In line with the overall trend nationally the statistics released by the police on 9 September show a decrease in the most serious crimes, murder and attempted murder, in KZN (although numbers of culpable homicide cases have actually increased, both nationally and in KZN, since 2003). That is most welcome, but levels of violence are still far too high in South Africa.
In general, not enough is being done by the police to prevent it happening. Statistics should be available throughout the year, and – given levels of mistrust – there should also be an independent verification process to ensure that no fiddling of the books is taking place.
Although the two worst stations in 2008/2009, Umlazi and KwaMashu, have shown a drop in murders, the numbers of people killed in both areas are much the same as for all the other years since 2003 (i.e. last year’s deaths were an all-time high for that period). It is also important to bear in mind that both of these policing areas serve very large populations. For comparative purposes, it would be helpful to see the figures expressed as a
rate of the population.
All stations that have brought down rates of serious crime – especially those showing a consistent improvement since 2003 – are to be commended. However, questions must be asked why there has been no improvement in other areas shown to have extremely high crime rates in 2008/9. Plessislaer is a case in point, and despite problems with the functioning of this station having been drawn to the attention of management and the ICD during the past few years nothing seems to have been done to improve service delivery to those living in the area thestation serves. Does the consistent
improvement in the Durban Central area since 2003 have anything to do that with the fact that it serves a tourist hub? Why can there not be a similar improvement in a number of rural areas which serve largely poor and powerless people such as Nongoma, Msinga and Sundumbili?
In Sundumbili two people would not have been murdered had
proactive components of the police followed up on warnings that a family member was under threat of death. This incident at this particular station is by no means an exception. During the past few years, other stations, too, have been warned about threats to people, yet have failed to secure their safety.
Reports are also received of police at some stations failing to open cases until pressurised to do so, which is one of the reasons for cynicism about the reliability of statistics, especially for crimes such as robbery and assault. The present system, where the police release their statistics once a year is not acceptable. Firstly, there should be some sort of ongoing independent audit of police records (what exactly does the civilian component of policing nationally and in provinces do?) Secondly, there is no good reason whatsoever for the public having to wait a whole year to learn how
many people have died. In the 1990s, daily media releases by the police listed
the number of people killed over a twenty four hour period. Why can police
stations not provide details, every month, of people who have been killed in
their areas of jurisdiction during that time? This is public information. There are clearly shortcomings in community police forums in many areas, including insofar as their composition, and failure to report backs to members of their constituencies is concerned.
Finally, police management continue to insult the
intelligence of members of the public by repeating, ad nauseam (as Comm de Kock did this year) that most murders involved people who knew each other.
They should explain how they know this – and, if the perpetrator is known, why the conviction rate for murder is so low (a figure of 12% in