Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

SA on slippery slope to explosion of violence  

At least 5 709 people murdered and 2 446 incidents of mass murder recorded between April 2019 and December 2022.

The raging scourge of multiple-murders in a state of impunity, scant convictions, and worsening socio-economic challenges has security experts worried that SA is on a slippery slope to an explosion of violence.

Police minister Bheki Cele revealed in a parliamentary reply that at least 5 709 people were murdered in a total of 2 446 such incidents between 1 April 2019 and 30 December 2022.

Other than the surging murder rate, Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said it was also alarming that though 1 511 suspects were arrested for the murders, jut 103 have convicted.

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He said this meant 1 408 people were acquitted, which points to inadequate detective work.

Groenewald said between 2019/20 and 2021/22 financial years, these incidents increased from 438 incidents and 1 009 deaths to 769 incidents and 1 791 deaths.

Cele must be held liable

At 36 murders per 100 000 people-five times the world average of seven murders per 100 000 people, Groenewald said the prevalence of multiple or mass murders and other serious crimes in SA was alarming.

“[With] the problems in the police force and the inability to successfully prosecute criminals, it is clear that government is failing to protect the country’s people against criminals. The latest crime statistics prove that crime is completely out of control, and [Cele] must be held accountable for that,” he added.

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The most evident root cause of these murders, according to Director of Geopolitical Intelligence Advisory Lunga Dweba, was that many people were jobless with nothing meaningful to do daily.

He said criminality and violence thrive under such circumstances, arguing that by nature people would have no reason to harm each other unless it served their interests.

Dweba said it was important for government and business to create employment and business opportunities so people could fulfil their needs.

“Like in real war zones, when government security forces fail to detect and contain violence in its early stages, the situation gets worse, until it can no longer be controlled,” he said.

Dweba said though this was not the situation in SA yet, this could soon be the case if nothing is done to stop the bloodbath.

Firearms the weapon of choice

Independent researcher and consultant to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) David Bruce said the root cause of multiple killings was a general problem of use of firearms by criminals.

He said efforts to reduce the availability of firearms were seemingly failing, saying in many of these incidents perpetrators were shooting one person but in the process also killed other people near their target.

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“Knives are also used in many violent crimes, including many murders, but multiple killings are probably almost exclusively linked to firearms,” Bruce said.

He pointed out that the SAPS report for the 2019/20 financial year, almost all cases were firearm related but that there were also a few, including family or domestic violence related ones, where there was arson.

“And at least one of the small sample that was discussed was also a ‘mob justice’ case,” Bruce said.

He explained that some of the incidents, particularly those where there are more than two victims, were linked to conflict between gangs, taxi industry and illegal mining in mostly turf wars.

Crunching the numbers

Bruce said according to police (Saps) figures, two people are killed in 80% of these incidents.

He said of 2 446 incidents, close to 2000 are incidents in which two people were killed, and then there are about 500 incidents, covered in Cele’s reply, in which more than two people were killed.

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Bruce pointed out that Saps figures for last year show that 18% are incidents in which three or four people are killed, and about 2% were incidents where more than four people are killed.

“Applying that to these figures indicates that during this period of almost four years there may have been about 50 incidents in which more than four people were killed,” Bruce said.

He said according to Cele’s reply, 2 170 out of 5 709 incidents were in KwaZulu-Natal, saying this also reflected the prominent role of firearms in crime in the province.

“But it also reflects the expansion of organised crime and its increasing influence in the KZN economy,” Bruce said.

Urgent response needed

He said the bottom line was that government needs proper strategy to respond to the overall problem of murder.

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“The basic problem here is that violent death in SA has become normalised. Thousands of people, above all young black men, are murdered in SA. We should not only be paying attention to incidents where many people are killed but to the overall problem of murder and the forms of violence that it is related to,” Bruce said.

He said it was clear that fewer people have been found guilty in more recent cases, notably those from April-December 2022 and that the most reasonable conclusion was that some cases were still in court.

Bruce pointed out that FF Plus’ statement that there were 1 408 acquittals during this period was wrong, saying for the 438 cases in 2019/20, 50 people are reported to be convicted, which is one person for every nine cases.

“But some of these convictions might be for cases where two or more people are convicted. So it is not clear how many of the cases from that year resulted in convictions,” he added.

In July last year, 17 people were killed and dozens injured when gunmen randomly opened fire on patrons at Mdlalose Tavern in Orlando East before fleeing in a white Toyota Quantum.

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