Seven thousand five hundred plus murders in last quarter of 2022 – Cele

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South African police minister Bheki Cele admitted the release last week of 2022 fourth quarter crime statistics was “not positive” but maintained the numbers showed “police are pushing back on criminality through visible policing and disruptive operations”.

SA Police Service (SAPS) statistics for the period under review show 7 555 people were murdered. Three thousand one hundred and forty-four of these were killed with firearms, 498 with other weapons including knives, sharp and blunt instruments, bricks and “in many cases bare hands” Cele said.

On the possible and probable causes of the high murder rate, the police minister noted “a broader conversation must be had about what is at the heart of violent crime in the country”.

He called gun violence “problematic” and “a serious threat to lives and livelihoods”.

“With analysis of current and previous statistics it is quite evident firearms are only part of a bigger problem. At the core of the matter is human behaviour.

“We have to be honest as South Africans about the causes of violence and address them,” he said pointing to high unemployment and poverty as well as “the mushrooming of informal settlements with little to no services and other socio-economic ills which breed criminality”. To this he added a high number of hard to trace undocumented foreign nationals after commission of a crime.

Cele was roundly lambasted by the official opposition’s shadow minister of police with Andrew Whitfield noting: “Not since the dawn of democracy in 1994, has South Africa ever been in such a violent, murderous and bloody war against crime as today”.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow police minister used what he called some of Cele’s “worst statistics” to illustrate.

These include the 7 555 murders in the period under review, just over 82 deaths a day; 15 545 sexual assaults, 169 a day; 50 582 assaults with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH), 550 a day; and 37 829 violent robberies, 411 a day.

Cele said police are using what is at “their disposal amid budget cuts and a growing population to police a violent society”.

He thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa and National Treasury for a new approach to prioritising “massive recruitment” as well as “further capacitation of specialised units”.

“This intervention will soon yield positive results in the overall fight against crime,” he said with the rider that poverty, inequality and unemployment coupled with “little to no basic services impeded on policing”.