/ 30 May 2023

Bheki Cele: Police weekend operations key to reducing murder rate

Bheki Cele
Police Minister Bheki Cele. (Michele Spatari/AFP)

Police Minister Bheki Cele said weekend police operations were part of the reason behind the 16.7% drop in murder cases from January to March 2023 compared with the previous quarter, as well as annual decreases in recorded rapes and bank and truck robberies.

On Tuesday, Cele released the crime statistics for the first three months of the year — the public sector’s fourth quarter — showing that 6 289 murders were reported. This equated to nearly 70 people murdered a day, down from 82 a day in the preceding three months, when 7 555 people were killed. 

But, on an annualised basis, the murder rate rose by 3.4% compared with the first three months of last year, although Cele said this was “the lowest single digit decrease recorded”. 

“Though it is a decrease, these are not just figures but human lives that should be protected at all costs,” the police minister added.

There was a 2.8% decrease in rapes in the fourth quarter compared with the same period last year. This translated to 10 512 rapes from January to March 2023, down from 10 818 a year earlier.

A sharper 14.9% drop was reported in sexual assaults, from 2 165 in 2022 to 1 843 a year later. 

Although cash-in-transit robberies rose by more than 20% during the reporting period, bank and truck robberies dropped, with bank robberies falling by 6.5%. 

The minister lauded what he called the “Thursday to Monday lockdowns [operations]” for the reduction in contact crimes, saying these operations had brought successes for the police. 

“More boots on the ground are pushing back on criminality through intelligence-led operations to take down individuals or criminal syndicates hellbent on terrorising communities,” Cele said.

“This progressive form of policing has adapted from Gauteng-based Operation O Kae Molao (where is the law), which has been ongoing for five years.”

Cele acknowledged the reduction in rape cases, saying six of South Africa’s nine provinces recorded decreases. But 10 512 rapes in three months was still “concerning”, the police minister added.

“The declines in rape cases are attributed to among other things, the SAPS [South African Police Service] up-scaling its operations to trace GBV [gender-based violence] perpetrators, arresting serial sex offenders and rapists and ongoing men dialogues with communities,” he said.

“The first three months of this year [have] recorded a stubborn increase in cash-in-transit heists. We are encouraged that the newly legislated surveillance technology will make sweeping changes in this crime trend and other organised crimes.

“The first three months of this year have recorded much welcomed decreases in trio crimes including truck-hijackings [as well as cash-in-transit and bank robberies].”