This guide, published by Africa Check in cooperation with the Institute for Security Studies, explains what a reader needs to know to understand crime statistics and a short history of crime stats in South Africa.
The South African Police Service recently admitted that hundreds of serving police officers are convicted criminals. The figures are shocking but they fail to reveal the full extent of criminality in the police.
South African musician Steve Hofmeyr has claimed that the number of white South Africans killed by blacks would fill a soccer stadium, that white Afrikaners are being killed “like flies” and that a white farmer is murdered every five days. But the claims are incorrect and grossly exaggerated. In fact, whites are less likely to be murdered than any other race group.
Last month South Africa’s Daily Maverick website published an article which claimed that “Al-Qaeda is alive and well in South Africa”. Was it the thorough “year-long investigation” it purported to be or a “cut-and-paste” smear? Yael Even Or and Camila Osorio of GroundUp.org.za consider the unanswered questions.
The South African government’s claim that it will establish 58 dedicated sexual offences courts, to be fully operational by September this year, appears to be untrue. No budget has been announced and there appears to be no clear framework for how the courts will operate.
South Africa’s police minister told parliament last week that civil damages claims totalling R7.1 billion were laid against the South African Police Service in the 2011 to 2012 financial year. In fact the closing balance of civil claims in March 2012 was more than twice that.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority routinely boasts remarkably high conviction rates. It uses them to reject criticism of its performance. But as it only prosecutes cases it is likely to win, they are unreliable measures of success in tackling crime.
A survey published this week claimed that a third of South African adults are regular drug users, dagga use has risen by 11% in the past year and the use of methamphetamines by a staggering 88%. While well-intentioned, the results of the survey are unrepresentative. More research – and more questioning by journalists – is needed.
All sides agree one thing: gun crime in South Africa is too high. But the white population of South Africa has no greater reason than others to fear gun crime, and evidence suggests that owning guns may not always make the owners, and their visitors, safer. It may do the reverse.