- “We need to sing a different song” - urgently!
By Annalise Kempen
Selected photos by Ihsaan Haffejee and Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
There is no positive light in which to paint the latest crime statistics released by the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, on 24 October 2017. Even if we look at the crime categories which indicate a decrease, the overall crime picture remains bleak and it is cause for serious concern. Also when one looks at the scenario that is written about in the National Development Plan, namely that "in 2030 people living in South Africa (will) feel safe and have no fear of crime," and "They are safe at home, at school, at work and they enjoy an active community life free of fear", one cannot help but wonder whether the government realises that we only have a bit more than ten years left to achieve this vision. It doesn't seem so ...
Two of the 2.1 million victims of serious crime whose stories we might have read about between 1 April 2016 on 31 March 2017 (the report year) were Thabani Ngwekazi, a 28-year-old qualified medic and student, and his unnamed 21-year-old friend who was raped. Thabani was killed on 14 August 2016 shortly after he and his friend, a fellow student, were hijacked and kidnapped outside the Varsity Park student residences in North End, Port Elizabeth at around 21:30. Thabani, who hails from Mthatha and was a single father, was shot dead and his body was recovered the following day from the sea at Brighton Beach. His 21-year-old friend was raped, but eventually freed. Shockingly, two teenagers aged 17 and 18 were among the five man gang arrested for perpetrating these violent crimes.
Thabani is one of the 19 016 people who were murdered between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017. He was one of an average of 52 people who lost their lives each day due to criminal activities. His 21-year-old friend was also one of 39 848 victims of rape, and together they were included in the 16 717 hijacking cases of the report year. And all of this happened while Thabani and his friend did nothing out of the ordinary - they were two typical young people who went out that fateful evening as they were free to do. They did what many South Africans do daily and are supposed to be able to do without having to fear that they will become part of the crime statistics. Sadly, Thabani and his friend were not as lucky as the rest of us.
What do the crime statistics tell us?
Murder and the subsequent #BlackMonday
By now we know that murder has hit a ten year high, and that the latest increase of 1.8% should not be used as an indicator to tell us that "it is not that bad". What we should see is that, given the 15 554 murders committed during the 2011/2012 report year, the increase to 19 016 murders during the last financial year is shocking, and it makes sense for the nation to react.
On 30 October 2017, #BlackMonday hit the streets of South Africa resulting in a few thousand people protesting about crime and specifically about farm murders. This event was initiated after a farmer from the Boland area requested via social media that his friends wear black on that Monday to commemorate the loss of farmers' lives as a result of our high crime rate, and following the murder of his friend and fellow farmer, Joubert Conradie from the Stellenbosch area. Joubert was murdered on the same day that the crime statistics were released, and the wearing of black was said to be a sign of respect not only for those who worked and lived on farms but also for those who had lost their lives due to violent crime.