South Africa is tackling violent crime, the police minister said, lowering murder rates before the country hosts what it promises will be a safe soccer World Cup in 2010.
But he said some of the most worrying crimes such as homes and business robberies, which can hurt business confidence, had risen, Reuters reports.
About 50 people are killed each day in South Africa, sometimes for as little as a cellphone, as outgunned police battle against what the government has called a “killing field” in Africa’s biggest economy.
President Jacob Zuma has appointed a zero tolerance police chief who has vowed to make the streets safe ahead of next year’s World Cup, which the government hopes will bring in millions of tourist dollars and international prestige.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa yesterday released annual crime statistics from April 2008 to March 2009 which showed there were just fewer than 2.1 million serious crimes such as murder, violent robberies, rape and carjackings.
“During this period murder declined by 3.4 percent and attempted murder by 4.3 percent,” Mthethwa told reporters.
Of the country’s 18 143 murder cases reported, more than three-quarters were caused by stab wounds and gun shots.
Criminals often slip through the cracks of an overburdened criminal justice system and analysts say poor police work makes securing convictions difficult.
Tackling these problems is crucial if South Africa, in its first recession in 17 years, wants to reassure investors it is safe to do business there, and keep South African professionals from taking their skills abrooad.
“We are deeply concerned about the increase in house robberies which, during the last financial year increased by 27.3 percent,” Mthethwa told reporters.
“It is one of the crimes that are the most intrusive and personalise the crime experience. A person’s home is her/his last line of defence.”
The minister said these crimes would receive the “most serious attention”.
Business robberies, mostly small outfits in poorer areas, as well as carjackings a dreaded crime that often turns bloody were up. Truck hijackings climbed by 15.4 %.
“The number of reported business robbery cases increased by 41.5 percent when compared to the previous year,” Mthethwa said.
South Africans often avoid armoured cash vans which risk attack whenever they travel roads or pull up at banks. Progress was made on that front, said Mthethwa, a 2.3 % decrease in cash-in-transit robberies.
Common assault declined by 4.3 %, and a “dramatic” 29.2 % decline in bank robberies was noted.
Mthethwa said there was a 10.1 % increase in sexual offence crimes, although police researchers put this down to new legislation which widened the definition of rape to include, for example, male rape.
“Government is unshakeable in its resolve to fight crime to ensure we create a safer South Africa,” said Mthethwa.