‘We’re not murder capital’

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Richmond mayor, Andrew Ragavaloo, sets the record straight. Picture: Puri Devjee

Durban - The mayor of the small KwaZulu-Natal Midlands town of Richmond, recently named the “murder capital of South Africa” by the SA Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR), has hit out at the institute for its factually incorrect report.

“We are not the murder capital of South Africa, not by a long shot, and the damage this report has done is incalculable,” mayor Andrew Ragavaloo said yesterday.

Last week, the SAIRR reported that the municipality had a murder rate of 192 per 100 000 people. It based the figures using Gaffney’s Local Government in South Africa – Official Yearbook, which stated that the town had four police stations serving a population of 70 222. The murder rate was gleaned from the 2011/12 police statistics, which showed that the four stations accounted for 135 murders.

The municipality has, in fact, two police stations – Richmond and Thornville – which recorded 28 murders in 2011/12.

The other two stations – Nhlahleni, which had 16 murders, and Plessislaer, which recorded 91 murders – do not fall under the municipality’s jurisdiction.

“If you analyse the figures of our two police stations, you will realise we don’t even come in the top 40 (murder districts in South Africa),” Ragavaloo said.

He was adamant that the SAIRR issue a public apology to the town, or face legal action.

“We appeal to them to retract the report on a national level and inform the national media that they have erred and that their figures were incorrect,” he said.

“This report will have a long-term effect on our municipality, because whenever we have discussion with possible or probable investors they will google Richmond and come up with this report. So this needs to be removed completely.”

Following Ragavaloo’s complaint, the SAIRR has recalculated Richmond’s murder rate as 39.9 per 100 000 people, attributing the botch-up to the company which published the yearbook.

“We took the information on the number of police stations in Richmond from The Gaffney Group, a widely-used and respected source of municipal information. In their publication, they list four police stations in Richmond,” said Lucy Holborn, research manager at the SAIRR.

“On hearing from Mr Ragavaloo that there are in fact only two, we have since received confirmation from Gaffney’s that the information they published was incorrect.

“As a result, we have been able to recalculate the murder rate as 39.9.”

Ragavaloo said they were astonished when the report was released on Friday and were perturbed when it made national news.

“We are attempting to market Richmond, to bring in investors here, as we have a very high unemployment rate which is around 40 percent.

“Presently, we are in negotiations with a foreign company to build a factory in Richmond based on the timber industry. Whether they have heard of it or not we are not sure, but we have received telephone calls from across the country from concerned people about the situation in Richmond,” he said. “It is going to distract and make investors wary about coming here.”

In addition to having to allay investors’ fears, Ragavaloo said that members of the community were also “jittery”.

“People are asking us why were are hiding these figures from them. We are now having to go around to all seven wards in this area to tell people that the report is incorrect,” he said.

“The man in the street in Durban will probably say, ‘Richmond, again’, but for an investor it is serious. Investors are trembling, because those figures are frightening.”

Richmond, 92km from Durban, was the scene of some of the province’s worst political violence in the late 1990s.

A total of 120 people were killed between May 1997 and January 1999 after violence broke out between factions of the United Democratic Movement and the ANC.

“That violence caused consternation nationally and internationally, where 60 people were killed on average a year,” Ragavaloo said.

“For now, today in peace time, when we have no political violence, to claim that we have on average 131 deaths per 100 000 makes it even worse than the violence we had during the height of political violence.”

Said Holborn: “We published the original information in good faith, did not intend any harm to come of it, and apologise for the error.

“In addition, we have received an apology from The Gaffney Group who has said it takes full responsibility for this error.”

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