The Committee met for a briefing on the 2017/18 crime statistics. The Minister of Police and the National Commissioner of Police were in attendance.
The Minister informed the Committee that the crime statistics were nothing to write home about but admitted that the SAPS had dropped the ball. The emphasis should be on what could be done, rather than on the crime statistics. It did not matter what figures one gave related to crime statistics, if the South African Police Services could not manage the murder cases, it was not giving any joy to the South African people. The murder rate stood at 57 persons per day He compared the country to a war zone. By 2010/11 the total number of murders had dropped to 15 000 but the figure began rising in 2012/13 and by 2017/18, the number of murders stood at 20 336.
The Head of Police Crime Research and Statistics made an extensive and detailed presentation. There were 1 662 815 community-reported serious crimes, which was down 4.4% or 76 165 on the previous year. Of the 1.6 million crimes, 36.2% were contact crimes and 30.5% were property-related crimes. Attempted murder showed a slight increase over the past year to 18 233, and sexual assault and rape had increased in the past year with rape figures standing at 40 035 and sexual assault at 6 786. Robbery with aggravating circumstances, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and common assault had decreased very slightly between 1.8% and 0.1%.
Of the top ten stations with the highest murder rates, seven stations were in Cape Town, two stations in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Eastern Cape. With 308 murders, Nyanga, Cape Town, remained the station with the highest murder rate, although the rate of murder in Umlazi had climbed by 19.3% and Philippi East in Cape Town had increased by 36.7%. 28 on-duty police officers had been murdered while 57 off-duty police officers had been murdered. There had been 62 murders and 33 cases of house robbery on farms and smallholdings. Hijacking was slightly down with 16 325 incidents with cash-in-transit crimes increasing to 238 crimes. Stock theft was increasing and had reached above 100,000 cases
The presentation was extensive and highly detailed but could not be completed in detail owing to time constraints.
Members were alarmed to note the increase of 6.9% in the murder rate and found that totally unacceptable. They asked about the data/statistics to calculate the population ration of crime, the decreasing SAPS budget, the proliferation of firearms, the allocation of resources and personnel to provinces, what strategic interventions will be put in place going forward, the effectiveness of the Rural Safety strategy and what special intervention measures were being put in place to deal with the cash-in-transit heists, kidnapping and missing children. Members noted that the average budget spent in the police service had been around R9.1 million per VIP protected by the police whereas R1 500 was spent on the average citizen. How would that be addressed?
The Minister stated that he had hoped for better results. The United Nations recommended one police officer to 220 people. In South Africa the ratio was one police officer to 383 people, almost double the standard across the world. That was a number for government and for South African society as a whole to deal with. One major benefit of policing was visibility and the figures meant that there was no visibility for half the population.
The National Commissioner provided details of a wide range of strategic interventions that had been devised and had been, or were about to be, operationalised.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that an in-depth discussion of the results would take place at a later meeting.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and the large contingent from the South African Police Services (SAPS) which included the National Commissioner of Police, General Khehla Sithole, the Deputy National Commissioner, provincial Commissioners and Heads of Units as well as ministry staff.
The Chairperson indicated that there were time constraints as the Minister would be holding a press conference following the Committee meeting, and the House would be sitting that afternoon. He allocated 45 minutes for the presentation.
Remarks by the Minister
The Minister agreed that time was limited but he hoped to be afforded the opportunity to sit with the Committee going forward and to have an in-depth discussion with the Committee.
The crime statistics for the financial year 2017/18 were absolutely nothing to write home about. He would be giving the raw figures because percentages could hide many things. He reiterated that the figures were nothing to write home about. The emphasis should be on what could be done, rather than on the crime statistics. It did not matter what figures one gave related to crime statistics, if SAPS could not manage the murder cases, it was not giving any joy to the South African people. No matter what else happened, if people died that was a problem and South Africans were dying at a rate of 57 per day. That was how South Africans were being murdered. It was a war zone.
