Crime in South Africa

Imagine a place where you life means virtually nothing. Where you might get killed simply because somebody wants your shoes, watch or the coins in your pocket. A country where you have very little recourse to legal justice - unless the crime involves a high public figure which will attract international attention. A country where the police offer very little in terms protection or proper investigations. A country of unbelievable brutality, lawlessness, rampant crime and violence. Where the population lost all confidence in the justice system in that 90% of criminal investigations results in nothing and the criminals walk free. A country where most have to barricade themselves in their homes, hire private security firms and where it is of little use to call the police for assistance.

Horrifying murder statistics. There were 827 children murdered in South Africa in 2012/13. That is more than two a day. Added to that is the 21,575 children who were assaulted, with almost half of those assaults being severe. In the same year 2,266 women were murdered, and 141,130 women were victims of attempted murder, assault GBH and common assault. As horrifying as these statistics are, the number of women and children who fell victim to violence is dwarfed by the number of similar attacks on men. In 2012/13 alone, 13,123 men were murdered.

At best, half of these cases would have made it to court, and not all of those that make it to court result in a guilty verdict and the perpetrator being punished - most walk free due to terribly botched investigations. There are several consequences of this. With each year that violence remains so prevalent, the number of South Africans who have experienced and witnessed violence increases, and so does the extent of national trauma. This has serious consequences the health system; our ability to work as a nation, and our ability to raise a new generation of safe and healthy children. In addition, this further fuels hatred and heightens tensions between the various ethnic groups (frequently mistaken for racism).

But this is only one aspect of the very serious problems South Africans face on a daily basis. While our laws have substantially changed for the better, and our Constitution protects the rights of all South Africans and establishes the principle that all are treated equally before the law, in practice this has been very difficult to achieve. For example, it is relatively easy for Oscar Pistorius and Jacob Zuma, others with high public profiles and access to wealth, to pay for good lawyers, to be driven to court, or to see a psychologist to help them deal with trauma or stress. But these privileges are not available to most of the 650 000 victims of violent crimes each year. Welcome to South Africa!

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