Unabridged statement: Minister of Police: Violent crime



Fundamental question “why is crime violent?” not satisfactorily answered

CAPE TOWN – 09 November 2010.  The Ministry of Police today released for public comment the report by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) on the Nature of Violent Crime in South Africa.  The report is the culmination of three years of investigation into the causes and nature of violent crime in South Africa. 

Understanding violent crime in South Africa

Speaking during a presentation on the findings to the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament, the Deputy Minister of Police Ms Maggie Sotyu said government wanted to derive from the study, the fundamental question: ‘why is crime in South Africa violent?’  “As government, we wanted the report to answer this question unambiguously and clearly.  We did not expect the report to tell us the obvious or factors aligned to the violent nature in South Africa, in comparison to other developing and developed countries.”

According to CSVR, violence must be understood in terms of the forms that it takes.  They state that culture of violence and criminality are the principal factors underpinning armed violence in South Africa, adding that this is perpetrated by young men with a criminal identity as individuals or as part of a broader gang. 
Opportunity to debate on the nature of crime in South Africa

While the Ministry welcomes the report, it notes both its strengths and limitations.  “The report opens a debate on the nature of crime in the country which is useful.   However, as a Ministry we need to highlight that we had some serious concerns about some elements of the report,” said the Secretary for Police, Ms Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane.
“There was nothing incredibly new that hit us in the face or took us by surprise, for example, the recommended innovations and suggestions are not anything new.  The fundamental issue was looking at why crime was violent.  We believe the report has failed to answer this question critically.  To even link culture or socio-economic conditions to commission of crime, is not a true reflection,” added Ms Irish-Qhobosheane.
Identified limitations and potential avenues for further research

The concepts of ‘culture of violence and criminality’ needed to be unpacked and better understood.  The report does not really engage with the implications of the post 1994 policing environment (human rights based policing, community policing and so on) for the response to crime.  Related to this more could be said about the police violence and its implications for violence.

The report aims to use the best data available to portray a picture of violent crime.  Concerns about the reliability of available data highlight the need for improvements in data collection on violence in South Africa.  The question about why some countries with histories of violence are not as violent as South Africa deserves further exploration.  The question about why some poorer communities are strongly affected by violence whilst others are less affected also deserves further exploration.  The concern with violent crime should also not lead to crimes of the rich (fraud, embezzlement and corruption) and their impact on society being neglected.

The study highlights the relatively limited information about violence in rural areas.  While the reports engage with questions about the causes of crime there is still more that could be done here.  For instance there are big questions about the role of personality factors in contributing to young people’s involvement in violence and criminality whilst others do not.

Amongst the recommendations put forward by the report, include:

Development of a policing strategy to address armed violent crime in metropolitan and surrounding areas for addressing armed violence.  Invest in research aimed at identifying and publicising good practice in local level policing in addressing armed violence.  Strengthening evidence based crime investigation and prosecution as well as strengthening measures to ensure police integrity.  The report talks about a need to create public areas that are gun free zones and discouraging violence and bullying at schools.  It also focuses on creating weapons free zones in drinking establishments and improving safety in prisons so that it becomes violence free. 

However the report fails to outline clear strategies on how government needs to address these conditions. A coherent and sustained family support programme that focuses on single parent households, particularly those headed by teenage mothers.  It talks about a dedicated and comprehensive early childhood development programme that provides support to the children coming from dysfunctional households.  Again whilst these may sound doable, the report does not outline on how and when?

The Ministry’s concluding views are that the report recognises that a lot is already being done.  There are some elements which call for government to re-orientate itself.  “The recommendations must be seen as building blocks of a crime fighting approach and that some of the recommendations are already being addressed in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster,” stated Deputy Minister Sotyu.

Amongst the various current programmes, the Civilian Secretariat for Police is currently engaging with academics and other institutions to assist in providing more clarity of this area. “We are collaborating with Statistics South Africa to initiate another Victims Perception Survey to understand patterns of victimization, which will begin in January next year.  In addition, we are already developing a policy to build Community Safety Forums, which will address many of the social issues that have an impact on safety and violence mentioned in the report,” concluded Ms Irish-Qhobosheane.

To get a full copy of the reports, go to www.csvr.org.za or contact (011) 403 5650.


For enquiries, please contact:

Zweli Mnisi, Spokesperson to the Minister of Police 082 045 4024

Issued by the Ministry of Police.