These are South Africa’s ‘murder capitals’ – and the police’s plan to fix them

 ·23 May 2021

The South African Police Service has published its latest crime statistics, tracking criminal patterns in the country between January to March 2021.

While the overall crime rate was down over this period, the data shows that two types of serious crime saw an increase – murder and attempted murder, which recorded an 8.4% and 8.7% increase respectively.

Cele said 4,976 people were killed in the first three months of 2021, 387 more than a year ago.

“The Mpumalanga province recorded the same number of murders as in the corresponding period in the previous financial year. The Mpumalanga province is joined by Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape in recording decreases in their murder cases,” he said.

“However it is concerning that the Eastern Cape and the Kwa- Zulu Natal provinces recorded double-digit increases, standing at 21.5% and 16.9% respectively.”

Arguments and misunderstandings (748 over the period) were the leading causes for murders over the past year. This is followed by robberies (341) and vigilantism or mob justice (298).

South Africans are most likely to be murdered in a public place such as the street or  a park (2,378), followed by in their own or someone else’s homes (1,327).

Plan to fix murder capitals

Police minister Bheki Cele said his department is working on a number of strategies to tackle the high crime rate in the country.

Presenting his departmental budget speech on Thursday (20 May), Cele said that  the safety and security of any country, is measured against its murder statistics amongst other violent crimes.

He added that the country’s high murder rate always makes media headlines, and that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is working on a number of strategies to reduce these high rates.

This includes a new practice where provincial commissioners, meet with station commanders on a weekly basis to measure station performance and account on crimes trends; in particular the murder cases per policing precinct, Cele said.

“Furthermore, national intervention plans, which involves crime combating and prevention operational deployment are activated to respond to the top 30 murder stations in order to address the stubborn murder trend and other violent crimes,” he said.

Other interventions include:

  • The establishment of an anti-gang unit;
  • The introduction of Operation Thunder targets specific parts of the Cape Flats in the Western Cape;
  • Operation Vala targets crime in correctional facilities;
  • Operation Lockdown aims to curb serious violent crimes plaguing the Cape Flats and other townships in the Cape;
  • Operation O kae Molao which targets specific parts of Gauteng.

“National intervention deployments are heavily intensified in the Western Cape province which continuously proves to be stubborn in reducing violent crimes,” said Cele.

“The SAPS continues to enhance police visibility through crime prevention operations to promote law and order in the high crime areas of the Western Cape especially the cape Metropole.”

However, Cele lamented the negative impact of ‘environmental design’ on policing, which he said cannot be understated.

“It is a huge challenge to execute policing operations in areas where there are no physical addresses, no street lights, no access roads and many other challenges,” he said.

“Equally an integrated approach and generic involvement of other departments and sectors of local government in eradicating crime contributors must be intensified.”

Cele said that when a police station becomes a murder capital – interventions at all levels must be implemented and if the results fail regardless of the interventions then the provincial guardian, the provincial commissioner and the station commander’s heads must roll.

Read: New data shows big spike in retrenchments after lockdown in South Africa

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