Murder rate for women, children is 'disturbing' - ISS analyst

South Africa's murder rate is a wake-up call, especially the increase in the murder of women and children, Institute of Security Studies analyst Gareth Newham said on Tuesday.

"What was more disturbing about the crime stats this year, [was] that the murder rate increases for women and children were higher than the total average murder increase," Newham added.

He pointed out that, while the average increase in murder was 6.9% compared to last year, it was 10% higher for girls under the age of 18, 11% higher for women and 20% higher for boys under 18.

"The increase in the murders of children and women who are the primary caregivers of children in South Africa is a very serious concern because violence that children experience in their homes now will manifest in high levels of violence 10 years from now," Newham said in a video briefing after the release of the crime statistics for 2017/18.

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Research indicates that these children are more likely to drop out of school, so they might not secure jobs. They suffer trauma, mental health consequences, depression, and might abuse drugs and alcohol.  They are also more likely to either fall victim to violence again later in life or be perpetrators of violence.

"We need to do something about violence now," said Newham.

At the same time, he welcomed Police Minister Bheki Cele's and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole's openness about the crime statistics and murder as they discussed the figures in Parliament.

'Destabilisation' 

This was compared to previous years' attempts at "distracting" from murder in particular. 

He said the political "destabilisation" of the past 10 years and changed police commissioners led to structural weakness.

The country's Crime Intelligence was also in ruins, with what little that was left, sent off to focus on activists who organised protests.

Newham said there was simply no more money to give to the police and in the period leading up to the elections in 2019, it was also unlikely that there would be any more changes in the police until then.

He noticed that the police were starting to work more strategically by collecting more victim and perpetrator profiles.

"This demonstrates that they are aware of the evidence and willing to do things differently to reduce it (murder)," said Newham.

He advocates that police partner with external agencies for more assistance in building deeper data and geographic crime profiles so that police don't need to put their resources everywhere.

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"The police are not policing 57 million people living in South Africa. They need to identity those few thousand offenders that often repeatedly cause offences, repeatedly committing robberies, repeatedly getting involved in fights. Identify those people and police those people."

He hoped one day to also see the departments of social development, health and economic development at future police statistics briefings to explain their roles in meaningfully addressing the factors that cause violence.