Response to #SAveSyria is ‘overwhelming’

Johannesburg – More than R7 million has been paid to the #SAveSyria #OperationSA fund within five days.

#OperationSA launched the drive earlier this week in response to calls to help with humanitarian efforts in Aleppo and other parts of war-torn Syria.

“The response from South Africans has been overwhelming. We are continuing to get pledges online and via SMS,” said #OperationSA founder Yusuf Abramjee.

Almost R14-million has been pledged for #SAveSyria. A multi-channel four hour pledge line broadcast on Tuesday evening raised R 10 028 953.00

The #SAveSyria #OperationSA campaign was launched following calls to assist victims of the Syrian conflict. Abramjee with fellow social activists Yaseen Theba and Catherine Constantinides are among those behind #OperationSA.

The pledge line saw almost 800 callers and thousands of SMS’s. The biggest single pledge was R2,3 million was from the Polokwane Muslim Trust Welfare Fund for the Al-Imdaad Foundation. It has already been paid into the special fund.

Scores of young children, some donating their spending money, also called in. A Pretoria family, who did not want to be named, even cancelled their planned holiday to donate to #SAveSyria.

The money is to be distributed to seven local charities who are doing humanitarian work in Syria. They are the Al-Imdaad Foundation, Africa Muslims Agency, Jamiatul-Ulama SA, Jamiatul-Ulama KZN, Al-Quds Foundation, Muslim Judicial Council and Islamic Relief SA.

The Al-Quds Foundation is preparing a container with food and clothing and it is scheduled to leave Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“South Africans and foreigners really opened their hearts. The donations will go a long way to ease the pain and suffering of Syrians,” said Abramjee from #OperationSA

“We are witnessing ubuntu in action yet again. The response from the public has been amazing and we will ensure that every rand raised is used for humanitarian relief such as food, blankets, medicines and shelter,” added Abramjee.

He said “it was not only Muslims who were donating. People from all sectors of society are digging deep into their pockets.

“If one person suffers we all feel the pain. It is our duty to help those in need irrespective of religion, nationality or race. We are all human.

“The pledge recall rate is brilliant. We almost have 50% of the money in within such a short space of time. I have not seen such a response in all the years of charity and community work,” Abramjee told the Saturday Star.

Yaseen Theba from #OperationSA said the pledge line was a “major success.”

He said “we were not sure how much money will come in because we are in the middle of the holiday season.

“The phones did not stop ringing. The shocking images from Syria also prompted many callers to donate. The almost R14m raised in such a short period of time shows we are a caring nation,” said Theba who directed the Call Centre Operations.

Online pledges are still coming in and the public can continue donating on the website

Donations can also be made via Whats App and SMS: 072 3 99 99 99.

Catherine Constantinides said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. South Africans never stop to amaze. They dig deep into their pockets and they always make a difference. We have hearts of gold. I am proud of my colleagues at #OperationSA, the many volunteers and sponsors. Well done also to the media for supporting the cause.”

Abramjee said he and Qari Ziyaad Patel from the Al-Imdaad Foundation will lead a delegation to the Turkish-Syrian border early in the new year “to look at conditions on the ground and the relief operations underway.”

The Al-Imdaad Foundation is co-ordinating the visit with #OperationSA and “we want to see exactly how every rand donated by people is going to be used.”

“We will not allow money donated to be used for salaries, agents fees and admin costs,” said Abramjee.

#OperationSA will continue to work locally and internationally by engaging with partners, donors and communities “to develop projects that bring relief, hope and dignity to some of the most vulnerable people.”

Abramjee and Theba were part of the team that founded Operation Hydrate earlier this year. The civil-society group donated millions of liters of water to drought-stricken communities.

Abramjee is also Chief Ambassador the CEO Sleepout SA. This year they donated R9m to three charities involved in education. Over R20m went to Boys and Girls Town last year.

“Our mission in life should be to help others in need and create a better world,” he said.

In partnership with the Al-Imdaad Foundation, Abramjee and the Operation Hydrate team also drilled boreholes in many parts of SA.

