Despite a rise in murder and attempted murder, police commissioner Riah Phiyega is pleased with the crime statistics.
National police commissioner Riah Phiyega was at pains to paint an inspiring picture at the release of the annual crime statistics on Thursday in Pretoria.
"This is a story of success," she beamed at the gathered journalists and analysts.
But there was no getting away from the most disturbing facts: there was a rise in murder and attempted murder, the latter for the first time in a decade.
"It is worrying, because our murder rate is already four and a half times higher than the international average," said the Institute of Security Studies's Gareth Newham. "Now there are two more people being murdered on average every day than the previous year." In total, 16 259 South Africans were murdered in the financial year 2012 to 2013.
Several categories of robbery, hijacking and burglary also had a spike in reported cases after a downward trend for many years. These are the categories that drive up murder, Newham said.
Ironically, there was a decrease in categories of crime that police can't do much to prevent, such as sexual offences and assault, because they are dependent on social factors.
The sort of crime that takes good policing, however, is on the rise after a steady downward trend over the past nine years.
Another concern is the clear sign that organised crime is growing. Car and truck hijacking, as well as business burglaries and robberies, serve as red flags for this type of crime. Those categories all spiked, with 3.6% more car hijackings in the past financial year and nearly 15% more truck hijackings.
Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa tried to put the figures in context by showing the success achieved over the past 10 years. But those gains were thanks to historical factors no longer in play. During previous commissioner Jackie Selebi's tenure, crime was wrestled down from alarming levels that peaked in about 2002. About 70 000 additional officers were hired over 10 years, helping the numbers drop the most between 2003 and 2006.
After Selebi, Bheki Cele's bolshie approach was controversial, but went someway to raising police officers' morale. "And, of course, he was lucky enough to be police commissioner during the Confederation Cup and World Cup, which resulted in dramatically more resources being thrown at the police," said Newham.
It's good, old-fashioned detective work that is missing and, critically, healthy crime intelligence to arrest the growth of organised crime, according to Newham.
But South Africa is a long way from that, with suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli's trials leaving the sector weak.
Phiyega's disastrous tenure
"The crime intelligence division needs a permanent head, a person of impeccable integrity so that that person can give a sense of direction back to a unit that has been severely compromised," said Newham.
The same goes for the national police commissioner.
"If the person in charge is seen as dishonest or they are not able to do their job and seem out of depth, obviously that leads to the organisation not being as coherent and focused as they need to be and they can't work as well with communities and societies."
The current appointee Phiyega has had a damaging if not disastrous tenure since her appointment in June 2012.
She will have to work hard to overcome the perception that she is out of her depth and compromised after her ill-handling of the Marikana massacre and unite and inspire her force, 115 of whom committed suicide in the previous year. And then she needs to put aside politics and fight for better crime intelligence.