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By Nicholas Zaal

Digital Journalist

Limpopo crime stats: Arrests up, some gains made, but violent crimes persist

Limpopo recorded a rise in GBV cases involving children under the age of 17, though there were fewer sexual assaults involving adults.

While almost 29 000 people were arrested, and drugs, illegal cigarettes and stolen equipment worth millions were recovered in Limpopo during the third quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year, certain categories of violent crime had not improved, and in some cases had increased.

The Provincial Commissioner of Saps in Limpopo, Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe, along with MEC for Transport and Community Safety Florence Radzilani, released the crime statistics for the province during a media briefing in Polokwane on Tuesday.

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Combating crime

They said the main objective of sharing the crime statistics was to inform the public, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders about the current state of criminal activities in the province and detail the efforts in fighting crime.

Hadebe said the crime statistics culminate from the national crime statistics released by the Minister of Police Bheki Cele and the National Commissioner Fannie Masemola, in Pretoria on 16 February.

She indicated that these statistics were meant to show how Limpopo contributed to the picture of crime in the country for the period 1 October to 31 December 2023, in comparison with data from the corresponding period of the previous financial year. 

Mob justice, illegal mining still a concern

The Provincial Commissioner said there has been an increase in murder cases, when compared to the same period in 2022.

She said what is more concerning is that there has been multiple incidents of mob justice, including incidents where alleged criminals were killed by community members.

Reflecting on the impact of a high-density operation – dubbed Operation Vala Umgodi – she showed that the province also dealt with 88 cases of illegal mining and detained 220 suspects involved in illicit mining activities, as well as immigration violations.

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Among these suspects, there were 190 foreign nationals, and 45 South Africans.  A total of 44 illegal immigrants were deported. 

The Provincial Commissioner said that Operation Vala Umgodi’s effectiveness in dismantling illicit operations and preventing further environmental degradation is exemplified by the confiscation of mining equipment, including TLBs, generators, and jackhammers, whose value amounted to R20 million. 

MEC for Transport and Community Safety Florence Radzilani and Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe
MEC for Transport and Community Safety Florence Radzilani and Saps Limpopo Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe. Photo: SA Police Service/X

Operation Kukula and various operations conducted across the province resulted in 28 946 suspects being apprehended and detained. 

The arrests include, among others: 196 suspects of murder, 83 for attempted murder, 193 for robbery, 237 for rape, 46 for sexual assault, 63 for robbery aggravating, seven for carjacking, 29 for house robbery, 91 for business robbery, 2 272 for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH), and 1 560 for common assault.

Illegal goods and stolen property

Meanwhile, a total of 97kg of drugs were confiscated, 969 electronic devices were confiscated, explosives amounting to 80 26 units that comprise 8 009 fireworks and two commercial explosives were seized and 123 stolen or robbed motor vehicles were recovered.

Additionally, drugs worth R6m and illicit cigarettes valued at R3.5m were seized during the period under review.

The provincial comissioner called this a notable achievement and commended organised crime fighting teams for their bravery and “unwavering support received from the communities, who are tired of the exploitation of our economy as well as the negative impact drugs are having on the young and old citizens of our province”.

School principal’s murder

“I convey my profound gratitude for the exceptional work carried out by our members in promptly apprehending five suspects implicated in the tragic murder of Dr Malekutu Johannes Mehlape from the Department of Education, who was fatally shot at his residence, in Mankweng on 28 December 2023,” Hadebe said.

“This odious act that claimed his life had a deep-seated impact on our community however, thanks to the unwavering efforts of our members, finally justice will be served as we prepare a watertight case against the perpetrators.”

Sexual assault and problem stations

The commissioner applauded an improvement made by Thohoyandou Police Station by moving from one spot lower in the top 30 stations with the most crime in South Africa, while Seshego and Mankweng are still lingering in the list.

She noted a decrease in the number of victims of gender-based violence (GBV) over the age of 18.

“We are more concerned about the [rise] in the number of GBV cases against children under the age of 17. 

Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Limpopo, Major General Jan Scheepers
Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Limpopo, Major General Jan Scheepers speaks at the unveiling of the crime statistics. Photo: SA Police Service/X

“As we move forward with our strategies to curb GBV, we are working towards revising the GBV plan and engaging with other stakeholders to improve our capabilities, closely monitor, and also improve the working environment of the FCS [family violence, child protection and sexual offences] unit to better deal with the scourge of GBV in the Province”.

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MEC Radzilani expressed her satisfaction with how the police conducted their investigations into the murder cases and how they managed to quell and suppress possible community unrest throughout the province.

She has also noted a decline in sexual offences and encouraged communities to take an active part in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Liquor a factor in murders

MEC Radzilani said the extensive hours of the alcohol trade remain a cause for concern in the fight against crime. 

This because most of the murder and attempted murder cases were recorded at liquor outlets after normal trading hours, during the period under review. 

She said it is for this reason the Limpopo Provincial Government will continue its crusade to amend the Limpopo Liquor Act, and ensure that it supports the police’s attempts to normalise crime levels.

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