Decline in gun violence sees 'only' 41 deaths at weekend in Cape metro
The equivalent of nearly four football teams were murdered in the Cape Town metro region over the past weekend, but as crime levels persist and the army is deployed to some areas a decline in gun-related deaths is cause for faint optimism.
Gun-related murders in the metro dropped to 16 at the weekend after 31 deaths were recorded two weeks prior - making the latest figure the lowest in 10 weeks.
The gun-related incidents took place mostly in gang-ridden areas.
"When compared with last weekend, we saw the number of recorded murders in the metro region dip from 46 to 41, which is still incredibly high," said Western Cape premier Alan Winde. "What we have seen is a marked decline in the number of murders as a result of gunshots, which was at its lowest in at least 10 weekends."
Of the 41 murders, 16 were due to gunshots, 19 as a result of stabbings, and six due to other circumstances.
Since the defence force (SANDF) rolled into the Cape Flats in July, murder rates have slowly decreased, and Winde attributes this to having "more boots on the ground", as well as escalated efforts from city law-enforcement officers and police.
"More police operations, coupled with additional law-enforcement officers from the city of Cape Town, and community neighbourhood watch efforts, will start to pay dividends over time as criminals and gangsters start to feel the pressure of visible policing, arrests and community-driven efforts to take back their spaces," he said.
Community safety minister Albert Fritz welcomed the decline in deaths from gun violence.
"After each weekend we see a significant fatality rate linked to gun-related crime. However, it is reassuring to note that there has been a decline in the number of gun-related murders in the province over the past two months," he said.
Fritz said that to further curb gun violence, the province should "tighten up" on the distribution of ammunition and take steps towards introducing a "centralised ammunition register".
Provincial health minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo is holding workshops on the impact of trauma cases - especially gunshot-related ones - across the provincial health system on Thursday.
This follows the surge in gun-related admissions to specialised hospitals in the past year, where it is costing the state at least R22,000 to treat a gunshot patient.
Adele Kirsten from Gun Free SA said that the figures "have to be good news", but that politicians and the provincial government should take time to analyse the figures to understand their true impact.
"You need around three years of data to really suggest that there's been a downward trend," she said. "The thing that we need to be doing is helping the public understand these numbers," she said.
"Are the police actually recovering these weapons? If it's just a case of criminals lying low [since the army moved in], then we are likely to see an increase as soon as the military moves out."
She said that the idea of a centralised ammunition register was "fantastic" and that it would begin propelling SA to international standards of gun control.
"It's a brilliant idea, and something that will really help," she said. "Even people like us tend to forget about ammunition, but the reality is that it's tricky to fire a gun without it."
"Places like Brazil have serial numbers on each cartridge, so it helps investigators track down supply lines and, ultimately, criminals," she said.