Al-Imdaad’s Projects Coordinator Qari Ziyaad Patel said : “Our teams on the ground are ready to facilitate the relief efforts on behalf of #OperationSA and with the experience and transparency we have it will indeed be and eye opener for the group.

“The situation and difficulties faced by the Syrian people is without doubt the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and together this initiative from #OperationSA will make a huge difference.”

Saturday Star


Dear Mr President,

I am taking off all my professional hats and writing to you in desperation as a South African citizen deeply concerned about the levels of crime in our country.

I write as one of the countless citizens that have fallen victim to crime with the shadow of fear following our every step.

I write to you with a heavy heart for the many men, women and children whose lives are lost or destroyed by crime.

I write to you amidst the brazen war on our men and women in blue that are being sadly killed like dogs in our streets.

I implore you to imagine being an ordinary citizen without the benefit of a security detail and every measure protecting me from threats at my home, my workplace, on the street, in public spaces and in my car.

I urge you to imagine living in fear all the time. This is the environment that millions of citizens are living in.

When we raise our voices about the serious levels of crime we are accused by some of being alarmist and spreading panic across the country.

There is no doubt that the number of crimes reported in the media and on social media platforms have increased. Many incidents don’t make the media agenda at all.

You have to be blind to reality if you miss the desperation of citizens and the equal helplessness of law enforcement.

You recently attended and spoke at the South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commemoration Service at the Union Buildings.

You said that an attack on our police is an attack on the state.

Mr President, your assessment is correct, but talk is empty. What is being done?

Many members of the public have lost faith in the police and the criminal justice system.

Widespread corruption, poor leadership and bad service delivery has eaten away at the respect that these institutions should be able to demand.

You have employed poor leadership to key positions. The consequences are felt across the board.

The Marikana Massacre has done untold damage to the image of the police. The outcomes from the Farlam Commission was damning for the SAPS. We still have to see accountability. Many have blood on their hands and they must be brought to book without delay.

There has been no real justice for the families left destitute at the loss of breadwinners and loved ones.

Precious time and resources are spent to keep disgraced officials in their positions, purely just staving off the inevitable.

How do you expect the public to continue respecting these institutions?

How do you expect police officers to feel proud to wear the badge when their lives mean so little, reduced to lip service in an eloquent speech and another name on the commemoration wall?

The lives of our citizens count for even less it seems. Some 47 South Africans are murdered on average every day.

Mr President, I hope you will be proud of the many communities and individuals that are standing up and refusing to yield to the onslaught of crime.

Once again your citizens have to take responsibility for a problem that the state should be tackling with all means at its disposal.

The rot is so widespread, the stink overwhelming.

Desperate times need desperate solutions.

Even the most persistent and active individual can’t even hope to win a battle we are losing by virtue of a complete lack of political will to DO something about crime.

Mr President, you are the one person that can turn this around.

Stop catering to the politically ambitious. In fact, leave politics out of key appointments and deploy people who can do the job and act beyond reproach.

Stop patting mediocrity, uselessness and corruption on the back, sending their servants on their way with a golden handshake.

Listen to your people who are the terrorised and persecuted.

Prescribe to these internationally recognised leadership principles….

Model the way – set an example by adhering to and advancing the rights and responsibilities contained in our Constitution. Show zero tolerance to those who seek to destroy it.

Inspire a shared vision – Mr President you can make a difference. Believe it and make others believe in the vision of a safe and prosperous South Africa.

Challenge the process – Hold those who you put in place to lead their respective departments to account. If they don’t perform, they are detrimental to change and stand in the way of moving the country forward. Why should the entire country suffer one fool?

Enable others to act – Make it possible for others to make a difference. Create an environment where citizens can be heard and their ideas implemented.

Encourage the heart – Reward those who you have enabled to achieve our shared vision. Too many activists and hard workers in and out of government are being persecuted instead of celebrated. The perception that you favour the corrupt is not only detrimental to you, but ultimately impacts negatively on everyone else.

Mr President, I hope that I have been able to adequately convey my concern over the problem we have with crime in this country.

The police must strengthen the partnerships with ordinary citizens, civil society, business and anti-crime activists. Now is the time!

I know that tackling crime means tackling many other problems our country faces.

