‘Positive’ crime stats disappoint SA

LAst year 154 400 people were murdered in That’s twice as many people as the total population of Upington in the Northern Cape and 30 000 more than the number of residents of the Eastern Cape student town of Grahamstown.
Issue date : 11 July 2008

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LAst year 154 400 people were murdered in That’s twice as many people as the total population of Upington in the Northern Cape and 30 000 more than the number of residents of the Eastern Cape student town of Grahamstown. Nonetheless, safety and security minister Charles Nqakula said the crime figures published at the end of last month indicate a steady decline in the country’s crime levels.

“I must convey right at the outset though, government is still concerned that while the crime levels are going down, they continue to be unacceptably high,” he said. He went on to add that government wanted to see a more drastic decrease, particularly in the wake of the interventions that have been made since it started regularly publishing crime statistics in the 2001/02 financial year.

Nqakula said he believes the solution to Africa’s crime problem lies in community involvement. “It’s our experience that in areas where communities are working together with the police, crime levels have been reduced, quite drastically in some respects,” he said. But farmers and other South Africans feel that their hands are tied in fighting crime because of a draconian firearms act and police who arrest farmers for patrolling their districts.

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“Just the other day, some of our farmers were patrolling their area with green lights on the bakkie roofs when the police fined them,” TAU SA’s general manager Bennie van Zyl told Farmer’s Weekly. “Nationally we’re being told that it’s legal to use green lights, but on the ground it’s a different story.” Many Africans have also argued that the number of unreported incidents have probably skewed the real face of crime and many victims didn’t bother reporting crimes because they feel they can’t rely on the South Africa Police Service.

“There’s truth in the argument that the law enforcement agencies have a primary responsibility to deal with crime, but it’s also true that the fight against crime benefits tremendously when the communities work in a solid partnership with the law enforcement agencies,” Nqakula said in his presentation. “Some of the older democracies, in their response to circumstances like ours, have resorted to community or geographic policing as a key project to prevent and combat crime.” He said that his department was also working towards establishing this concept in the communities as the best method of dealing with crime in South Africa. – Jasper Raats and David Steynberg

Border Control Issues

Referring to the state’s responsibilities for border security, Nqakula all but admitted that the South African government cannot safeguard its borders and is trying to find an effective solution. He referred to common international practices, saying research shows that there’s no internationally accepted and uniform practice for the appropriate security force that should be utilised to enforce borderline security.

“It can be deduced from the above that most countries, like South Africa, have demonstrated an inclination towards utilising civilian forces that are comparable to the police, who have the powers to arrest and the capability to utilise minimum force in the execution of their duties, as they mostly deal with civilians along their borders,” he said. This response follows only weeks after reports that the South African Police Service is neither equipped nor ready to take responsibility for national border patrol. – Staff reporter


Freedom Front Plus
(FF+) FF+ spokesperson for Safety and Security Pieter Groenewald said the minister was not entirely truthful when he boasted about the decrease in violent crime in SA. “He’s misleading the public. South Africa is still an unsafe country given the fact robberies in homes have increased by nearly 40% over the past two years. Vehicle hijacking increased by 16% over the same period proving that SA is a dangerous place in which to live.”

Democratic Alliance (DA)
S afety and Security spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard said it might be a case of fewer people reporting crime instead of an actual decrease. “According to available figures, as many as 51% of victims don’t report serious crimes such as robbery. How much of the declining statistics are due to real decreases in crime? We can only guess.” Kohler-Barnard is of the opinion that in order for the crime statistics to mean anything they must be integrated with arrest and conviction statistics. “Yet another year has come and gone and still the public doesn’t have this information. It forces us to consider the government’s seriousness about combating crime.”

AfriForum’s head of Community Safety Nantes Kelder said his organisation is particularly concerned about the increase in child murders. More than 1 400 children were murdered during the past year. Kelder also questioned the accuracy of the figures and said the reliability of the statistics needed to be investigated and ascertained.

TAU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl said he doesn’t like the way the police play with numbers and if only one murder takes place a year, that’s one too many. “While murders are much higher locally (38,6 out of every 100 000 people) than the world average (five out of every 100 000 people), I don’t want South Africa to be compared with the world, but rather with what is right and what is wrong,” he argued. – Annelie Coleman

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.