The number of homicides increased 7% to 20 336 — an average of almost 56 a day — in the 12 months through March, the police service said in its annual crime statistics report on Tuesday. The murder rate increased to 35.2 per 100 000 people — more than six times higher than that of the US.
“I can say the South African Police Service dropped the ball,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told lawmakers in Cape Town. “This situation must be arrested and reversed with lightning speed.”
Efforts to fight crime were hampered by repeated changes to top management at law enforcement agencies during former President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure, while a stagnating economy and inflation-beating increases for state workers left no room in the budget to retain and hire officers.
Zuma, who has been personally implicated in a succession of scandals, was forced to quit in February under pressure from the ruling party and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to bring crime under control.
The police service now has 191 000 members compared with 200 000 in 2010 and it could take 10 years to get back to that level, said Cele, a former police commissioner who was named minister shortly after Ramaphosa took office.
The number of sexual offenses increased 0.9% to 50 108, while attempted murder cases rose 0.2% to 18 233, the report showed. Attacks on armoured vehicles carrying cash jumped 57% to 238 robberies. Commercial crimes fell 7.8% and home break-ins by 0.4%. There were 13 bank robberies during the year.
The murder rate has fallen from 67.9 per 100 000 people in 1995, when an integrated national police force was created and national statistics were compiled for the first time, but has been on the rise since 2011.
“South Africa has not reached a state of lawlessness,” Cele said. “These crime statistics will not get worse.”