24/10/2017 11:21 SAST | Updated 24/10/2017 11:25 SAST

Crime Stats: South Africans Are "Under Siege"

Crime broadly might be down, but murder and robbery in this country is on the increase.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Police stand over six suspected armed robbers arrested in central Cape Town, September 3, 2009. South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime, with 18,487 murders, 36,190 rapes, and 14,201 reported carjackings in 2007-8, according to police. Many crimes go unreported. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA CRIME LAW)

South Africans are living "under siege" from crime, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula told MPs at Parliament on Tuesday.

Unveiling the 2016/17 crime statistics report, which detail crime levels in the country between April 1, 2016 and March 31 this year, he said that while crime overall was down, "our people do not feel it", and they were not wrong.

"Our people live under siege from crime . . . Crime is delivering terror and grave harm to our people, and our economy."

According to the report:
  • The number of murders in South Africa rose by 1.8 percent, from 18,673 in 2015/16, to 19016 in 2016/17.
  • Reported rape over the same period declined by four percent, from 41,503 to 39,828 cases.
  • Attempted murder was up 0.4 percent, from 18,127 to 18,205, while assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm dropped 6.7 percent, from 182,933 to 170,616.
  • Common assault and common robbery were both down, by 5.2 percent and 1.3 percent respectively, but robbery with aggravating circumstances shot up 6.4 percent, from 132,527 cases to 140,956.

Mbalula presented members of Parliament's police portfolio committee with an at times frank assessment of some of the problems facing the SA Police Service.

"We must admit before this committee, the question of chop and change in the leadership of police – from Bheki Cele, to Riah Phiyega, to appointees on [a] temporary basis – has affected the focus and direction of the police.

"We must not tell a lie . . . we must put it as it is, so that we are able to self-correct in what we do."

He also criticised financial institutions that transport cash around the country for failing to invest properly in safeguarding their assets.

"The financial institutions are not investing properly [to protect] their high-value assets in transit. The armoured vehicles we see on our roads do not compare with serious armoured vehicles we see in Europe."

He also criticised banks that had stopped using orange dye to protect their cash cases.

According to the report, cash-in-transit heists rose by 10.9 percent over the past year, from 137 to 152 incidents.

"I'm told that banks stopped using the orange dye because of costs. This is not acceptable."

Known for his often controversial remarks on criminals and how to handle them, Mbalula -- speaking in isiZulu, but then offering a translation -- told the committee: "Violent criminals will receive a proportional response to what they dish out."

He also had a warning for gangsters: "We're coming for you, enough is enough!"

His department has recently sent a request to the department of defence, calling for the use of the army in gang-infested areas such as Cape Town's so-called Cape Flats area. The go-ahead for this must be given by President Jacob Zuma.

Mbalula said he hoped that before the end of the year there would be a permanent national commissioner of police.

"The environment we operate in requires leadership, and the SA Police Service needs... stabilised leadership in order for us to succeed."

He also spoke frankly on the service offered by SAPS at police station level.

The message from many communities around the country was the consistent: "Lack of service, lack of service and lack of caring."

He suggested police morale was low.

"They need to be redirected; they need leadership... we need smart policing," he said.

"We need to look at our top-heavy leadership structure at head office, and to see who's who, and who's doing what."

We agree with our people; much needs to be done to improve our front-office service."

"Crime is generally down, but when you zoom into the numbers we have a big problem, where violent crime is going up, and this is no time to hide this," he said.