During his address to the nation on June 17, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about the second pandemic – the war on women in this country.
The brutal murder of Tshegofatso Pule and her unborn child grabbed headlines, but if you follow the news, you’ll find daily examples of the terrifying reality women in this country face.
During enforced restrictions on movement at the start of the lockdown, crime decreased somewhat. As lockdown restrictions are eased, however, crime rates have started to rise, and not just those tied to gender-based violence.
Indeed, some restrictions and the effects thereof have inadvertently contributed to criminal activity in the country. The booming illicit cigarette trade, running rampant due to the hotly contested tobacco ban, is a prime example of this.
Then there’s the struggling economy, the knock-on effects of which, reports IOL, could be devastating.
The collapse of the economy partially due to Covid-19, unemployment and poverty could result in the country being engulfed in an avalanche of crime, civil disobedience and protests, security experts have warned.
Senior researchers at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Johan Burger and Rudolph Zinn, confirmed that crime decreased during the lockdown.
“But what were the likely long-term effects of the pandemic and our responses to it? After a brief reprieve, could South Africa face even higher crime levels than before the pandemic struck?” they asked.
A recent report on the average take-home pay for South Africans paints a grim picture, with low-income earners suffering, and monthly salaried workers facing the reality that one in five private sector jobs are at risk.
“The well-accepted correlation between levels of inequality and crime is of particular concern.”
“A projected worst-case scenario of an estimated 21% rise in the unemployment rate over the next few months could lead to considerable increases in both violent and property-related crimes.”
This is especially likely if we take into account other criminogenic factors prevalent in the country, such as corruption, guns, drugs, and alcohol abuse.
Zinn said the movement from level 5 to 3 of the lockdown restrictions have already resulted in an increase in various crime categories.
“Recent media reports and the police minister have stated that there is a noticeable increase in trauma and murder cases linked to alcohol consumption.”
Stellenbosch University sociology professor Lindy Heinecken adds that “rising inequality, poverty and unemployment would be exacerbated by COVID-19”, and felt most acutely by economically disadvantaged South Africans.
Heinecken said that would fuel anger and resentment unless the state is able to put sufficient safety nets in place to mitigate the discontent. She said people would not revolt against the state, or the system, where there was a belief that their needs were being attended to. “When the state fails to deliver, citizens will revolt.”
The economy was already on the rocks when the pandemic hit us, and we’re only now starting to see the real effects of the national lockdown.
Before the pandemic, the country had an unemployment rate of 29,1% and the Chamber of Commerce predicts that it could rise to 50%.
Earlier today, Statistics SA reported that South Africa’s economy decreased by 2,0% in the first quarter of 2020, extending the technical recession that the country found itself in during the final quarter of 2019.
We can only hope the ‘avalanche’ turns out to be exaggerated.
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