JOHANNESBURG — While the murder rate in South Africa is still dramatically down from where it was in 1995, under the Zuma years, the figures have been steadily climbing. At the heart of the increase is a corrupt government that’s failed to spend money on basic services, such as propping up a police force. In fact, the police force in South Africa today is smaller than what it was in 2010 and Bheki Cele says it could take 10 years to build it up again. – Gareth van Zyl
By Paul Vecchiatto and Mike Cohen
(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s murder rate rose to its highest level in nine years as a depleted police force struggled to get to grips with violent crime.
The number of homicides increased 7 percent to 20,336 – an average of almost 56 a day – in the 12 months through March, the police service said in its annual crime statistics report on Tuesday. The murder rate increased to 35.2 per 100,000 people – more than six times higher than that of the US.
Efforts to fight crime were hampered by repeated changes to top management at law enforcement agencies during former President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure, while a stagnating economy and inflation-beating increases for state workers left no room in the budget to retain and hire officers.
Zuma, who has been personally implicated in a succession of scandals, was forced to quit in February under pressure from the ruling party and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to bring crime under control.
The police service now has 191,000 members compared with 200,000 in 2010 and it could take 10 years to get back to that level, said Cele, a former police commissioner who was named minister shortly after Ramaphosa took office.
The number of sexual offenses increased 0.9 percent to 50,108, while attempted murder cases rose 0.2 percent to 18,233, the report showed. Attacks on armoured vehicles carrying cash jumped 57 percent to 238 robberies. Commercial crimes fell 7.8 percent and home break-ins by 0.4 percent. There were 13 bank robberies during the year.
The murder rate has fallen from 67.9 per 100,000 people in 1995, when an integrated national police force was created and national statistics were compiled for the first time, but has been on the rise since 2011.
“South Africa has not reached a state of lawlessness,” Cele said. “These crime statistics will not get worse.”