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By Gcina Ntsaluba


Illegal guns, gangs turn SA cities into killing fields

Cape Town leads the pack with the worst statistics for murder and robbery, with Pretoria the safest city to live in.

Illegal firearms have been identified as the weapon of choice for murders in South Africa’s nine metro cities, where the average murder rate is well above the national average murder rate, according to the 2018 State of Urban Safety in South Africa Report.

Cape Town, which has the dubious honour of leading the country in murders, has experienced a steady rise of almost 70% in murders between 2009/10 and 2017/18, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) and eThekwini (Durban).

According to the report by the South African Cities Network (SACN), the increase in the murder rate in Cape Town is presumably driven by gang violence, which has been exacerbated by the supply of thousands of illegal firearms to criminal gangs in Cape Town.

SAPS investigations and court proceedings have implicated corrupt police officials as one source of the illegal firearms.

The report also found that there was evidence to suggest that similar illegal firearm transfers into Nelson Mandela Bay have significantly contributed to the city’s elevated murder rate in recent years.

The nine cities covered in the report are economic centres and home to about 40% of the country’s population. They are responsible for more than 80% of the country’s economic productivity.

SA cities murder rate graphic.

Good party leader Patricia de Lille, who was until recently Cape Town’s mayor, said the city’s standing as the murder capital of the country, as revealed by the study, had been going on for a long time and when she was mayor, she wanted to take a different holistic approach to the way crime was handled in the province.

“It is true that we need more policing, but police alone is not the answer to the high crime and murder rate in the province.

“We need to deal with the social issues behind the crimes. To deal with it, I combined the safety and security department with social service,” said De Lille.

In so doing, she said she discovered she had to deal with various social issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, high levels of school dropouts and rehabilitation.

De Lille said she had several campaigns in place to deal with these issues, including focusing on drug and alcohol prevention among the youth.

“However, when I resigned as mayor, they broke up these departments and invested R135 million in the police department to arrest more young people.

“Cape Town must get it right. Just the safety and security department is not going to help deal with social issues, because the police can’t deal with social issues. We must deal with the social issues and policing, hand-in-hand,” said De Lille.

She called on the education department to help with the high school dropout rates and on the women in the city to play the role of mothers and social workers which, she said, was lacking in the province.

SACN is a network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practices on urban development and city management.

This year’s report is very clear that there is a need to jointly explore support mechanisms that assist municipalities to assume their central role in development and to increase their performance in building safer communities.

The City of Cape Town failed to respond to questions about its performance and plans to improve by the time of going to press.


Fairest Cape leads the pack with worst stats

  • Cape Town has the highest rates of murder, robbery and property-related crimes.
  • Johannesburg is ranked number one for police activity, but robbery is its key crime problem, followed by assault.
  • eThekwini has some of the lowest rates of violent crime, such as assault, but the murder rate is still a challenge. eThekwini is ranked second (after Cape Town) for access to alcohol, drugs and firearms.
  • Ekurhuleni is ranked second (after Johannesburg) for income inequality and second (after Buffalo City) for informal housing.
  • Tshwane has the lowest rates of murder, assault and sexual offences of all the nine cities, but has fairly high levels of property-related crime (coming third after Cape Town and Buffalo City).
  • Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) has the second-highest murder rate and robbery rate.
  • Mangaung is ranked second for sexual offences, after Buffalo City, but has the lowest robbery rate of all the metros.
  • Buffalo City ranks highest among the cities for assault and sexual offences.
  • Msunduzi has the lowest human development index (a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators) of the cities and the third-highest level of youth unemployment. However, its informal housing is on a par with NMB. It has the second lowest robbery rate (after Mangaung) and is ranked fourth among the cities for property-related crimes and fifth for assault. – Citizen reporter

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Crime gangsterism Patricia de Lille