The DA’s shadow police minister Zakhele Mbhele went as far as saying the crime statistics for 2015/16 were “the stuff nightmares are made of”.
Statistics presented in Parliament on Friday showed a 4.9% increase in murder when compared to the previous financial year.
This means that around 51 people were murdered every day in South Africa, up from 49 in 2014/15.
The murder rate increased by 20% in the last four years, creeping back to a high last seen in 2006.
Mbhele said he was alarmed by the significant increases in crimes that South Africans feared the most.
Worrying increase in murder
“The increase in key crimes shows that South Africa remains under siege from criminals.”
The office of the ANC chief whip welcomed the latest statistics and commended the hard work done by officers.
However, chief whip Jackson Mthembu was concerned by increases in murder, burglary at residential and non-residential properties and car hijacking.
“Such crimes involve grievous bodily harm, loss of life and makes our people live in fear.”
The office said the role of communities in fighting crime could not be overemphasised.
An international Security Studies (ISS) analyst, Johan Burger, said lumping violent crimes statistics with less serious and petty crimes gave the impression that the problem was getting resolved.
Burger, head of the ISS governance, crime and justice division, said something had gone wrong over the last four years.
He believed the economy had played a role in affecting people’s social circumstances, in turn leading to criminal activities.
Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko told Parliament on Friday that broadly-speaking, crime in South Africa decreased.
A large proportion of murders seemed to result from arguments or misunderstandings, he told reporters. Taxi and gang violence, and conflict among illegal miners were other causative factors.
He told Parliament that contact crime remained “quite stubborn”. He believed efforts needed to be made beyond the police service to address social patterns behind this type of crime.
Acting Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane seemed to take a different approach.
A thankless job
“What is it social workers are going to do to bring down contact crime? Crimes are being committed by people wielding illegal firearms,” he told Parliament’s portfolio committee on police.
“As the SAPS we do our best to bring these crime levels down to ensure the same social workers are able to do their work in our communities.”
He said policing remained a thankless job, but they would continue to serve the country.
Seven of the top 10 “murder” police stations were in the Western Cape, statistics showed.
There had been a 3.2% decrease in sexual offences, which ranged from “sex work” to “rape”.
Seven of the nine provinces reflected this decrease. There had been a steady decrease over the last three years.
The ISS said this decrease was deeply concerning because it suggested fewer people were reporting these crimes.
Increase in hijackings
It said civil society continued to call for rape to be a stand-alone category, separate from the sexual assault category, for a clearer picture.
Assault with intent to do bodily harm increased, as did common assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
However, the increase in aggravated robbery had slowed dramatically in the last three years.
Car hijacking shot up by 14.3% when compared to the last financial year. Phahlane said modern security features, which made it harder to steal parked cars, were partly to blame for an increase in car hijackings and a decrease in vehicle theft.
Residential robbery increased by 2.7%. Gauteng had the highest number of reported residential robberies, but saw a decrease in the last year.
Robberies at non-residential premises increased by 2.8%, as did cash-in-transit robberies (up 15.1%).
Leadership crisis under control
There was a small decrease in the number of crimes detected as a result of police action.
Increasingly becoming a feature of daily life was violent protests, with a sharp increase in the last year.
“More and more protests are becoming rowdy, whereas those protests that are peaceful are on the decrease,” said crime research and statistics head Major-General Norman Sekhukhune.
Reported cases of violent unrest increased to 3 542, compared to 2 289 in the previous financial year.
Phahlane said they had brought the police’s leadership crisis under control. This was after a tumultuous time when some provincial commissioners got into trouble for supporting suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega, among other issues.
More resources had been made available to police stations, more mobile units were being used, and intelligence services had been beefed up.