I am forever hopeful that we can overcome these challenges, but your leadership is critical to achieving this.

I am still a proud citizen of South Africa and will do anything in my power to make a difference. I only ask that the first citizen does the same.

Mr President, will you stand up for us?


Road Safety: What We Can Learn From Australia

Some 47 lives are lost on South African roads annually. Thousands more are injured.

Lead SA recently lined a section of the N14 highway outside Johannesburg with coffins in an attempt to create awareness and put the death toll in perspective. The “shock tactic” had some impact and it certainly brought the message home.

We often hear how fewer people are killed on other countries’ roads, including Australia.

I recently visited Australia and met with government and law enforcement officials, civil society leaders and road safety activists.

According to the Australian Roads Research Board (ARRB), 1193 people were killed on their roads in 2013. Last year, it was about 1200. These figures include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.

Fatigue, driver distractions such as cell phones, drinking and drug abuse, not wearing seatbelts and speed are said to be the main causes of collisions “Down Under.”

Authorities say they adopt a “zero tolerance approach”, but ongoing enforcement, education and awareness create a culture of road safety. And yes, they use repeated messaging and shock tactics.

Police in New South Wales and Victoria say covert surveillance, random breathalyzer tests and speed cameras have contributed largely to bring down the road carnage.

In 1970, 3798 lives were lost on Australian roads, 3252 in 1982, 1817 in 2000. The target is to bring the death toll down to 1100 this year.

Victoria is more successful. In this state, there is little leniency and even if you exceed the speed limit by a kilometer, you’re in trouble. High police visibility is what they pride themselves on.

The points system works wonders. Over the Christmas and Easter period, motorists who break the rules of the road get slammed with double demerits.

Shortly after we launched in 2010, Lead SA appealed to drivers to have their vehicle’s headlights on at all times. The ARRB says it is making a difference, especially on rural Australian roads.

In New South Wales, it is mandatory to have your vehicle retested every five years.

Corruption is not a major problem in Australia and only a handful of law enforcers have been arrested and charged over the past year.

There is clearly no single solution in bringing down the road fatality rate in South Africa. We need a multi-faceted approach but more importantly, we need action. There has just been far too much talking and little action back home.

We have laws and these laws need to be implemented. Motorists must start taking responsibility too. For as long as this does not happen, there is little chance that we are going to succeed in bringing down the 17 000+ body count every year.

There are plans to implement the point system later this year. It can only work if it is administered effectively and it is corruption-free.

We keep on stressing the need for police visibility on our roads. It needs to be sustained 365 days a year. Having the cops out in full force over long weekends and holiday periods only, is not going to stop the blood from flowing.

Lead SA has repeatedly called on authorities to name and shame convicted drunk drivers. A pilot project in the Western Cape was successful. Despite promises, and over two years later, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has still not implemented it. The project has therefore been halted indefinitely. In Australia, drug abuse and driving is a growing problem. More resources are being invested in testing drivers.

When I spoke to some Australian citizens, it is clear that most have a culture of obeying the rules, regulations and laws. No wonder the crime levels in that country are so low.

The Aussie cops say they engage communities on a regular basis and not only during a crisis. They tackle road safety, alcohol abuse, the drug problem and even ISIS recruitment every day.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle impressed me. Community involvement, volunteerism and a crime-free city are but just some of his focus areas. And yes, he has a South African professor working in his office.

Crime in Melbourne is down by 20%. Doyle says at the same time alcohol sales have come down by 11% and this has contributed to the status of being “the world’s most livable city.

Responding to the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Doyle says “perhaps you want to look at ways of bringing all the different nationalities and cultures together and celebrate them.”

Addressing an audience at the Australian Institute of International Affairs, I stressed the need for all global citizens to work together, promote peace and learn from one another.

As much as South Africa has problems – like the high road fatalities, crime, poverty and unemployment -we will always be a “rainbow nation.” We need to all work together, roll up our sleeves and find solutions.

We have the expertise in this country to come up with sustainable solutions. I know of so many South Africans that have brilliant ideas to tackle road safety issues, but these ideas are not reaching the decision makes.

