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As the KZN murder rate soars, Cele says cops have turned the corner

Police Minister Bheki Cele delivers South Africa’s quarterly crime stats on Friday. Picture: GCIS

Police Minister Bheki Cele delivers South Africa’s quarterly crime stats on Friday. Picture: GCIS

Published May 15, 2021

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Durban - “We have turned the corner” in the fight against crime.

This is according to national Minister of Police Bheki Cele, who yesterday delivered the quarterly release of crime statistics (January-March 2021).

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Cele also explained steps being taken to address the country’s massive forensic backlogs.

He revealed that KZN had the highest murder rate in the country.

KwaZulu-Natal also topped the list for attempted murders, as well as showing the biggest percentage increase in the so-called trio crimes ‒ aggravated residential or non-residential robbery, or car hijacking.

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The solving of murders and rapes are reliant on forensic evidence ‒ if and when the perpetrators are caught. In Parliament this week, Cele highlighted budget constraints and ineffective and weak contract management which saw a backlog surge to more than 200 000 cases. There were no DNA kits, and testing of DNA specimens reached a bottleneck.

With KZN taking the lead with a 16.9% rise in murders over the three-month period under review, a total of 1 281 people were killed, up 185 cases from 1 096 in the same period in 2020. In comparison, Gauteng was up 3.9% with 966 murders, the Eastern Cape up 21.5% with 938 murders and the Western Cape up 2.7% with 904. Limpopo, the Free State and the North West all saw declines in murders. Mpumalanga remained static.

Three KZN policing precincts make up the top three spots for the number of reported murders at stations countrywide: Plessislaer (Pietermaritzburg) with 73 cases, Inanda with 63 and uMlazi with 61. Mpumalanga, KwaMashu, Esikhaleni (Richards Bay), Mariannhill and Ntuzuma all feature in the top 30 precincts nationally.

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KZN also had 69 dockets involving cases of multiple murder involving 151 victims including one case on which six family members between the ages of 8 and 70 years old, were shot dead by a relative in Eshowe. This was second to Gauteng with 84 cases involving 175 victims.

The province also has the highest number of police murders ‒ eight ‒ up four from the previous period and a third of all police killed nationally at 24. KZN also recorded four of the country’s 11 farm murders.

Most murders in KZN were committed because of arguments or retaliations with 199 killings, compared with 77 during house or business robberies. Mob violence or vigilante attacks claimed 82 lives in KZN, compared with 60 in Gauteng. This province was also the highest for taxi murders with 33 cases.

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A total of 14 people were killed in car hijackings, twice as many as in Gauteng, with 12 victims killed during rape, more than double the Eastern Cape’s 5. KZN also registered the highest number of domestic violence victims with 36 people killed, behind 32 in the Western Cape and 31 in Gauteng.

When it comes to attempted murder, KZN once again leads the pack up 14.6% to 1 140 cases. Gauteng saw a 5% increase to 1 055 and the Western Cape a 22.7% increase to 897. Again the police stations with the most reported cases are uMlazi (1), Inanda (2), Mariannhill (8), Plessislaer (9) and KwaMashu (10). In KZN, 64 cases of attempted murder involved attacks on security officers or law enforcement (excluding police) in the execution of their duties, almost double the Gauteng total of 36.

Cele said yesterday, Friday, that the murder trend was “worrying” and that police had been trying to work with communities.

Speaking on the forensic backlog, he said “murder and rape cannot be easily resolved without forensic results” and measures are being taken to reduce the huge backlog.

These included 16 contracts being signed, with more in the pipeline for evaluation and these should assist with supply of materials and maintenance of machinery. He also said the depletion of office staff was being addressed, with 128 people being promoted internally, while interviews have started for 150 more forensic personnel and should start work by the end of July at the latest.

“We believe we have turned the corner and will be working on outstanding murder and rape cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, rape incidents in the province showed a decrease of 10.1% to 1 722 cases, second behind Gauteng with 2 031, with a case increase of one over the period. Inanda and uMlazi policing precincts again featured in the country’s top 30 for rape, the former up three cases, the latter down six.

A total of 726 rapes in the province were committed at the residence of either the victim or the perpetrator, with 189 rapes in public places, and 33 on public transport. One rape was committed in an educational facility, although there were 16 such rapes nationally.

Assault (grievous bodily harm (GBH)) cases in the province were down 10.5% to 5 949, some way behind Gauteng’s 8 323, but ahead of the Eastern Cape with 5 400. The vast majority of these cases, 2 905, related to arguments, misunderstandings or provocations. However, 94 cases related to vigilantism, while 25 were attacks on security guards. Common assault saw a decrease of 13.6% to 5 593 cases a distant third behind Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Regarding robbery with aggravated circumstances, which includes car hijackings, the province was one of two to record an increase, going up 4.2% with 5 667 cases, behind Gauteng with 11 494 but ahead of the Western Cape with 4 534. These robberies increased by 5.6% in Mpumalanga. Pinetown (2), uMlazi (10) and Durban Central (11) were the three top KZN policing precincts to report these crimes.

KZN also saw a 17.1% increase in trio crimes with 2 959, second only to Gauteng with 5 713, a 0.7% increase. Car jacking was up 66 cases to 767, second behind Gauteng with 2 328.

Of the vehicles hijacked, 2 122 were sedans or hatchbacks, 1 225 were pick-up trucks, 274 SUVs and 40 motorcycles. Vehicles were most likely to be hijacked in townships, 1 689; urban suburbs 1 215; or rural areas 458, with 78 hijacked in informal settlements.

Motor vehicle theft was down 15.2% with 1 664 vehicles stolen in the province, second behind Gauteng with 4 845 stolen, a reduction of 16.7%.

Business robbery saw a surge to 28% with most other provinces recording decreases. KZN saw 919 businesses hit, compared with Gauteng’s 1 634, a 1.5% increase. KZN also saw a marked 12.6% increase in commercial crime with 3 805 cases, behind the Western Cape’s 3 844 and Gauteng’s 7 623.

It also registered a 15% increase in residential robberies with 1 273 cases, second only to Gauteng with 1 751, which saw a decrease of 1.2%. The province was also one of only two to see an increase in cash-in-transit robberies with seven cases, up five from the previous period.

When it comes to booze, despite an alcohol ban for most of January, there were 118 murders, 88 attempted murders, 45 rapes and more than 2 000 cases of assault GBH happening directly on premises that sold liquor, either taverns, shebeens, nightclubs or bars.

Alcohol was the cause of 168 murders nationwide, with drugs causing 15. It caused 989 rapes, with drugs causing 100; and 2 855 cases of assault GBH compared with 222 for drugs.

Drug-related charges decreased across the board, with KZN down by 1 295 to 5 073 cases. The Western Cape leads the way here with 13 753 cases, but a drop of 3 190 cases over the previous period.

KZN leads the way in driving under the influence of alcohol cases, but still saw a drop by 3 499 cases, almost half from 7 323 in 2020.

KZN also saw the biggest increase in the number of kidnapping cases up 24 to 352, second behind Gauteng with 524. Arson was down 29% with 127 cases, second only to the Western Cape with 173.

Stock theft in the province was down 5.9% with 1 448 cases.

The Independent on Saturday

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