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Violent Crimes Surge in South Africa

Violent Crimes Surge in South Africa
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According to South Africa’s Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, violent crime continues to drastically increase in South Africa. VOA’s Darren Taylor reports.

Violent crime continues to rise sharply in South Africa, already rated one of the most violent countries in the world by organizations such as the United Nations. Statistics released late last week by the South African police show sharp rises in almost all contact crimes in recent months. Social analysts say the nation’s apartheid past, high unemployment and poverty are fueling violence, and the government seems to have no solutions. Darren Taylor reports that new crime trends are also emerging. ((TEXT)) The government’s fond of saying crime isn’t so bad in South Africa, and that the media exaggerates it. But each quarter, its own police minister, Bheki Cele, contradicts this when he releases crime statistics. ((CELE ACT)) “The crime data is again demonstrating that South Africa is a very violent country. This is evident by double-digit percentage increases in all assault categories. Between July 2021 to end September 2021, 6,163 people were killed in South Africa. That’s really a bad number. This is 1,056 more people killed compared to the corresponding period in the previous financial year.” ((END ACT)) According to the World Population Review, only seven countries have higher murder rates than South Africa. Crime specialist at the Institute for Security Studies, Lizette Lancaster, says “things are going from bad to worse” in terms of violent crime in the country. ((LANCASTER ACT)) “We’re seeing a 30% increase in murder compared to the 2019 period, which means that we’re far more violent now, even during lockdowns, than we’ve been, prior to the pandemic.” ((END ACT)) She says with an estimated 10-million jobless people in a nation of 60-million, hopelessness and desperation are sparking anger and frustration, and “nothing to lose” attitudes. Cele says women and girls often bear the brunt of this. ((CELE ACT 2)) “Rape… Again, bad news… 9,556 people were raped between July and September 2021. This figure, of almost 10,000 people raped, only in 3 months…” ((END ACT)) A new, very worrying trend, says Lancaster, is the sudden spate of kidnappings. ((LANCASTER ACT 2)) “We’re talking about over 4,000 kidnappings that happened in the first 6 months of this financial year alone. About 5% are either ransom or extortion-related. Then there’s another 5% that’s revenge-related. This translates to about one a day on average in the country. And that’s only the kidnappings that are reported to the police. Because of the sensitivity of the matters, many are not… We’re seeing more and more syndicates that have moved into the type of kidnappings that have made the news.” ((END ACT)) She’s referring to recent abductions of the children of a few wealthy families. In one case, relatives paid the kidnappers 50-million rands, or 3.3-million dollars, for the safe return of three brothers. Private investigator Pierre Gildenhuys says the criminals’ success in these cases is already motivating organized crime groups to enter this “new sphere.” ((GILDENHUYS ACT)) “We’re definitely seeing an uptrend in big cases and smaller cases, and what I also believe is we will also start seeing copycat syndicates. Because this is getting so much exposure, people will start to see, okay, this is working and this is a good way to make money, so let’s try it… People are willing to pay a lot of money for getting their loved ones back, and rightfully so.” ((END ACT)) Social media in South Africa is abuzz with warnings to parents to take extra care of their children. Gildenhuys says there’s now also unprecedented demand among rich South Africans for personal bodyguards for themselves and their children. Paranoia about crime in the country, already extreme, just went up a notch. For VOA News, I’m Darren Taylor in Johannesburg.