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Crime Trends in South Africa
The premise that, prior to 1994, crime as it affected black people in SA was something that was largely ignored by authorities, whose policing efforts were directed in large part towards maintaining the system of apartheid, is one that is generally accepted by citizens of SA.
However many who today claim that policing pre-1994, was purely 'political policing' are overstating their case in an attempt to divert attention from the dramatic failure of the post-1994 government to control crime. The SAP (South African Police) before 1994 kept crime at a level (in black and white neighbourhoods) which was far lower than today for all neighbourhoods.
It's successor the South African Police Service has been emasculated by ill-considered 'transformation' policies (affirmative action) resulting in a serious lack of skills, compounded by government's own neglect of the SAPS in terms of funding for training and equipment. Additionally corruption has taken root within the SAPS and clearly has a seriously damaging effect on the ability of some SAPS members to carry out their duties with integrity.
The ANC government today is fond of trotting out statistics which show how crime has decreased when compared with the period just prior to 1994, when democratic elections took place for the first time in SA. However the years leading up to those elections were fraught with violent attacks by one political faction upon the other, attacks on people who did not support one or other political party etc. etc. Such intimidatory tactics were seen across the country with increasing frequency as elections approached.
All of these attacks were classified as common crimes thus boosting the crime statistics for those times. For the government to use this period as the yardstick by which to judge today's crime levels is simply deceitful.
Furthermore government action in banning the regular periodic public release of crime statistics in 2000 has led to distrust of whatever figures they now choose to release, many believing that these figures are now 'massaged' to show government and SAPS efforts in a better light than would be otherwise.
The statistics shown HERE are only up to 2004 but an indicator of the situation in SA. After clicking the link you will be taken to a page which has crime category links at the bottom - click those to see statistics for different crimes.
However the statistics shown by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) at their website can, in many categories, never paint the true picture, if for only one reason - that is that many crimes go unreported in SA. The least reported crime is rape, with it is claimed, up to 8 out of 9 rapes not being reported - in terms of the crime that most concerns many ordinary citizens, that of house breaking, home robbery, home invasion (all essentially the same thing) these figures are likewise highly suspect, since at least 2 out of 3 incidents are never reported to the SAPS. The reasons for this are simple - the SAPS has an appallingly bad record in solving such cases, or even in retrieving the goods lost, therefore many people (unless it is necessary to report for insurance claim purposes) do not report where the loss is relatively small, or the goods stolen are uninsured.
In addition attempted home robberies which are thwarted, by the householder for instance, are often not reported.
In terms of murder, amazingly there are serious statistical discrepancies too. While police crime statistics show that there were 21 683 murders in the year 2000, the Medical Research Council puts the figure at 32 482. The MRC’s estimate is close to the figure from the Department of Home Affairs, which is 30 068.
This is a third more murders than reported by the SAPS, a discrepancy of more than 10 000 murders. So, while the Democratic Alliance leaflet “Fight Crime” puts the average daily murder rate in South Africa at 55 murders every day, the Medical Research Council’s statistics reveal that 89 murders are committed, on average, every day in South Africa!
Amidst the whirl of debate over what are the true figures, suspicion over the way government handles the issue of statistics to the public and general denial by government of a crime crisis in South Africa only one thing is certain - crime IS out of control in South Africa, after 13 years of democratic government, and the blame for the failure to manage and control this crisis, indeed the neglect that has led to it becoming a crisis must be laid squarely at government's door.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.
Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty-so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator-and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the quality alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an unarmed man.
They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree." — Thomas Jefferson, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in "On Crimes and Punishment", 1764