South Africa has seen a definite rise in the number of murders since the removal of the death penalty. In 1989, the death penalty was suspended and then was abolished in 1996. After the elimination of the death penalty, South Africa has witnessed a sharp overall increase in violent crime. Without the threat of death as potential punishment, the murder rate in particular has seen a significant increase.
A report by the United Christian Action (UCA) on the murders in South Africa revealed that official statistics rated an average of 7,036 murders a year between 1950 to 1993. This period was turbulent and the riots, conflict, warfare, and terrorism were particularly troublesome for the apartheid government.
After the transition to democracy in 1994, the murder rate per annum rose to an average of 24,206 murders being committed during the first eight years of peaceful rule by the African National Congress (ANC) party. Thereafter the murder rate per year has risen sharply to an average of 47,882, according to Interpol statistics.
South Africa has been rated the most murderous society on earth, according to The Nedcore Project. The Nedcore Project survey highlights the fact that crime in South Africa is unsurpassed, presents a serious sociological difficulty and overshadows the unemployment fiasco also present in South Africa.
At one stage, the ANC government imposed a moratorium on crime statistics, a peculiar action that remains questionable. The Nedcore Report however, revealed that during the first seven years of ANC rule, violence, and crime increased by thirty-three percent.
Released surveys reveal that alcohol abuse coupled with South Africa’s violent culture have been a leading factor in crimes of murder. In addition, fifty-six percent of murdered victims had alcohol blood samples that tested positive. Clearly the increase of drug abuse has resulted in a link to crimes involving murder.
Organized crime and widespread corruption have contributed to the rise in murders, and there are over 700-crime syndicates operating in South Africa. Yet not one of the leaders of these crime syndicates has been arrested although several South African police are under criminal investigation relating to crimes and murders.
The failing justice system presents a delay factor in sentencing perpetrators. In the year 2000, only half of all reported murder cases were sent to court and this resulted in only one in every eight murders receiving a guilty verdict. The consistent high-murder rate in comparison to the low-conviction rate is a considerable concern.
Discrepancies between the Interpol official statistics and the Medical Research Council have been notable. It was recorded that a police officer said it was easier to do nothing about the crime and only report incidents that were mandatory in order to reduce the crime rate. Under-reporting of crimes by South African police is a serious problem, and the reason for concealing the true statistics is linked to political motivations. The report concluded that there was a desire to change the rate and statistics of crime within South Africa in order to remove the shocking publicity that has served to label South Africa as the crime capital of the world.
The Crime Information Analyst Center (CIAC) of the South African Police Services quoted some of the reasons for the high and often horrid crimes within the borders of the country. On factor is the urbanization of the youth, and the rapid influx of young people seeking work from neighboring countries, including Nigeria, Morocco, and China. More than six million undocumented immigrants live in the cities which adds to the high unemployment rate and with no social support for their basic needs, they often turn to crime.
Another explanation given for the rise in crime is the unemployment of former security force and liberation armies that were trained in guerrilla warfare skills who have turned to hijackings, robberies and cash in transit robberies. The experience gained while in training under the political struggle is now being used to help them commit crimes.
Various reports have not elaborated on farm murders, and impeccable research documents are not needed to convince South Africans of the steep rise in murders. Combating crime by the government would require rigid firearm controls and the consideration of re-installing the death penalty as a deterrent for crime.
By some reports, over 100,000 criminals from South African prisons were granted early release and these prisoners included murderers and rapists. The massive increase in violent crime is directly attributed to the death penalty being removed and the immediate rise in murders. The rise in murders has forced people to live in homes surrounded by high walls, electric fences, burglar bars and to employ the use of armed response security systems. There was a time when vehicles were safe but today, almost all of the vehicles have gear-locks, alarm systems, and satellite tracking devices installed.
Opinion by Laura Oneale