Perhaps it is time for authorities to engage these individuals and companies towards making a positive impact on how we deal with the carnage on our roads.

Thousands of South Africans have found a home in Australia. But I reminded them: “Home is home. Come back and assist us in building a better South Africa and keeping Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive.”

*Parts of this article first appeared in The Star Newspaper.

Xenophobia – Calling A Spade by Any Other Name

We are celebrating Africa Day on May 25.

Historically this day marks the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and commemorates African unity.

In South Africa we have paved the way to Africa Day with the death of at least five people during xenophobic attacks which flared up in KwaZulu-Natal last week. It has now spread to Gauteng with news of attacks in Johannesburg.

Yes, xenophobic attacks.

It is truly a sad day when we forget the atrocities committed towards our African brothers and sisters during the 2008 xenophobic attacks by allowing our government to go to great lengths to call a spade by any other name than a spade.

A recent opinion piece by Rebecca Davis on the Daily Maverick website, Xenophobic violence: Government walks the walk, but will it talk the talk? offers a telling timeline of just how much government doesn’t want to call a spade a spade.

Yet the animosity towards our African compatriots have not ceased to stew since the 2008 attacks and violence continued to flare up in several parts of South Africa.

It highlights the fact that government has done very little to address the issue. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that these attacks have been written off as mere criminal opportunism by more than one prominent government official.

If we consider our failed efforts to curb crime, it makes sense that government would plead the fifth rather than call the monster by its real name.

On Facebook a user called it an “academic contest” as everyone tries to weigh in on what is happening in KZN… xenophobia, afrophobia, criminal, political…

While all this is going on people continue to die violently. Communities continue to burn. Families continue to be displaced.

As I write this I am currently on a visit to Australia where the current situation in South Africa is a hot topic.

Our continent is looking towards us, not as a source of inspiration, but as an embarrassment in efforts to achieving African unity and prosperity.

I would like to see our government showing its strength by not just condemning these attacks, but intervening decisively towards trampling this fear and anger towards our African brothers and sisters. We need leadership and we need it now.

I would like to see all South Africans pull together (and we have shown on many occasions that we can) and find non-violent ways to address these festering wounds left over by colonialism and apartheid, and find a way to heal our nation.

South Africa is not the only African nation with problems, we have a lot of challenges in common and we need to tackle them together. We were recently reminded that the threat of terrorism is fast spreading on our continent and leaving a bloody trail in its wake. Can we afford to pretend that this threat is just a threat on some African nations? No we cannot.

As we are about to celebrate 21 years of democracy, these incidents are a sad indictment of what so many fought and lost their lives for.

My hope is that we will renew the bonds of Africa Day and find our collective identity as a continent ripe with possibilities and committed to the spirit of Ubuntu.

Divided we are weak, united we are strong. #NoToXenophobia

Justice Postponed, is Justice Denied

I spent the entire morning in Court 5 of the Pretoria Regional Court.

I was due to testify as a witness in the house robbery case where my family and I fell victim.

This incident took place in Nov 2013.

I returned to the court building after many years. As a reporter, I spent many long hours in the courts covering stories.

Little seems to have changed. The building is the same old dump. The courtrooms are still filled with stale air and they have not been renovated for years.

The system seems to have also changed little over the years. Case after case gets postponed.
Many prosecutors left at around 11am to attend the funeral of a colleague.

While waiting for the accused in my case to arrive, it was interesting to watch the prosecutors, lawyers, court officials and police officers at work.

Most have no rush…They joke, and walk around. In the public gallery, witnesses and even accused out on bail wait for the next move.

The Magistrate walks in and everyone stands. It appears this is when the serious stuff start.

Postponed…postponed…postponed…yes it continues.

In between an accused appears to be sentenced on a charge of corruption. He has been waiting for ten years for the case to be finalized. The man, a Home Affairs official, took a R2000 bribe from a Pakistani national.

Within 30 minutes, it’s all over. A witness testifies and the State and Defence argue their case. Immediately the magistrate hands down the sentence. 5 years in jail.

The State prosecutors are happy. The Defence lawyer is grumpy. He wants to appeal the conviction and sentence but aborts the application quickly after the magistrate asks whether it is a formal application.

