Despite unprecedented restrictions on movement, alcohol and the economy, and a surge in policing activities, South Africans continued to kill one another at a high rate, shows a study by Western Cape government and Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researchers.
They tracked weekly homicide trends across the province during the lockdown, looking at 11 high-violence areas which in 2018/19 accounted for 50% of the province’s 3 974 murders, with a focus on Khayelitsha, Delft, and Philippi (inclusive of Hanover Park).
Andrew Faull, a senior researcher: justice and violence prevention at the ISS, said although murder declined by an average of 18%, violence varied significantly from week to week.
Under alert level 5, when alcohol and most movement and economic activity was banned, murder areas plummeted by 47% compared with the same period last year. Under level 4 it was down 38%. With the introduction of level 3a, when alcohol was unbanned and other restrictions were eased, murder was 9.5% lower.
“At face value, this suggests that alcohol explains the province’s violence. However, when alcohol was again banned under Level 3b, murders increased by 6% compared to the same period in 2019. And from June 1, 2020, onwards, with alert levels 3a and 3b, murder trends closely mirrored those of the same period last year.”
Dr Jane Kelly, the assistant director, policy and research, Western Cape Department of Community Safety, said the team also disaggregated murders by category of weapon used. Last year, 49% to 59% of murders resulted from gunshot injuries, and 28% to 36% from sharp objects such as knives.
“During lockdown, between 62% and 78% of injuries were gunshot- related, and only 9% to 24% were linked to sharp objects. Similar analysis is found in the police lockdown data, where almost two-thirds of murders were associated with firearms.”
The 39-page document, which can be accessed here, revealed that sharp-object murders peaked under level 3a when alcohol was reintroduced. A related finding was that the percentage of female murder victims was almost halved (4%) in the first six weeks of lockdown compared with the same period last year (7.8%).
Xolisa Pukayi, a community activist and Philippi East ward committee member for safety and security, said: “Crime will never decrease in Nyanga and Philippi because the City was not paying attention.”
The areas had no neighbourhood watches, law enforcement officers or metro police.
Strandfontein Community Police Forum chairperson Sandy Schuter said an increase in police visibility was needed, especially in gang-and drug-infested communities.
“There isn’t the luxury of CCTV, security companies, so residents rely on poorly resourced safety agencies.”
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