South Africa’s murder rate increased in the last quarter

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South Africa’s murder rate went up by 2% in the last quarter of 2023, with nearly 8 000 people murdered, but sexual offences declined slightly.

Presenting the crime stats on Friday for 1 October to 31 December 2023, Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, said “it is disturbing and concerning that the number of people murdered during this period, increased by 2.1% leading to 155 more people murdered as compared to the same period. The provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Free State must be singled out and commended for being able to register a reduction in the number of people murdered during this period.”

A total of 7 710 people were murdered in the last quarter of 2023, going against the recent trend of a slight decline in reported murders.

“From a sample size of 7 340 murders it was established that arguments, misunderstandings, provocation, remains the top causal factor leading to 1 116 murders,” Cele said.

“It is also concerning that of the 268 gang-related murders, 250 of these murders were reported in the Western Cape. 431 murders were linked to vigilantism and mob justice attacks, Gauteng registered the highest with 84, followed by the Eastern Cape with 80 and KwaZulu-Natal with 78.”

With regard to sexual offences related crimes, Cele said he was “encouraged” to report that “all our sexual offences crimes including, rape sexual assault and contact sexual offences all registered an overall 1.7% decline during this period.”

A total of 12 211 rapes were reported in the last quarter of 2023.

More than 2 400 suspect raids led to 4 264 suspects being arrested for gender-based violence and femicide-related (GBVF) crimes, including rape and sexual assault. A total of 112 life sentences were handed down to 89 rapists, while 64 rapists and GBVF perpetrators were each sentenced to 20 years and above imprisonment.

Cele noted that the fight against GBVF crimes remains a priority for the men and women in blue. More awareness programs are being conducted by the department’s social crime prevention and Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS), which translates to an increase in the reporting of these crimes.

Progress in finalisation of DNA cases

Meanwhile, the South African Police Service (SAPS) highlighted progress in the finalisation rate of DNA cases and the eradication of the historic DNA backlog, which is currently standing at zero, from 251 000 in the 2021/2022 financial year.

Cele said the expansion of the DNA lab in Gqerberha, Eastern Cape, which was opened by President Cyril Ramaphosa in August 2023, has contributed immensely to the processing of more DNA samples in the country.

“All these efforts have contributed positively to the SAPS fight against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide cases. For example, the NPA and SAPS project has led to more than 40 000 DNA forensic reports being finalised to ensure that cases of GBVF are prioritised,” Cele said.

Festive Season

Cele said police went into the festive season well equipped to take on the task of tackling crime. During this time, 32 229 suspects were arrested for common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm; 4 882 suspects were arrested for murder and attempted murder; 4 783 suspects were arrested for sexual offences related crimes such as rape and attempted rape; 6 383 people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs; 3 747 suspects were arrested for dealing in drugs while, 16 942 suspects were arrested for being in possession of drugs; and 2581 suspects were arrested for being in possession of illegal and prohibited firearms and ammunition.

Drug busts

Cele said during the fourth quarter, four major drug busts were registered. Three were at the Durban Harbour, where cocaine to the value of R300 million was seized in separate incidents.

“The most recent drug bust during this period was for cocaine to the value of R151 million on the 4th of December 2023. The fourth drug bust was at the Gqerberha Sea Port, where cocaine worth R65 million was seized,” Cele said.

Cele reported in this period, R800 million worth of drugs were destroyed in Gauteng.

“These were drugs collected during policing operations across the country. Fifteen clandestine drug laboratories were shut down, with 21 suspects arrested for drug related charges, including manufacturing and dealing in drugs.

“Indeed, our intelligence structures are hard at work in preventing and putting a stop to the drug trade in the country and beyond.

“This is also a clear demonstration that all stakeholders involved in border security management are working together to tighten the control measures of cargo entering and departing our country,” the Minister said.

Cash-in-transit heists

With regards to cash-in-transit (CIT) heists, Cele said the specialised teams put in place in each province are yielding results in ensuring that there is a reduction in the number of CITs taking place.

“During this period, 46 CIT armed robberies took place, which is 11 counts lower than the previous crime reporting period. In the past year, more than 75 wanted CIT suspects have been arrested during takedown operations.

“High calibre firearms, including rifles and AK-47s, as well as high performance vehicles that were used in the commission of these crimes, were seized,” Cele added.

Construction mafia

On construction mafia crimes, Cele reported that the SAPS continues to deal decisively with this crime category.

“From April to date, more than 61 suspects linked to these extortions were arrested. Since 2019, 27 accused were convicted for a collective 43 years direct imprisonment,” Cele explained. “In a recent incident, 12 suspects were arrested during a takedown operation in Toekomsrus in Randfontein. A group calling themselves Toekomsrus Business Forum attempted to disrupt a R320 million housing project demanding a 30% stake in the project, the police’s swift response led to the arrest of these twelve suspects with two firearms confiscated.”

“The Western Cape province has also made significant progress in dismantling and taking down those behind the 30% construction mafia grouping where projects were delayed as a result of acts of criminality. Amongst the many arrested include the Kingpins which include Ralph Stanfield and his wife Nicole Johnson and three others.”

Cele said construction mafias continue to pose a threat to business and the economy of the country.

Illicit mining

Through illicit mining operations currently underway in seven illegal mining hotspot provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and North West, the South African Police Service is carrying out Operation Vala Umgodi, working closely with members of the South African National Defence Force and the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy (DMRE) in apprehending those that are behind these illegal activities and confiscating illegal mining equipment. 1258 illegal miners were arrested in the last quarter of 2023.

“Through these operations, we were able to seize 94 illegal and unwanted firearms including, 25 rifles and 69 handguns. 103 stolen and hijacked vehicles were also recovered,” Cele said.