SA's murder stats like those of a country at war - MP

Thomas Hartleb, News24

Johannesburg - Murders increased for the third year in a row in South Africa, according to crime statistics released by police on Tuesday.

“These are figures I would expect from a country at war,” DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said.

She was commenting after national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega had presented the annual crime statistics to Parliament’s police portfolio committee.

“We cannot continue with this,” FF Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said.

According to the figures, 17 805 people were murdered between April 2014 to March 2015. In the 2012/2013 period the figure was 16 213. Over the past 10 years this category of crime had decreased by 3%.

Phiyega said the prevalence of contact crimes, which included murder, assault, robbery, and sexual offences, remained “stubborn” and required the police’s undivided attention. They were policed after the fact and needed community participation to stop them.

‘Peaceful surroundings’

She had to explain to President Jacob Zuma on Monday why she should not be suspended, pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office, following her role in the 2012 Marikana shootings. She appeared before the committee in civilian clothes.

“Peaceful surroundings” were needed to avoid escalations in unnecessary crimes. People had to ensure such surroundings existed in areas like families and social institutions to stop the escalation of crime, she said.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said the figures were a reflection of the state of South African society.
There were 194 852 officers, and a police to population ratio of 1 officer to 358 citizens. The UN standard ratio was 1:460.

Over the past 10 years, he said contact crimes had decreased 17.8%, other serious crimes 7.6% and property-related crimes 2.3%.

Of the 27 categories of crime, 11 decreased and 26 increased between the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 financial years.

The three safest provinces were the Free State, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The worst performers were the Western Cape and Limpopo.

Gauteng was hardest hit by serious crimes, while KwaZulu-Natal had the highest murder rate.

Violent service delivery protests

Drugs, firearms and taxi violence were among the “drivers” of crime which police did not have the power to completely control, Phiyega said.

In addition, the growth in violent service delivery protests meant police officers were diverted from their normal duties. If the causes of such protests could be dealt with, there would be more officers available.

The proliferation of firearms was a “notable driver of criminality” and their availability and supply was incessant. The Firearms Control Act needed to be strengthened.

Phiyega hinted that illegal immigrants were part of the crime problem and called for “controlled migration” and tighter border management.

A total of 86 police officers were killed in 1 537 attacks in the 2014/2015 financial year.

This was a serious concern as a great deal of investment in training, and experience, had to be written off, she said. The Western Cape was the most dangerous province for police officers, with 21 killed in 645 attacks.