Crime stats spat continues

That South Africans are in the dark about crime statistics must be blamed on the agenda of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthetwa told the Mail & Guardian.

“The reason why you and I are talking about this thing is because of the agenda of the DA which says that South Africans are in the dark in terms of statistics — We are not going to be led into an agenda which has nothing to do with the fight against crime,” said Mthetwa on Thursday.

But DA spokesperson Diane Kohler-Barnard dismissed this and pointed out that former safety and security minister Charles Nqakula had promised to release the statistics every six months. Kohler-Barnard accused Mthetwa of hiding the crime statistics because they could be embarrassing to the ruling African National Congress. “How dare he abuse his position to keep us in the dark?” asked Kohler-Barnard.

Mthetwa told the M&G that crime statistics should be the concern of operational policemen who use them on daily basis as a crime-fighting tool. “The police have statistics daily. We have what we call the war crime room and this concept says that the police come together including crime intelligence and look at crime trends in each area,” he added.

He was speaking after media reports that his department had failed to release crime statistics biannually as originally promised. His spokesperson, Panyaza Lesufi, reportedly told a national radio station that releasing the statistics before an election would be perceived as an “election ploy” and added that these would only be released in September. By not releasing the results prior to the election, Lesufi added, the minister was seeking to “depoliticise” the issue of crime statistics.

Mthetwa reiterated to the M&G that he was seeking to “depolitise” the issue and added: “In future if things go according to my wish, [the crime statistics] are not going to be pronounced by the minister: people in the field will announce them.”

Clarifying his comments about wanting statistics to the public to be only released every two years he said: “The ‘two years’ thing comes from my saying that Interpol’s National Security of Members Council decided that they do not have to give fresh statistics to everybody: what they need to do is to give old statistics.”

He added that statistics are available daily but the government and the general public should only get statistics annually as part of the South African Police Service’s annual report.

Kohler-Barnard disputed this, telling the M&G that Mthetwa, in a television interview, had told South Africans that if he had his way the statistics would only be released every two years.

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