Police Minister Cele: ‘Too many women and children are not safe around those they know and trust’
The second-quarter crime statistics recorded marginal reductions in crimes against women and children, but Police Minister Bheki Cele emphasised that the high levels of violence continue to show that many women and children are not safe near individuals they know and trust.
According to the second-quarter national crime statistics that were released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday, 17 November, of the 10,516 rapes reported between 1 July and 30 September 2023, at least 4,726 occurred either at the victim’s house or at the home of the perpetrator, who is known to the victim, such as a family member, a friend or a neighbour.
In the same period, 6,945 murders were recorded, including the murders of 881 women and 293 children. Furthermore, 14,401 incidents of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm were recorded against women and 1,820 against children.
Regarding attempted murder, 1,514 incidents against women were recorded and 361 against children. When compared with the second quarter of 2022, recorded murders of women declined 10.9% this year and the murder of children declined by 7%, although reports of attempted murder were up 18.6% and 22.8%, respectively.
“However, and disturbingly, the crime figures show that far too many women and children in this country are not safe around people that they know and trust and at times those that they love and in the places where they are supposed to be safe,” Cele said, while noting the drop in the number of reported murders.
“It is clear attacks and violence meted on women, children, the elderly and the most vulnerable in this country, remains shameful.
“The scourge of violence against women and children in South Africa must be confronted equally by law enforcement, the whole of government and the whole of society, head on.”
Cele said the ministry was motivated by the ongoing availability of evidence collection kits, known as “rape kits”, and the DNA backlog, which stood at 240,000 two years ago, had been cleared.
“The SAPS continues to upscale its responses to this form of crimes through increased operations to trace GBV perpetrators, arrest serial offenders as well as serial rapists,” the minister said.
“Our docket analysis shows that the arrest of serial sexual offenders is reducing incidents of sexual offences.”
Year-on-year reports of rape reduced by 0.7%, sexual assaults 2.5% and contact sexual offences 35.9%, while attempted sexual offences increased by 4.3%.
Cele also expressed grave concern about the recent brutal stabbing of a female student in broad daylight in Cape Town on 11 November.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Police arrest Cape Town student after vicious stabbing of woman at residence
Ntembeko Myalo (32) was arrested in connection with the attack and appeared briefly in the Bellville Magistrates’ Court on 13 November. He faces a charge of attempted murder after allegedly stabbing his partner and leaving her for dead at a student residence in Belhar.
Drop in murder rate
Despite an overall drop in the country’s murder rate between July and September this year, 6,945 people were murdered in South Africa.
This year’s first-quarter murder statistics showed a 3.1% decline in murders between May and July, while a 0.8% decrease was recorded in the second quarter between July and September.
In the second quarter, 35 police officers were killed on and off duty as well as 19 law enforcement officers attached to national, provincial and local government or private security.
Two months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa joined the nation in honouring officers who lost their lives on SAPS National Commemoration Day, emphasising that deadly attacks on police officers are on the rise.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The names of 34 police officers who paid the ultimate price trying to safeguard SA memorialised in Pretoria
Announcing the crime stats, Cele said: “As was the case in previous quarters, the majority of people killed in South Africa are murdered during arguments, misunderstandings and provocations that usually take place in social settings.
“Arguments, vigilantism and robbery remain the top three causative factors for murder in the majority of the provinces. Firearms, knives and sharp instruments are likely to be used as murder weapons. Firearms alone claimed the lives of 3,106 victims.”
Cele said the second consecutive drop in the country’s murder figures was in no way a claim of any victory by the SAPS. While there were green shoots, one murder was one too many, he said.
“We believe the declines are as a result of a combination of operational policing strategies as well as policy interventions, that we are seeing an improvement in crime,” he said.
“Over and above ongoing policing operations, we know this administration has gone to lengths in capacitating critical units of the police service, in order to keep communities safer.
“This includes the overhauling and strengthening of the management of the Crime Intelligence division, drastically improving crime detection capabilities of the police.
“Crime Intelligence capacity has also been strengthened at Top 30 crime-heavy police stations. The Intelligence officers have also been supplied with adequate resources including vehicles and other tools of trade to gather intelligence.
“SAPS units responsible for the investigation of organised crimes have also been bolstered at both provincial and national levels, to infiltrate criminal syndicates,” he said.
David Bruce, an independent researcher and consultant at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria, has pointed out that the murder rate has increased significantly since 2012.
In a recent ISS policy brief, he stated that murders had been increasing consistently in South Africa over the last decade, reaching a high of 45 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2023. On average, 75 people were killed every day over the last year.
“Between the birth of democracy in 1994 and 2012, the murder rate dropped by 55% to its lowest level of 29.5 per 100,000. Since then, socioeconomic stagnation and dysfunctional criminal justice institutions have contributed to a 53% escalation in the rate.
“In terms of the raw figures, the number of murders increased by 77%. In the 2022/23 financial year, 27,494 murders were recorded, up from 15,554 in 2011/12,” Bruce writes.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Organised crime a significant contributor to soaring murder rates in South Africa, reveals policy brief
DA shadow minister of police Andrew Whitfield said Cele had failed to reduce crime despite a performance agreement signed in 2020 to reduce contact crimes by 30% in five years.
“Since Bheki Cele was appointed as the Minister of Police in 2018, nearly 130,000 South Africans have been brutally murdered by violent criminals who roam our streets with impunity. Yet President Ramaphosa refuses to fire him.
“The latest crime statistics paint yet another terrifying picture of the bloody war being waged against South Africans. Families and communities are being destroyed by violent criminals who torment and terrorise innocent citizens desperate to live a life without crime, while Ramaphosa and Cele are protected by taxpayer-funded VIP protectors,” Whitfield said.
The SAPS’s capacity to investigate and fight organised crime appears to have been significantly diminished due to severe skills shortages.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Specialist skills-deprived SAPS lumbers on to tick the boxes of performance targets amid downbeat perceptions
In response to a question from Whitfield in the Police Portfolio Committee in October, the National Police Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, said that the SAPS had lost 8,400 detectives from 26,000 in 2016/17 to 17,600 detectives in October 2023.
Cele said all police officers, reservists and office-bound members would be called on to assist in festive season policing actions in an effort to stop the tide of crime in the country. DM