The release of the crime statistics for the 2017-2018 period was a sobering affair, during which Police Minister Bheki Cele likened the situation to that of a “war zone”.
Cele, who was speaking to the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament on Tuesday morning, said that the police had “dropped the ball” and that these shocking levels of crime should not be reported ever again by the department.
The statistics covered the period from April 2017 to March 2018. Cele, who was appointed police minister at the end of February 2018, had implemented a number of changes, which wouldn’t have had an effect on the numbers released today.
The South African Police Service’s head of police crime research and statistics, Major-General Norman Sekhukhune revealed that, on average, 57 people were murdered in South Africa every day.
Murder increased by an astounding 6.9%, and rape by 0.5%. At least 20 336 murders were recorded nationally.
Police committee chair Francois Beukman, who was shocked by this revelation, said that the figure was “unacceptable”.
“Violent crime is indeed a clear and present danger to all South Africans,” Beukman said.
Nyanga, in the Western Cape, remained the murder capital of the country, with an increase in murders of 9.6%. Yet in Umlazi, in KwaZulu-Natal, there was an even more sobering increase in murders reported, up by 19.3 % from 187 to 223 murders.
In 2016-2017, the number of rapes that were reported to the police was 39 828, but for 2017-2018 this figure rose to 40 035.
Sexual assault also increased by a significant amount, up by 8.8%, from 6271 in 2016-2017 to 6786 in 2017-2018.
Murders of women spiked by 11% with 2930 murders reported in 2017-2018 compared with 2639 in the previous period.
Provincially, Gauteng remained the crime capital of South Africa, with 478 659 serious crimes reported in 2017-2018. This had dropped by 4.9% from the previous period.
Cele, who took over from former police minister Fikile Mbalula in February, had attempted to clamp down on criminal activity in South Africa, especially violent crimes such as murders and hijackings.
He said that the police could not work alone in trying to fight crime.
In June, Cele announced a specialised task force to prioritise cash-in-transit heists. For 2017-2018, cash-in-transit heists rose by 50%.
Cele went on to a question-and-answer session after the figures were presented. Members of the portfolio committee asked him whether or not criminals had taken on a “culture of impunity” on the basis that politicians were seen to be getting away with crime. Cele dismissed this, and said that this notion needed to be dismantled.
The question is, he said: “How do we collectively pick up the ball, change the game plan and re-position the police?”