On 24 October, the South African Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, released the country’s yearly crime statistics report for the period, 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.
The report shows an overall decrease in South Africa’s crime figures for the period under review, along with the country’s four categories of crimes, namely contact (a 2.4% decrease), contact-related (a 3.3% decrease), property-related (a 1.8% decrease), and other serious crime (a 4.1% decrease).
As with previous years, South Africa’s most populated province, Gauteng, had the highest number of reported crimes at 503 224 (FY 2015/16: 507 517), while the sparsely, populated province of the Northern Cape, with 44 234, saw the lowest numbers in FY 2016/17 (FY 2015/16: 45 068). Other provinces also had modest decreases in FY 2016/17:
- Free State (5.2%)
- Limpopo (3.9%)
- Western Cape (3.5%)
- KwaZulu-Natal (2.9%).
However, the provinces of North West, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga saw increases of 0.9%, 1.1% and 1.4%, respectively.
Despite the overall decrease in crime, the country’s main challenge, violent crimes (i.e. contact crimes), is still relatively high; and remains as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The per 100 000 people ratios for violent or contact crime remain high in FY 2016/17, with:
- Murder at 34.1 (FY 2015/16: 34),
- Rape at 71.3 (FY 2015/16: 75.5),
- Sexual assault at 11.2 (FY 2015/16: 11.3),
- Attempted murder at 32.6 (FY 2015/16: 33.0),
- Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm at 305.5 (FY 2015/16: 332.8),
- Common assault at 280.2 (FY 2015/16: 300.1), and
- Common robbery at 95.7 (FY 2015/16: 98.4).
Overall, the 1.8% reduction, given its size, does not indicate that it is a result of increased policing efforts or capacities, but may be a result of better reporting and classification, political pressure to be seen to be eliminating crime, and an increasing trend of victims of crime not reporting incidents due to the perceived inefficacy of the police in South Africa, and an equally inefficient criminal justice system.
It is also worth noting that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has been without a permanent National Commissioner since the dismissal of Riah Phiyega, and has in the past year seen two different Ministers – which has entrenched the lack of leadership and direction for the country’s police force – further hampering any real efforts to reduce crime in South Africa.
Under the new Minister, Fikile Mbalula, there has been talk of resuscitating the now defunct, tactical response team (TRT), and deploying units of the South African army to the frontline against stemming crime. On the other hand, Acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General, Khomotso Phahlane, instituted the “Back to Basics” campaign which constitutes a lot of disjointed plans, under a Minister who seems eager to be seen as doing something about crime – whether through his infantile posts on social media or through bold and often vulgar statements, but with very little action or political will beyond a mere cosmetic exercise of a fight against crime.