S.Africa: RISING CRIME LEVELS MAKE VIGILANTE JUSTICE INEVITABLE
Jan‘s Science Blog
I have a little Science blog where I post scientific news.
[It is only the Blacks who get to engage in vigilante actions. I wish we Whites could do this. It would be so awesome. Jan]
atistics reflecting crimes reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) from October to December 2022. The statistics show a substantial increase in nearly all categories of crime, when compared to the same reporting period in the previous year. There are staggering increases in contact crimes, with attempted murder seeing a 24.3% increase while murder saw a 10.1% increase. In just three months, 7,555 murders and 7,016 attempted murders were reported. Cases of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm amounted to 50,582. Sexual assaults and rape also saw a significant increase, with 12,419 rapes reported – a 9.8% increase from the previous year. At least 2,154 cases of sexual assault were reported.
Hijackings and robberies also saw significant increases, with 5,608 carjackings and 492 truck hijackings reported – an increase of 2.8% and 9.8 percent, respectively. There were 16,286 burglaries at non-residential premises and 42,648 burglaries at residential premises, representing an increase of 13% and 7.4%, respectively. Other forms of theft, such as stock theft, also saw an increase, with 7,448 cases of stock theft reported, reflecting a 0.6% increase compared to the previous year. Some categories of crime, such as bank robberies and cash-in-transit heists, have reported decreases in the period of reporting. However, the numbers remain stubbornly high.
The increase in crime levels is happening alongside a notable increase in cases of mob justice all across the country. Last weekend, two separate mob justice incidents took place in Ficksburg, Free State. In the first incident, a woman was attacked by an armed man who tried to rob her. She was rescued by members of the community who attacked the suspect in retaliation. The man was eventually rescued by police and charged with the possession of an illegal firearm. In the second incident, a man was attacked and killed by the community, accused of committing crimes in the area. Just five days ago, three people were stoned to death in Vaalbank, Mpumalanga, after the remains of an eight-year-old child were found inside a pit toilet.
These are only three widely reported incidents in the last 10 days, the actual number is undoubtedly higher.
Research by the Institute for Security Studies in 2019 shows that at least two people die as a result of mob violence or vigilante group attacks per day. But even this number might not be accurate because comprehensive statistics on cases of mob justice are not readily available. Furthermore, while over 1,000 murders reported to the SAPS are linked to mob justice, motives for other murders are not always known, and could also be part of the mob justice statistic. Regardless of availability or lack thereof, of accurate data, it is undeniable that cases of mob justice are on the increase in South Africa.
The increase in cases of mob justice is directly linked to not only the increase in crime, but the persistently low levels of successful prosecution of criminal cases, particularly sexual crimes.
According to a study by Dee Smythe, a professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, our country has one of the lowest conviction rates for sexual crimes. About 150 women report being raped to the police in South Africa daily. Fewer than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted, and no more than 10 will result in a conviction. That is an overall conviction rate of 4% to 8% reported cases.
Other crimes also have low conviction rates. According to the 2019 annual report of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), prosecution rates for serious offenses have been as low as 2%. And more worryingly, there is a sustained decrease in the number of cases that are being referred to the NPA for prosecution. This means that most cases of serious crimes fall apart at the point of investigation due to numerous factors including insufficient resources available to the law enforcement, police corruption and unwillingness to cooperate on the part of witnesses. This much has been admitted by the police minister, who lamented the involvement of police officers in serious crimes, as well as the necessity to capacitate law enforcement agencies. The lack of cooperation by witnesses is a direct result of the failures of law enforcement and the criminal justice system as perpetrators of crime are given short sentences or not convicted at all, posing a threat to those who might have testified against them.
The failures of law enforcement are the heart of mob justice. For example, in the Vaalbank case, one of the people who was stoned to death was a 53-year-old man who had initially been arrested by the police and then later released due to insufficient evidence. However, members of the community later found the remains of the little girl in the man’s pit toilet, resulting in him and two of his associates being stoned to death. Had the police thoroughly investigated when the man was initially arrested, all three people would still be alive. And this is the case with many cases of mob justice, where communities usually begin by reporting cases to the police and ward councillors multiple times before ultimately taking the law into their own hands.
The effects of mob justice on communities are devastating. Not only does violence beget violence, but those who participate and witness the mob attacks are traumatised. At times, children participate in the violent attacks, resulting in them being scarred for life. One of the residents of Zandspruit who witnessed the horrific multiple murders of suspected criminals two years ago, stated that she started suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the said incident that shocked the country. Having witnessed a young man being beaten to within an inch of his life and then doused with petrol after a tyre was placed around his neck.
I know too well the nightmares that haunt those who have the misfortune of watching a mob mete out is version of punishment and justice. It’s unimaginable trauma to which no-one must be condemned. But unless there is improvement in policing, better prosecution and an increase in conviction rates for serious crimes, this trauma will continue to permeate the atmosphere like coiling miasma. And more people will die.
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