South Africa

‘South Africans have been abandoned by government’ – reactions to crime stats

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Civil organisations and political parties have criticised the government’s actions, or lack thereof, in dealing with crime in South Africa.

Amnesty International SA, ActionSA and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have all called for an overhaul of the policing system. Civil organisation Action Society said the statistics show the government has abandoned its citizens.

This after Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday revealed the crime statistics for the country between 1 October and 31 December last year.

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Crime stats: murder up, sexual offences down

Key points included a decrease in the number of sexual offences (261 reported cases, down from 15 284) when compared to the third quarter of 2022.

According to the sexual offences breakdown, rape cases went down by 1.7%, while sexual assaults decreased by 1.9%.

Police recorded 12 211 rape cases in this period, showing a decline from 12 419 cases in 2022.

However, Cele called it “disturbing and concerning” that the murder rate increased by 2.1%. A total 7 710 people were murdered during this time, an increase of 155.

‘Abandoned by the government’

Civil rights organisation Action Society’s director of community safety Ian Cameron claimed it is “abundantly clear that South Africans have been abandoned by the government in the war against crime”.

“We are on our own when it comes to safety and security. While the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, described the ‘high quality service the South African Police Service (Saps) provide for all people of South Africa’ as ‘among the best in the world’ at the 2024 national police day celebrations yesterday, the Q3 crime statistics of 2023/24 revealed that a woman is raped every 12 minutes in South Africa.”

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The organisation said the stats – revealing that 86 people are murdered, 88 attempted murder cases opened, and 595 people assaulted with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, every single day – only told one story when in the whole quarter only 622 murderers and 609 sexual crime convicts were successfully sentenced.

“Cele boasted that the historic DNA backlog of 251 000 in 2021/22 was eradicated. We know that this is untrue,” Cameron claimed. He used the example of the case involving four-year-old Mia Botha who was found brutally murdered in September 2022, and the forensic investigations are still incomplete.

An overhaul of Saps

Amnesty International South Africa said the statistics “paint a horrific picture for women”.

“While this is a decrease from the same period in 2022, rape remains unacceptably high with more action needed to hold perpetrators accountable,” the group tweeted.

Its executive director Shenilla Mohamed followed along these lines when she wrote about the statistics: “If the government continues failing to create a safe environment for all, it is violating the right to life and security of the person, and must be held accountable. The buck stops with the government.”

She added there needs to be a complete overhaul of the South African Police Service (Saps) so that it is fit for purpose to deal with the extremely high levels of crime.

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“We can no longer allow violent crimes to continue with impunity. The justice system has to act as a deterrent, and the first step is ensuring that the police can conduct thorough, efficient and transparent investigations into all killings, and ensure that the perpetrators are charged in accordance with the law,” Mohamed said.

Ramaphosa and Cele ‘enemies of safety’

The Democratic Alliance (DA) called Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa the “enemies of safety and all South Africans” in light of the crime statistics.

“The Saps’ statistics clearly confirm that the Minister is not only unfit to hold office, but that the president condones violent crime the longer he keeps Minister Cele in office,” the party claimed in a statement.

“The Saps detective service is woefully understaffed, hundreds of firearms are stolen from Saps stores every year, and its total personnel complement is smaller today than it was in 2019.”

The party said the only way to ensure safety for citizens was to remove national government from the police system by devolving police powers to capable provinces.

South Africans left defenceless

ActionSA said the crime stats showed that South Africans no longer trust the police to resolve crime.

“The crime statistics reaffirm ActionSA’s position that a complete and comprehensive overhaul of the policing system is necessary, and that Minister Cele should be fired for failing to do his job,” a statement from the party read.

“While Minister Cele may seek to celebrate a supposed decline in sexual offences, it may not point to a decrease in sexual offences committed but simply the apprehension of victims to report these crimes to the police.

“A far better indicator of South Africa’s crime situation is the murder rate which has consistently increased… Too many South Africans have been left defenceless due to the failing SAPS, with our children unable to safely play in our streets and our people being harassed on their way back home from work.”

Additional reporting by Molefe Seeletsa.