In 2009/10 murder figures had moved down from 18 000 to 16 000. The historical trend had been going down by one thousand per year and in 2010/11 the figure eased to 15 000. From 2012/2013, the murders took off. If the downwards trend had continued, he would be talking about 9 000 murders. Now they were talking 20 000. SAPS had dropped the ball for such figures to happen. The answer was about what should be done. Never again would he come to the Portfolio Committee to give such statistics. It could not be that South Africans were put under such stress in relation to murder.
Presentation of crime situation in RSA 01 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 - SAPS
General Khehla Sithole, National Commissioner of Police, requested Major General Norman Sekhukhune, Head of Police Crime Research and Statistics, to take the Committee through the statistics for the 2017/2018 financial year.
In the period under review, there were 1 662 815 community-reported serious crimes, which was down 4.4% or 76 165 on the previous year. Of the 1 662 815, 36.2% were contact crimes. Contact crime refers to those crimes in which the victims themselves were the targets of violence or property was targeted and the victims in the vicinity during the commission of the crime were subjected to threats of violence or the use of such violence, including murder, rape, attempted murder, assault GBH, common assault, common robbery, robbery aggravating and sexual assault. 30.5% of the 1.6 million crimes were property-related crimes. Other serious crimes accounted for 26.3%. An additional 433 966 acts of crime were detected as a result of police action.
Regarding murder, there were 20 336 in 2017/18, and increase of 6.6% or 1320 from 2016/17. The population had, of course, increased over the year but that did not excuse an increase in murders. Attempted murder showed a slight increase over the past year to 18 233, and sexual assault and rape had increased in the past year with rape figures standing at 40 035 and sexual assault at 6 786. Robbery with aggravating circumstances, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and common assault had decreased very slightly between 1.8% and 0.1%
Of the top ten stations with the highest murder rates, there were seven stations in Cape Town, two stations in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Eastern Cape. With 308 murders, Nyanga, Cape Town remained the station with the highest murder rate, although the rate of murder in Umlazi had climbed by 19.3% and Philippi East in Cape Town had increased by 36.7%. Overall Gauteng had the most stations in the top 30 stations experiencing crime.
28 on-duty police officers had been murdered while 57 off-duty police officers had been murdered. There had been 62 murders and 33 cases of house robbery on farms and smallholdings. The number of girls, boys and women murdered had increased. 41.3% of murders were committed using guns and 30.7% of murdered victims had been stabbed with knives.
Hijacking was slightly down with 16 325 incidents but cash-in-transit crimes increased to 238 crimes. Stock theft was increasing and had reached above 100,000 cases.
The presentation was extensive and highly detailed, but there was insufficient time for a comprehensive report on the presentation in its entirety.
The Chairperson noted that when the Minister had introduced the topic that morning, he had said that the statistics were nothing to write home about. It was important to note the murder increase of 6.9%, which was alarming and totally unacceptable. Violent crime was increasing and a clear and present danger to all South Africans and communities. He addressed his question to the Minister and General Sithole. Judging from the statistics, it was clear that the country needed a strategic intervention from SAPS, not a tactical or operational plan, in response. The issue of specialised units was key as gang crime and taxi-related violence was on the increase. The Commissioner had mentioned that the process of creating specialised units was underway. Could the Minister, or General Sithole, give the road ahead in terms of strategic intervention? Firearms were prevalent, especially in murders. For various reasons, the Firearm Control Act could not be amended but could the Committee have a clear indication of the strategies and approaches of SAPS to deal with, not only illegal firearms, but firearms in general. How would SAPS deal with firearms from a governance position? There had to be a debate about firearms in the country.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked if SAPS could tell her how Form 536, the Firearms Application form, was applied as a tool. At the heart of the so-called contact crimes was the use of alcohol and drugs. Could SAPS tell her about its achievements in the investigation of illegal drugs? Stock theft had increased in almost all provinces. Was the Rural Safety strategy effective?
