Murder, rape, sexual assault: Brutal, angry reality of life in SA unpacked – crime stats

Like many South Africans, I’ve had my fair share of close shaves with vicious criminals. I’ve been mugged in a street and had my breasts aggressively fondled by a stranger on a shopping centre elevator. I’ve been so scared under my duvet when burglars have moved around my living room late at night that I have literally been frozen with fear. In one of the more extreme situations, I have begged for my life after a car of men chased me through a Johannesburg gated suburb into a cul-de-sac before pushing the barrel of a rifle towards me through tinted windows. I have friends whose brothers and sisters have been tortured and killed in their homes and know many people who have had their cars robbed at gunpoint. This state of affairs has been a fact of life, which is why we pay for electric fencing and private security companies do a roaring trade. Yet, suddenly this month, public outrage about crime has erupted across the country and the continent, in particular crimes against women and residents who were born in other countries. Is this what people-watcher and trends analyst Malcolm Gladwell calls a tipping point? If so, the latest crime statistics, which show a stark rise in violent attacks, hint at why it is being reached now. – Jackie Cameron

South African murders increase to highest level in a decade

By Paul Vecchiatto and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) – The number of murders in South Africa climbed to the highest level in at least a decade as an overburdened police force struggled to keep violent crime in check.

The number of homicides rose by 3.4% to 21,022 in the 12 months through March – an average of almost 58 a day – the police service said in its annual crime statistics report released in parliament in Cape Town on Thursday. The murder rate rose to 36.4 per 100,000 people, from 35.4 in the previous year. The rate is more than six times higher than that of the US.

“Our crime stats are not very rosy,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told lawmakers. “There are a very high number of people who are murdered by people they know. It would be very difficult for police to police such cases.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made combating crime a top priority since taking office in February last year. His efforts have been set back over recent weeks by an outbreak of xenophobic violence that claimed at least 12 lives and a series of fatal attacks on women that have sparked street protests.

South Africa’s murder rate was 35.2 per 100,000 in 2017-18 and 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. It has been on the rise since 2011.

Changes to law-enforcement agencies’ top management during former President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure hampered efforts to fight crime. Violent crime was fueled by widespread alcohol and drug abuse, the police said.

Key statistics:

  • The number of sexual offenses rose 4.6% to 52,420, while the number of attempted murder cases increased 4.1% to 18,980, the police report showed;
  • Incidents of truck-jacking fell by 1.7%, while car-jackings declined 1.8%;
  • Commercial crimes surged 14%;
  • There were four bank robberies during the year under review, down from 13 the year before.

Horror of gender-based violence revealed in South African report

By Mike Cohen and Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) –The murder of a number of women in South Africa over recent weeks has ignited outrage, street protests and a media storm. The extent of the scourge of gender-based violence was put on stark display in the latest crime statistics released on Thursday.

The number of reported rapes rose 3.9% to 41,583 in the year through March, the highest in four years. The police have logged 443,387 rapes over the past decade, yet the problem may be understated because such crimes frequently aren’t reported. A total 2,771 women were murdered in the 12-month period.

Violent crime in South Africa is fueled by high levels of alcohol and drug abuse, and the fact that victims are often abused and killed by people they know makes it difficult to control, Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters in Cape Town. The police will set up more units to tackle family violence, child abuse and sexual offenses, and recruit more women officers, he said.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets last week in protests triggered by the killing of 19-year-old University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, disrupting South Africa’s hosting of a World Economic Forum summit. In a national address, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised more funding to protect women and harsher penalties for gender-based crimes.

“We are deeply distressed by the rise in gender violence cases,” said Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the chairwoman of parliament’s police oversight committee. “We will be monitoring police progress with making arrests.”

The Institute for Security Studies said high levels of domestic crime in South Africa were rooted in its violent past and had been perpetuated across generations.

“Most violent behaviour is learned or tolerated in the home, communities and schools where children either directly experience or witness violence,” the Johannesburg-based institute said in an emailed statement. “Many people grow up believing that violence is an acceptable way to solve disputes or assert authority. This drives much of the violence that occurs between men in public places, and at home against women.”