Case Study 1:
Shocking crime statistics presented by Police Minister Bheki Cele to Parliament this past week show that 57 people are murdered in this country daily, and even worse is that the number of fatalities has been increasing steadily in the past six years.
Cele cited the shortage of police officers, down 10000, as one of the reasons for the upswing in the number of murders and other violent crimes.
Those affected by crime the most are usually the poor communities in townships and those living in rundown inner-city areas such as the Joburg CBD, Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville and Jeppe (which had the most murders in Gauteng).
Just this week a Joburg metro police officer was shot dead and robbed of his firearm in Berea.
Some of the most violent crimes such as child murders, rapes and armed robberies happen in townships where residents often complain about the indifference they encounter when they report crime to the local police stations - like the Munyai family from Chiawelo, Soweto, who lost their son, Phathutshedzo Munyai, in March, after the 19-year-old was allegedly stabbed by their neighbour.
He was studying safety and policing at the George Tabor Technical College in Soweto.
The family has alleged that the knife used in the murder was found on the suspect, who is also known to them, but he is still walking the streets after being given bail.
Pathutshedzo’s mother, Grace Munyai, was still too distraught to speak to reporters about her son. However, his sister, Mercy Munyai, said: “The biggest problem we have is the police. When you call them, they don’t come on time.
“On that fateful day, it took them (the police) four hours to get to the murder scene. My brother was killed at about 2am. The police only got there at about 6am.
“My brother was killed on March 24 this year. He was stabbed - once - and died close to home. Apparently he was trying to intervene when the alleged suspect was beating up a woman, warning him that he would be arrested. The guy felt my brother was disrespectful and too young to reprimand him.
“The detective who is handling our case doesn’t call us if we don’t call him. We must be the ones who are always calling him to follow up.
“We understand that it’s now a State versus accused case, but all that we ask from them is that they communicate with us because he (the deceased) was part of a family.”
Mercy said after her brother’s killing and many other incidents of crime in her community, she felt unsafe living in Chiawelo.
“Chiawelo is not a safe place. The street lights are constantly being fixed because criminals break them, while armed robberies are rife.
“Not so long ago, a lady was held at gunpoint close to the soccer grounds, and two weeks ago another lady was stabbed next to our house. The police and the ambulance didn’t get here on time,” she added.
Case Study 2:
Less than 3km from Chiawelo is the Protea South informal settlement that can best be described as a slum dotted with heaps of rubbish dumps and overcrowded zinc shacks close together.
Informal settlements have no dedicated police stations and the areas are difficult to police because most of the streets don’t have names. At best, some of the settlements might have a satellite station.
Street patrollers often play a huge role in crime prevention in these areas, and are often caught up in life-and-death situations without any means to protect themselves other than a reflector jacket and a passion to serve.
Tankiso “Chippa” Motaung is one of the patrollers. They are driven by passion, and wake up early every morning and walk around the area armed only with a vuvuzela, and escort commuters to the train station and back.
Motaung says when he hears screams and suspicious commotions, he blows his vuvuzela loudly and yet nobody wakes up to help and he ends up fighting alone.
“I even catch those committing crime and take them to the police station, working closely with the police to alleviate crime in the area,” said Motaung.
He said heists, break-ins and murders were common crimes in the area, adding that robbers targeted people going to and coming from taverns.
In the past three weeks, two bodies were found behind the Protea Gardens Shopping Mall, he said, adding that the body of a woman had no intestines while the man’s eyes had been removed.
He believes the victims were left there after being killed elsewhere.
“As patrollers, we try to do the best we can for the community. I mostly work on my own and sometimes get assistance from a group of men or the police when I call them.
“Nyaope contributes to the crime in the area, although those who aren’t drug addicts also commit crime in this area.
“The SAPS does respond rapidly, but they don’t always make it on time. When you call the police, you are told that the van has been deployed elsewhere and can’t reach you at that certain time, or you are told that it has gone to a different section in Protea to assist.
“To get a rapid response, I would have to call 10111 to let them know the urgency of the situation and then only would we see police vans patrolling the area coming to assist,” Motaung said.
Other residents who didn’t wish to be named echoed his sentiments, saying that Protea South was indeed unsafe.
“There was crime in the beginning, but it wasn’t this bad. It is not even safe for one to be in the streets around 8pm,” said a young man.
The Sunday Independent