Ms M Mmola (ANC) asked if SAPS could inform her which year’s statistics had been used to calculate the population ratio of crime. Was there good co-operation between SAPS and Statistics South Africa (StatsSA)? Did SAPS have sufficient data in the SAPS database to conduct regular and efficient crime data analysis?
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) asked, with the concerns about missing children in South Africa, if there was a possibility of giving the specific statistics relating to missing children. He was not sure which category missing children fell under. What special intervention measures were being put in place to deal with the cash-in-transit heists, kidnapping and missing children? What was the success rate, if any, at that stage?
Previously, the Committee had identified police stations that needed attention and, together with the Minister, the Commissioner, had promised to address those. Perhaps the Committee could be told, station by station, what the crime statistics looked like. What were they going to do about intervening in those police stations, such as Nyanga, where statistics were so bad, probably as a result of the socio-economic conditions in the area in which they were situated? He considered the problems of firearms, knives and other weapons. It used to be a criminal offence to carry a knife. A lot of people, himself included, were calling for a gun-free society. Should there not be a strategy for creating a gun-free South Africa so that police would have a chance to deal with criminals? There should be a strategy for dealing with the knives also. How was SAPS going to deal with it? Alcohol added to the problem. He asked the Minister and the Commissioner to tell him how they would intervene with that.
Mr J Maake (ANC) noted that the increases were explained according to the population, i.e. so many murders per 100 000 but there was something missing as the population had increased which meant that the number of police per 10 000 had decreased. He had not seen it mentioned but it stood to reason that if the number of police officers per 10 000 had decreased, it would impact on the ability of SAPS to deal with crime. It had to be mentioned so that it made sense to South African citizens why crime was increasing. He asked about the distribution of resources to police stations. The 30 police stations with the highest crime had not changed. Had those police stations received more resources, personnel, etc.? What had happened in Nyanga?
Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked what census data had been used in the SAPS calculations. She clearly recalled the 2013 debacle when outdated population figures were used and which suggested a decrease in the serious crime categories. She was sure that the Minister and Commissioner would not do that but she would like to know what statistics had been used for the calculations.
Ms Kohler-Barnard referred to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with StatsSA. She knew SAPS had been working with StatsSA before that, but was that agreement still in place? She appreciated the statistics on rural and farm murders and attacks, but, unfortunately, it was difficult to analyse those statistics because of the years when they were not recorded so how could the Members know whether the rural safety strategy was working or whether it was failing? She believed that it was failing because she had been to too many rural police stations where it was a tick box exercise but generally there was only one station and one van covering a massive area. Did the police record instances of torture of, especially elderly, people who were tortured for hours and days? She saw horrendous photos on a daily basis. Could it be worked out or was it simply lumped together in rape, murder, etc.? Had the experts gone into categories needed for believable analysis?
Mr Z Mbhele (DA) stated that it would have helped if Members had been able to go through the presentation beforehand and then have an extended engagement with SAPS management, but he hoped that the Committee could get that right going forward. He told the Minister, jokingly, that while one of his advisors might be a former DA MP, some people were working towards getting his whole office, including his position, filled by former DA MPs. It might be the start of a trend.
Mr Mbhele referred to the breakdown of murder figures. Members knew that, typically, the majority of murders, attempted murders and assault were social fabric crimes, arising out of domestic contexts and inter-personal rivalry between people who knew each other, but over the past few years, murders in the commission of other crimes, especially organised crime had been on the increase. It could be seen in the murders of hijacking victims and robberies. Had there a continuation of the trend, an increasing percentage of murders resulting from violent crime, which would suggest that the trend was the result of policing failures, rather than social and family dysfunction?
