Cele can reduce violent crime by half in 10 years, say experts

Police Minister Bheki Cele has promised to reduce violent crime by half in the next decade,
meaning fewer scenes like this one. Picture: Neil McCartney

Police Minister Bheki Cele has promised to reduce violent crime by half in the next decade, meaning fewer scenes like this one. Picture: Neil McCartney

In order to make the police minister’s ambitious goal a reality, psychological baggage of the past, gun control and the criminal justice system need to be assessed.

While experts welcome Police Minister Bheki Cele’s commitment to reduce violent crimes by half within the next 10 years, they say government has a lot of work to do to ensure it happens – and it will take more than simply increased efforts from the South African Police Service (Saps). 

Cele’s commitment came this week, with the release of the “not so rosy” annual crime statistics that exposed the worrying state of crime within the country. 

Political analyst and security expert Ntsikelelo Breakfast said South Africa was a violent nation mainly because of its violent history, and its people not having dealt with the psychological baggage of the past. 

“The psychological baggage has had a spillover effect in many black communities and many people in their adulthood have internalised the trauma and violence,” said Breakfast. 

He said coupled with the failures of government, the country was now seeing problems like xenophobia, looting and damage to public property. 

“South Africa is a violent country mainly because violence has always been a part of our political history. Colonialism was violent, apartheid was violent, even in the ’80s there was a state of emergency in black townships, that was violent. 

“We find that we are a product of our childhood and in our adulthood, we review all the negative childhood traumas. 

“Not only should we make good conflict management skills institutional and a compulsory part of the curriculum in schools, we as the youth should also be role models to the young because they learn by observation. They should know that they should not opt for violence when confronted with conflict. 

“If we do not deal with the structural issues of unemployment, economic inequality and more then we can have all the strategies but crime reduction will be impossible. We need a multidimensional approach,” said Breakfast. 

Claire Taylor, from the lobby group Gun Free South Africa, said the statement by the minister came as a huge relief, since it was picking up on what President Cyril Ramaphosa was saying in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) about crime. 

However, she said the police would not be able to reduce the murder rate if access to guns was not reduced. 

“The only way that violent crime, particularly murders, will be halved is if the government has tighter control of guns in the country. They should mop up the existing pool of guns in South Africa and have a crime intelligence-led operation to identify illegal firearms and destroy them,” she said. 

“The police should then stop new guns from entering communities and only issue firearms to those who are fit and proper to possess one.” 

She said at the moment there was a lot of fraud and corruption where the issuing of gun licenses was concerned and many people who were not fit to own guns were issued with licences. 

She said the Firearms Control Act is not being implemented properly and it was the government’s responsibility to start doing so.

Raising another issue, law expert Prof Llewellyn Curlewis said what needed more attention and financial injection of taxpayers’ money was the criminal justice system, and the Saps was only a part of it. 

“The minister’s assertion is all fair and well but 50% is still unacceptable. We should be at zero percent, which is ideal,” he said. 

“We need to review the justice system, holistically. We have a low conviction rate in South Africa, and so people are seeing that criminals are getting away with murder. 

“We need to show through the justice system that we don’t tolerate crime. We need to start from the lowest courts and stop deciding which cases are more important. 

“Everyone must be brought to book.” 

The facts

  • Gun Free South Africa researcher Claire Taylor said: “As gun availability in South Africa declined between 2000 and 2010, so too did murder, particularly gun-related murder.”  
  • According to the organisation, the latest national crime statistics show that guns are overwhelmingly the weapon used to kill, injure, threaten and intimidate. 
  • 47% of murders are due to gunshot, up from 41.3% last year, which means an additional two people are shot and killed every day compared to a year ago. 
  • 80% of attempted murders are gun-related. 
  • 83% of carjackings involve a gun. 
  • 59% of residential robberies involve a gun. 
  • “Violent crime, particularly murder but also attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, decreased between 2000 and 2009 as various gun control initiatives were undertaken nationally in support of the Firearms Control Act. 
  • “These included firearm audits of state-owned weapons, campaigns to encourage civilian gun hand-ins, two firearm amnesties, regular gun destructions as well as much stricter provisions to own a gun for both existing and new gun owners. 
  • “However, from 2010, the number of guns in South Africa began to steadily increase due to breakdowns in law enforcement and deliberate criminality. 
  • Since this time, gun-related crime, including predatory criminal violence, violence against women, violence against children, political violence, gang-related violence, taxi-related violence, farm attacks and wildlife poaching, has steadily increased,“ said Taylor.

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