Our mur­der rate and Zuma

For close to a decade the job of the po­lice, at the high­est level, was not to fight crime. It was to pro­vide cronies for state cap­ture. Hence the many mur­ders.

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - OPINION - Wil­liam Saun­der­son-Meyer

Ah, spring! Up-coun­try, it’s the first rains. Down-coun­try, it’s the an­nual lamen­ta­tions in par­lia­ment that greet the re­lease of our crime sta­tis­tics. On the one set of sta­tis­tics that mat­ters the most, mur­der, the fig­ures have been par­tic­u­larly grim. In the year to March, 20 336 peo­ple were mur­dered – a rise of 6.9% over the pre­vi­ous year. It’s the sixth con­sec­u­tive an­nual in­crease.

Last year there were 57 mur­ders a day, up from 51. Com­pare that to the 38 peo­ple that die each day on the roads.

To my surprise, Gareth Ne­wham of the In­sti­tute of Se­cu­rity Stud­ies tells me that he is, how­ever, cau­tiously up­beat. “For the first time in years, there was no at­tempt at spin. Mur­der is al­ways the most re­li­able statis­tic, but in the past the min­is­ter al­ways tried to gloss over how bad things are by high­light­ing slight and some­times du­bi­ously ac­cu­rate im­prove­ments else­where.”

It is true that Po­lice Min­is­ter Bheki Cele freely ad­mits that the fig­ures “scare” him, that SA is “close to a war zone” and that the po­lice had “dropped the ball” in the crime-fight­ing ef­forts. “South Africans must not take it as a norm that they can be hi­jacked, robbed and killed ev­ery day.”

But, sadly, it is the norm. In the past 10 years, more than 175 000 peo­ple have been killed. That’s more than in the Afghanistan war (about 144 000), or in the atomic bomb­ing of Hiroshima (about 135 000).

Be­tween the be­gin­ning of April 1994 and the end of March this year, 485 177 peo­ple were mur­dered. Soon some poor, as yet un­known per­son will have the un­happy dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the half-mil­lionth South African mur­dered since democ­racy.

Re­search shows that eco­nomic in­equal­ity is a key as­pect. Ne­wham points out that 50% of mur­ders took place in 13% of po­lice precincts. Just 30 precincts ac­counted for a fifth of all mur­ders. It does not take a bril­liant tac­ti­cian to de­ploy po­lice re­sources more ef­fec­tively than at present.

As much as be­ing a so­cial prob­lem, crime is a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem.

For at least a decade, the pri­mary task of the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (Saps) has not, at the high­est level, been to fight crime. Ever since Ja­cob Zuma took the pres­i­den­tial reins in 2008, the Saps lead­er­ship has ro­tated among of­fi­cers that Zuma and his cor­rupt co­horts thought could guard their backs.

Ne­wham says that dur­ing the Zuma years, ex­trav­a­gant use was made of Sec­tion 45 ap­point­ments in or­der to de­ploy cadres and cronies to key posts. Sec­tion 45 of Saps reg­u­la­tions al­lows the im­me­di­ate ap­point­ment of an of­fi­cer, cir­cum­vent­ing civil ser­vice rules on qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ex­pe­ri­ence, and years of ser­vice to al­low for flex­i­bil­ity in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances. Say, when a cy­ber-spe­cial­ist needs ur­gently to be brought from the com­mer­cial world.

There are about 900 of­fi­cers of the rank of brigadier or above, who make up the Saps top man­age­ment. In 2016-17 alone, 55 Sec­tion 45 ap­point­ments were made to these po­si­tions.

Saps, along with the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity and the elite in­ves­tiga­tive units, was just an­other tar­get of state cap­ture. It will take years to loosen the Zuma death grip.

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