He might have missed it, but he thought the General had referred to the murder rate per 100 000. Was that rate available and was there a trend analysis using the same baseline? Thirdly, he was sure that the Minister and National Commissioner were well aware of the dilemma of the shrinking SAPS with post reduction; this did not bode well with the fixing of under-resourcing, under-staffing and under-training at station level and in specialised units and all the policing functions. He had calculated that the average budget spent in the police service had been around R9.1 million per VIP protected whereas R1 500 was spent on the average citizen. That was a huge difference in the magnitude of resource allocation for policing protection. Given the trends of increases in the more serious and violent murders and the decrease in resourcing budgets, what was the plan of the Minister and the National Commissioner to solve that dilemma? How did they fit that square peg into the round hole? In the absence of an innovative, incisive and well-grounded in reason response, he could only see the crime picture becoming worse in the coming years.
The Chairperson informed Mr Mbhele that the Committee would be having a full meeting in the fourth term and have a full analysis of the statistics by the Content Advisor as well as the Committee Researcher, SAPS management, and StatsSA, so there would be a full engagement. The current meeting was just for the release.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) understood that the Minister had inherited the statistics as he had only become Minister after the term had expired (in the new financial year). The National Commissioner could account for almost 50% of the statistics, but at least there was a new management team which he hoped would be effective in fighting crime. What was disturbing was the fact that it was the sixth consecutive year in which there had been an increase in South Africa. Over six years, there had been a 30.5% increase in the murder rate. The South African murder rate was at 35.1 per 100 000 while the rest of world was at 7:100 000. That gave a clear indication of how serious the matter of violence and crime was in South Africa and had to be attended to. He appreciated the farm murder statistics, the first since 2007. He needed an analysis of how many owners, how many workers, etc. but he appreciated it. He thanked the Minister and that was the correct way of handling it.
He further stated that the top ten weapons used did not make sense because the numbers did not add up to the total number of murders. 4772 cases were outstanding. What were ‘other’ murder weapons?
Response by the Minister
The Minister replied that he had hoped for better results. They were already on the back foot in respect of the following year’s results. He hoped for better arrangements the following year. He would have liked to answer some questions but he had a programme to follow that day.
He pointed out that figures relating to weapons used in crimes related to incidents of crime and were not correlated one-on-one with the murders. What did SAPS do with the statistics? SAPS would have to sit down and listen to contributions to assist them. It could not be SAPS alone that resolved the problems.
On the question of mathematics and numbers of people per police ratio, at one stage, SAPS had been unable to get exact statistics relating to the population. Early that year, SAPS had been told that the population was 57.3 million. That figure kept changing but 57.3 million was the final, definitive figure. Looking at the ratio between the dwindling number of police and the growing population, one had to note that the United Nations recommended one police officer to 220 people. In South Africa the ratio was one police officer to 383 people. One could say one police officer to 400 people, which was almost double the standard across the world. That was a number for government and for South African society as a whole to deal with. One major benefit of policing was visibility and the figures meant that there was no visibility for half the population. He and the Commissioner agreed that SAPS was 10 000 officers down. To match the 2010 level would take years. The SAPS colleges were taking in normal numbers, between 5 000 and 7 000. So, to get back to 2010 ratios, let alone move ahead, would take them until 2019.
SAPS needed the support of the Portfolio Committee.
The Minister pointed out that he was late for the press conference so he would ask the Commissioner to respond quickly to the questions.
Response by the SAPS Team
The National Commissioner said that, firstly, the 10 000 officers below the 2010 figure, did not, of course, take into account the increase in population. Going forward the deficit was 62 000. SAPS had reviewed the personnel plan. In terms of the budget, SAPS could only afford take on 3 000 new staff but, in agreement with the Minister, management had decided to cut costs elsewhere and take in 5 000 personnel to start closing gaps. Colleges would take the maximum of 7 000 per annum until the gap had been closed. The migration of resources from higher levels of policing down to police stations was also taking place. It was a priority to beef up the police stations. SAPS was engaged in the upgrading of police stations in terms of human resources as well as physical resources. It was a strategic deployment of resources and was taking place currently. For the future, the population plan for SAPS would run in alignment with the population growth in the country.
