Written by Vanessa Papas
There is little to celebrate with the recent crime statistics released around the murder of women and children in South Africa. The fact that the figures of women murdered has decreased by a measly 5.4 percent is nothing to write home about. In a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police, even Police Minister Bheki Cele admitted ‘our statistics are not rosy’. There were 2 771 women murdered in the period between 1 April 2018 and March 2019, down from 2 930, while 1 014 children were murdered in the same financial year, a 2.9 percent increase from the 985 murders the previous year. Reported sexual offences against women decreased slightly to 36 597, a decrease of 0.4 percent. There was also an increase in sexual offences against children, with 24 387 children falling victim, a 3.8 percent increase.
Aligning with the population distribution in South Africa, it’s been reported by Business Tech that most murders take place in the most populous provinces – Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. However, the Western Cape account for over a third of the most murderous areas when looking at the top 30 worst precincts for murder. 11 precincts are found in the Western Cape, with eight in Gauteng and six in KwaZulu Natal. Five are in the Eastern Cape. Nyanga, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, is still ranked as the most violent place in South Africa, despite an improvement in its murder rate on 2018. The area recorded the most murders in 2019, with 289 reported crimes over the period. In Gauteng, Johannesburg Central was ranked as most violent, although it only appears 17th overall.
Aside from the sky-high numbers of violence against women and children, is the tragic lack of convictions. The law is simply not doing enough for survivors in South Africa. According to the Rape Survivors’ Guide to the Criminal Justice System in South Africa, at least 90 percent of all rapes are not reported to the police and arrests are made in less than 50 percent of cases that are reported. Less than 15 percent of the arrested rapists are taken to trial and less than five percent of rapists who are tried are convicted. Over 15 percent of convicted rapists get less than the mandatory sentence of 10 years.
“Almost every woman in South Africa faces some form of sexual violence over the course of her life. Yet, the stigma attached to being a survivor of sexual violence is so strong that women often find themselves isolated and unable to speak about their experience – even when they know that every other woman they know is also, like them, a survivor,” says the Guide.
“A large percentage of this violence takes place within relationships, which makes it even harder for women to report it. Women who try to report violence face even more violence – from their abusive boyfriends and husbands, from the police who tell them that they should go back to their abusive boyfriends and husbands, and from family members who say that the women are disgracing them by taking a “family matter” out into the public. Even in cases where women face sexual violence from strangers, it can be hard to report the violence and bring a case against the rapist.”
Earlier this month, more than 600 000 South Africans added their voice to various petitions and many attended marches to Parliament. A few petitions that went vial on social media included a call to bring back the death sentence in SA for crimes against women, which obtained over 382 000 signatures. Another was a petition calling on Parliament to declare gender based violence in South Africa a ‘State of Emergency’, and garnered more than 253 000 signatures.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been heavily criticised by many South Africans on social media, following his response to recent victims of gender-based violence, general crime and looting of small shops owned by foreign nationals. South Africans have said Ramaphosa is simply not doing enough to fight violent crimes. In a statement Ramaphosa said although the government was working hard to eradicate gender-based violence, he realised that South African men are not coming to the party.
On Thursday, Human Rights organisation Amnesty International lambasted the government’s lame-duck response to the femicide crisis. “Gender-based violence has reached undeniably alarming levels in South Africa,” said executive director for South Africa Shenilla Mohamed. “It is absolutely unacceptable that women feel they have to watch what they wear in public and be careful about where they are seen socialising, for fear that they may face violent reprisals including rape or even death. The time for sloganeering and politicking has passed. President Cyril Ramaphosa must now translate into action his vow that ‘enough is enough’. It’s nothing short of a national emergency that femicide and rape rates are increasing countrywide, and the government must act decisively to tackle these issues.”
Leighandre Jengels was shot and killed by her police officer boyfriend in East London, who also shot her mom.
Janika Mallo, 14, was murdered in her grandmother’s garden. She had been raped and her head smashed in with a heavy object.
Horse showjumper Meghan Cremer was abducted, robbed, beaten and murdered.
19-year-old first-year theology student at the University of the Western Cape, Jesse Hess, was murdered in her bed.
Lynette Volschenk was murdered and her body dismembered. Her killer packed her body parts in black plastic bags.
The badly decomposed body of 17-year- old Sandisile Mona of Plettenberg Bay was recently found after the teen was reported missing.