Last year, when Police Minister Bheki Cele released South Africa’s crime statistics for 2017/2018, he likened it to a war zone.
In a follow-up, the BBC compared our crime stats to those of actual war zones. Whilst the country as a whole fell short of war zone numbers, certain areas had murder stats topping the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Cape Flats falls into that latter category, and the army has now been deployed with gang violence rising and residents crying out for help.
Things are so bad that kids are taking guns and knives to school for protection, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
One woman had taken to eating her dinner while crouching on the floor, too afraid to lift her head to the level of the window lest a stray bullet shatter her home.
Another said that for four consecutive weeks, the feeding scheme she runs for hungry children had to be suddenly scrapped when a hail of bullets sent the children scrambling for cover and left holes in her food pot.
Among even the famously battle-hardened and resilient residents of the Cape Flats, who have been dealing with similar conditions for decades, there is a sense that this moment is a tipping point. That nobody, simply, should have to live like this.
We’re looking at the worst year in history, with the Western Cape government’s statistics, based on mortuary records, suggesting that 900 people were murdered in gang violence between January and June of this year.
900 people in six months – that is utterly terrifying.
By way of comparison, here’s a statistic from Full Fact with the murder rates in London and New York:
The Metropolitan Police told us that there were 15 homicide cases in London in February and 22 in March, whilst in New York the NYPD told us there were 14 and 21 respectively. London and New York have very similar populations (8.8m and 8.5m respectively in mid-2016), so we can draw comparisons between the total numbers.
Even using 20 murders a month as a benchmark, that’s 120 murders over six months, in cities with well in excess of eight million people.
The whole of the Western Cape has around 6,7 million, and the Cape Flats alone saw around 900 murders in six months.
Via The Conversation, here are some statistics from Australia, from an article written in January of this year:
The Australian Institute of Criminology’s latest report on national homicide trends for the years 2012-13 and 2013-14 shows the incident rate is the lowest on record in the past 25 years. Homicides in this data set are cases where a person is charged with murder or manslaughter…
The overall number of homicide incidents continues to decline. In the period from 2012-13 to 2013-14 there were 487 homicide incidents, involving 512 victims and 549 offenders.
There were 487 homicides in a year across the whole of Australia. In 2014, Australia had around 24 million people.
I get that those comparisons are nonsensical, but so is a woman eating her dinner crouched on the floor for fear of a stray bullet striking her.
Nobody should have to live like that.
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