Under the ‘Stabilisation and Normalisation’, SAPS was starting with crimes of fear. The crimes that did not instil fear in the public had gone down, but the crimes that instilled fear had become a cause for concern. In response to the Chairperson’s question, he informed the Committee that the work study had been completed on the specialised unit and it would kick off with the serious and violent crime. It should respond to the murders, the taxi violence and gang-related crimes. Other specialised units would follow. One of things SAPS had intensified was dealing with the problem with gangs in the Western Cape. SAPS had a strategy for dealing with the issue but had also sent forces to stabilise the Western Cape. The additional numbers of police would remain as the time period had been extended.
Training had been reviewed and that would include an increase on the tactical side. The organised crime approach had been reviewed and it went together with the review of Crime Intelligence. Organised crime would be dealt with at station level but strengthened by national, regional and international agreements so that SAPS could reach out. National interception had been activated with other forces to join hands, including civil societies. The activation of the 72-hour Response Plan had been successful and was helping to scare the criminals because they were being intercepted and caught in action. The Data Centre would deal with cyber response and provide more information on the criminals. SAPS was using high, medium and low risk task forces. The forces had helicopters on standby and could take the criminals on in a very short space of time.
For crimes against women and children, SAPS had beefed up the SAPS Central Service. The anti-rape strategy had been operationalised. The normalisation of response talked to massive community organisation. The community policing response was being launched on 15 September 2018. It was the Community-in-Blue strategy where neighbourhood watch patrols would be properly structured and linked with police, but also with a community command.
The traditional leaders had been mobilised under the traditional leaders policing concept to regenerate morality and create safety in the rural areas. During the festive season, the Country-in-Blue concept would be operationalised. SAPS had acquired sufficient blue lights and between sunset and sunrise all vehicles had to put on the blue light during patrols across the country.
The Minister had convened a Crime Prevention Summit for 13 and 14 September that would deal with the national crime prevention framework and look at removing the root causes of crime, working with other stakeholders.
In October 2018, launch of the Youth Crime Prevention would take place and the aim was to take youth out of crime. The creation of safer cities had been boosted by the visits to China and Thailand the previous week. The President and Minister were also on the study tour. A Safer City Summit was to be held. The safer city strategy had identified ten pilot safer cities: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Witbank, Rustenburg etc. SAPS would be talking to community bases and using technology to save the cities so that they could attract investors and create stability. SAPS was working with partners can work in safety
SAPS was working on the issue of moral decontamination and the Drug Master Plan would provide a response to drugs at local and provincial level. SAPS would also use unconventional policing approaches, such as the organised crime approach.
The short-term multidisciplinary investigation approach had been successful in KwaZulu-Natal where they had got behind the killings there. Heists and gang-related crimes were being stabilized. SAPS wanted to get closer to communities to bring back their confidence.
General Sithole noted that the rest of the questions were technical. He had dealt only with the strategic response.
Lt General S Masemola, Deputy National Commissioner: Policing, SAPS, spoke on the firearms, stating that SAPS had a number of operations at the time which were focused on the three provinces most affected by the proliferation of firearm and police were working at the Mozambican border. That was in response to the increase in the number of cases where illegal firearms were used. Further, an operation dealing with organised crime was taking place in the Western Cape.
The National Commissioner added that SAPS was taking a geographical approach and was identifying hotspots across the country and was coming up with stabilisation intervention the moment that the situation had been normalised. Provincial Commissioners were driving that process. He was aware that the public had taken pain so he would end with the proverb: Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.
The Chairperson indicated that the meeting would end at that point so that the Minister could go to the press conference. He assured Members that, in the third week in October, the Committee would have the proper panel that it had had in the previous round. The Content Advisor and Committee Researcher would present an analysis of the statistics in two weeks’ time.
The meeting was adjourned.
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