Drop in murder 'minuscule', says DA

Last year, there was a 6.5% drop in the murder rate, which brought the number of murders in the country to 15940. (David Harrison, M&G)

Last year, there was a 6.5% drop in the murder rate, which brought the number of murders in the country to 15940. (David Harrison, M&G)

Last year, there was a 6.5% drop in the murder rate, which brought the number of murders in the country to 15 940.

On Thursday, journalists battled to obtain the murder figure for this year from the assembled senior officers and were referred to the police website. The number of murders in South Africa for the period from April 1 last year to May 31 this year is 15 609.

Democratic Alliance  police spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard  said she was disappointed as she wanted to see a massive decline.

"Our murder rate is still one of the highest in the world," she said.

"I was extremely surprised that not one member at the top table would actually read out the number. They were ashamed to read the ­figures out."

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said that the crime statistics did not provide the necessary information to strengthen the fight against crime.
It appeared that the statistics categorised much of the reporting of corruption as common fraud, said Lewis.

Patterns and hot spots
"Clearly, correctly identifying corruption in the statistics will better enable the public, policy makers and law-enforcement authorities to combat it. It will reveal patterns and hot spots of corruption; it will reveal the extent to which corruption is reported; and it will enable the public to assess the relative success or failure of the law-enforcement authorities in dealing with the crime of corruption," he said.

Gareth Newham, the  head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said after the briefing that he had a few points of concern, including that the crime statistics were already six months old when they were released.

"The crime statistics need to be broken down further so we can look at subtrends in murder," he said. It was important to know, for example, whether there was an increase in xenophobic murders or farm murders.

"People need to know the real security threats they are facing in South Africa and whether the minister and police are doing their job to contain this threat," said Newham.

It was standard good practice to release the crime figures monthly, or even weekly in some countries, he said. The crime figures revealed that attempted murder had decreased by 5.2%, taking the figures down from 15 493 attempted murders to 14 859; assault with grievous bodily harm decreased by 4.2%, from 198 602 to 192 651; and common assault decreased by 3.4% from 185 891 to 181 670.

There was an 11.9% decrease in car hijackings from 10 627 to 9 475, and cash-in-transit figures also decreased by 37.5% from 291 to 182.

Newham said he was also concerned that national police commissioner Mangwashi Phiyega had indicated that the police would be putting more resources into violent protests, even focusing on incitement and illegal gatherings.

"Noting some of the new policing dimensions, we continue to analyse evolving trends of public violence and unrest, the SAPS will pay attention to addressing these, including occurrences such as incitement, armed protests, illegal gatherings  and other related offences," said Phiyega.

Kohler Barnard said the "minuscule changes" could not be seen as making progress, not for a R64.4-billion budget.

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