In the meantime, a man shackled is brought into the public gallery by prison warders. He sits a few places away from us in the front row. I immediately recognized him as the suspect in my robbery case. He was apparently sentenced to 5 years in jail on another charge.

Eventually, the two accused are called to the stand and my son and I are asked to leave the courtroom. We are called back and asked to return to court on 28 May. Yes, another postponement.

The magistrate angrily tells the one accused “This is not a circus…” This is in response to him looking around the gallery and fiddling with his hands.

Their lawyers indicates they want to bring another bail application for the one man. This is possibly the fifth attempt.

We need an effective and efficient court system. Delays are causing lots of frustration. The system works far too slow. Promises over the years that things will improve at the lower courts have never materialized.

It’s time for action. The criminal justice system is critical to ensuring that we fight crime effectively. For as long as this does not happen, we are not going to see progress.

Abramjee: It’s time for active citizenry against drugs

Communities must stand up against drugs.

No area is immune.

We at Crime Line and Lead SA are being inundated with calls for help from across South Africa.

During a recent visit to areas in the Western Cape, the Minister in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, and I met various communities as part of the #365days of activism initiative. Drugs, drugs and drugs topped the agenda wherever we went.

Dareleen James from Eldorado Park, the famous mother who wrote to President Jacob Zuma, continues to cry out for help saying her community is continuing to face an onslaught from drug dealers.

This week, mothers from Laudium and surrounding areas outside Pretoria called us – also appealing for urgent interventions.

Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Malobane accepted an invitation from Crime Line to meet affected individuals and community representatives at short notice.

Chairman of the Gauteng Community Police Board, Andy Mashaile, local councillor Farouk Essop, representatives from the SAPS and Tshwane Metro Police Dept also attended.

Resident after resident spoke about the drug scourge. It’s heartbreaking to hear how mothers complain about their young children hooked on drugs. Schools are also affected. A SGB member told the meeting how the dealers were targeting students.

Everyone is crying out for help.

Another common complain is how drug dealers are openly operating in the area – and allegedly working in cahoots with some local crooked cops.

It was also alleged that some drug dealers are often seen at the police station delivering take-away foods for cops.

Resident told the MEC how quickly dealers and peddlers are released after being arrested. Some don’t even appear in court.

Claims that a man who buys stolen property and who allegedly lives off ill-gotten gains again surfaced. At times victims are forced to buy their stolen property back – and again police allegedly fail to act.

The MEC promised urgent interventions. She said police had to be held accountable. She also appealed to the community to pass on detailed information anonymously.

SMS Crime Line on 32211 or call Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

MEC Nkosi Malobane spoke openly and frankly. She lashed the SAPS at times.

The MEC promised to return to the area unannounced.

Her department will also have special awareness campaigns soon. She will continue to engage the Gauteng police leadership on the growing drug problem.

Nkosi Malobane is clearly a leader who takes no nonsense. She told the community she was “angry”
because she invited senior police officers to attend the meeting only to be told they are in a workshop for two days.

Earlier in the day, Mashaile and I drove through some hotspots to see what was happening for ourselves. It’s no secret that drug dealers are operating openly- some a few meters away from the Laudium police station.

A well know drug dealer approached us and openly threatened me. That’s how they operate. We should not be intimated.

We must all stand up against drugs and fight the scourge. We must all say NO to drugs. Become an active citizen and let’s pressurize authorities to act. Yes, act within the framework of the law and say #CountMeIn

#DrugWatch must become an on-going national initiative. Communities must own it.

I again repeated the call for the specialized narcotics units to return. The MEC, Mashaile and others agreed.

Stand up, do the right thing and make a difference in the spirit of #LeadSA.


Every community is affected by drugs

Ayanda at SABC News and New Age Business Briefing in Fourways .
The focus this morning is on crimes against children.
Crime Line head Yusuf Abramjee, Advocate Simi Pillay-van Graan the CEO of Business Against Crime (BACSA) & Brigadier Bafana Linda from SAPS, to discuss the current spurt in child abuse cases and how everyone can contribute to curb it….