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Violent crime out of control and the poor pay the price – SAFTU

The crime statistics released by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula confirm the South African Federation of Trade Unions’s view that violent crime is escalating out of control.

Every day on average 386 South Africans are robbed, 61 burgled, 46 hijacked and a shocking 52 murdered – five times the world average!

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, murder, home and business robberies, carjackings and stock theft all increased. The SAPS recorded 1,738,980 incidents of crime – including 19 016 murders (up by 343), 140 956 robberies, 39,828 rapes and 6,271 sexual offences.

And these are just the crimes reported to the SAPS. A recent Statistics SA’s survey of Victims of Crime showed that only 51.2% of those whose homes were broken into reported it to the police, as did 56.7% of those who experienced home robbery involving violence, and only 30% of thefts of personal property.

Sexual attacks in particular are notoriously under-reported. Women’s rights organisations and civil society have claimed that for every reported rape at least nine and up to as many as 27 others are not reported.

According to the StatsSA survey of just over 1.1-million households, the most frequent reason for not reporting these crimes officially, cited on average by six out of 10 victims, was that police would not or could not do anything. “This could be an indication of lack of confidence in the police, and follows the same pattern as the previous survey where 58% of households gave the same reason for not reporting housebreaking to the police.”

The minister’s report also, indirectly, confirms SAFTU’s belief that the poor suffer most from violent crime, while the rich can buy relative safety from private security firms, and guarded barriers around their suburbs.

This class bias is exposed in his list of “top ten murder police stations” where the most cases were recorded. Seven were in the Western Cape, with Nyanga at number one. In second and third places are Inanda and Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal, where murders increased by 22.5% and 20.6% respectively in 2016/17. Umlazi is the area covering Glebelands hostels where over the past two years over 92 people have been killed.

None of these police stations are in wealthy suburbs, which vindicates SAFTU’s conviction that the poorest communities suffer grossly disproportionately from violent crime, as we have seen in the lawlessness in Manenberg, Marikana/Philippi and other Cape Town communities where criminal gangs murder with impunity and the SAPS are doing next to nothing.

As Marianne Merten writes in the Daily Maverick, “Tuesday’s crime statistics show right now that the SAPS, despite its R87-billion budget, is part of the problem”.

Even the minister himself had to admit to Parliament that “We are running a rogue state… I am beyond defending the indefensible. There have to be major overhauls”. He promised to “revive specialized units, have competent police officers who know how to investigate crimes, make arrests and ensure that cases are so solid that we secure convictions”.

The question, asks Merten, is “whether Mbalula has the energy, stamina and political suss to continue challenging the SAPS’s organisational laissez-faire attitude and break down institutional resistance”.

Unfortunately the evidence so far indicates that he lacks all these qualities. He is all word and no action. He sees his role as confined to wild and crude rhetoric and media stunts like his video and tweeted ‘arrest’ of 12 totally innocent people in Cape Town.

SAFTU stands by its statement after that shocking incident, that “The Minister’s remarks and his conduct will reinforce all these negative perceptions [of the police] and the only ones celebrating will be the criminal gangs. His term of office has been a disaster. He must resign immediately and it he refuses he must be dismissed! The only crisis we face is that person who hired him is himself not fit to be in office.”