Other aspects of the crime wave will be addressed once the transformation of the police is completed and the government allocates the resources necessary to fight increasingly sophisticated crime syndicates. But the government also faces some unique problems, for which there are no ready-made answers. Most of all, the Mandela administration must restore an ethic of lawfulness after many years in which the ANC encouraged people to disobey the white authorities.
The early results are not good. For example, the Mandela government has not fully convinced many urban dwellers to pay their rents, after encouraging rent avoidance for many years as a way to fight apartheid. Indeed, in some areas, rent collections are lower than during white rule. Such a general ethic of disobedience nurtures a criminal climate.
Eventually, the government will have to confront the gangsters, who operate with impunity, with force. A forthright challenge to these criminals may have to depend on the army, a highly professional organization that has acquitted itself well during policing operations and which has the weaponry to match the bad guys'. But frequent use of the army would raise constitutional and philosophical issues that are especially sensitive for a government committed to demilitarizing society and reducing the ostentatious deployment of force.
The world rightly celebrates the ultimately successful struggle against apartheid and the elimination of the old apartheid security state. The legacy of apartheid, however, lives on, and the transition has, in some ways, left the new government unprepared to deal with crime. The task for the new South African government will be to contain crime the best it can until it successfully implements a socioeconomic program that will provide opportunities for those tempted by criminal rewards. If it fails to do so, the country may spiral into ever-greater lawlessness and experience the kind of insecurity that was once, ironically, predicted for the end stages of apartheid.*