The police could not verify statistics on crimes against women and children statistics due to Covid-19, the head of the police crime register, Lieutenant-General Norman Sekhukhune, has said.
He was speaking at a media briefing on Friday after the release of the 2019/2020 crime statistics.
Concerns were raised during the portfolio committee briefing in Parliament about this set of statistics which, MPs said, were confusing - specifically the discrepancies between sexual offences statistics and crimes against women and children.
Sekhukhune said, normally, the statistics for crimes against women and children would be verified by visiting each police station and looking at the dockets.
"We were in the process of doing that verification when the Covid-19 issues started affecting us, where we could not get access to some of the dockets, we could not get access to some of the police stations.
"We were caught between a rock and a hard place - should we publish these figures given that we have not finalised the checking or should we rather finalise or publish them and later on continue with the verification.
"Statistical principles guide that in such an event you are allowed to publish these numbers and then continue with the verification process and then at a later stage issue what is called a revision."
He added while they decided to publish the number, a footnote was added to stipulate the numbers were not yet verified, saying this was common practice in statistical institutions.
"Just because systems that draw the crimes against women and children were still going to be verified, that does not make the whole statistics not credible.
"The ones that we used to produce the table in the front has been verified," Sekhukhune said.
Gender-based violence and femicide
Police Minister Bheki Cele said a special focus was being placed on gender-based violence and femicide by the police, with specialised teams working on cases and capacity being increased.
Following a high number of sexual offences and domestic-related assault and murders, Cele said gender-based violence would have a special focus as per the president's directive.
He added the police currently have 185 specialised teams working on gender-based violence and femicide cases, with 10 more working on "high-profile" cases, such as "serial-rapists".
Added to this, 312 new members have been recruited for training, specifically to join these teams.
"Commissioners put more resources … but also extra training to the members that are there," Cele said.
According to the new crime statistics, which were released on Friday, 53 293 cases of sexual offences were recorded in the last financial year.
Of this, 42 583 were rape cases, 7 749 were sexual assault, 2 076 were attempted sexual assault and 1 179 were contact sexual offences.