the obvious need as much as possible to develop excellent training facilities, to share these facilities, as well as such best practices as we are able to develop in our individual jurisdictions and sub-regions.

Once more, we hope that this important Conference will give us the opportunity to reflect on this matter and look for ways in which we might take advantage of the possibilities of Interpol to access focused assistance from the rest of the world to help us to build the capacity we have spoken of.

It is obviously in the interest of the developed world to ensure that international criminal syndicates to not take advantage of the weakness of our law enforcement agencies to use our Continent as a base from which to do crime with impunity against both ourselves and the rest of the world.

The third point we must make is that our own experience emphasises the need for us to establish institutions to combat corruption within the state machinery, including the law enforcement agencies themselves.

Again, this Conference provides us with the opportunity to share experiences in this regard and to see how best we can assist and support one another to defeat the daily efforts of the criminal gangs to corrupt the very institutions which are supposed to fight crime.

It is also probably a matter of common cause among us that to the extent possible, we have a responsibility to develop compatible legal frameworks to ensure that the criminals do not take advantage of the differences in these frameworks among our different countries successfully to pursue their activities.

Among other things, this requires that together we address the issue of extradition law and procedures to enable us properly to deal with the challenge of fugitives from justice.

All of us value highly the work that is done by Interpol, given especially the reality of the globalisation of crime which calls for the globalisation of policing.

In this context, we consider it of primary importance that we should further improve our own co-operation in this sub-region by strengthening the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) whose value has already been proven in action.

Similarly, we are conscious of the fact that our own Police Service needs both to take greater advantage of the facilities and services offered by Interpol and to improve its input into intelligence data base of the International Criminal Police Organisation as part of our contribution to the fight against crime at home and abroad.

This too is a function of the overall effectiveness and professionalism of our Police Service. We would make bold to say that as we increase the general capacity of our law enforcement agencies, so will be improve our participation in the work of Interpol.

The outstanding African writer, Ben Okri, says that: “The happiness of Africa is in its nostalgia for the future, and its dreams of a golden age.”

Our police services throughout the Continent must, themselves, become an important combat force to transform the dream into reality.

We wish this important Conference success.

Thank You.

 

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