Escalating wave of violence is the result of poverty, and women are on receiving end

Police minister Bheki Cele appeared clueless about the reason for the upsurge in violent crime and even blamed a lack of policing, which he said was not on par with UN standards, says the writer.
Police minister Bheki Cele appeared clueless about the reason for the upsurge in violent crime and even blamed a lack of policing, which he said was not on par with UN standards, says the writer.
Image: BRIAN WITBOOI

It is never an easy task to detail crime statistics to citizens and last week's announcement was no exception for police minister Bheki Cele who reported that violent crimes such as murder and rape have risen sharply. The figures indicate that an average of 56 people are murdered each day.

But perhaps most interesting was that Cele appeared clueless about the reason for the upsurge. The minister went as far as blaming his predecessors for the escalating violent crime. He even blamed a lack of policing, which he said was not on par with UN standards which urges countries to have one policeman to 220 citizens.

Instead, he said, one police officer is now policing almost double the number, alluding to this as a reason for the soaring crime wave. Cele's lack of clarity regarding reasons for the upsurge suggests that the police, including the government, have no plans in place to reduce crime despite the country having remained gripped by high crime rates since the 1990s.

With increasing crime rates, it becomes clear that the crime wave is in fact a long-standing trend and that the recent figures do not merely suggest a failure in systems or glitches by law enforcement.

However, Cele made little reference to the plight of women and children. This is strange because while we may differ about the reasons for the soaring crime wave, we should at least agree on how law enforcement should respond.

I have written previously i that the violence against women and children is being battered by a justice system that is sleeping. Our laws are not ready for the conundrums of feminised poverty.

There is no doubt that the escalating violence is the result of poverty and that women are at the receiving end of that barbed stick.

It seems to escape leaders that high crime rates are structural and inherent to social ills that emerge from our widening inequalities. Research shows that lower-class people who live in lower-class areas have higher official crime rates than other groups.

For example, researchers say that the observation that most crimes are inflicted by the poor on the poor is not necessarily the only issue, however, there is a skewed distribution of security services across communities and social classes. That means crime may be more prevalent in poor communities because the distribution of police services by the state favours rich neighbourhoods.

Notwithstanding that there is no single variant that explains the high levels of violence in SA, there is, however, strong traction to the theory that violent crime rates decrease when economic growth improves. This then suggests that violence across the country demands an increased response from all levels of government.

What we do know is that women are the custodians of poverty and ills in society and that high levels of gender-based violence persist despite legislative provisions.

What we don't know is why the SA Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) meant to address violence against women and children, which has been published, has not been officially launched or implemented.

Furthermore, the high level panel on the assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change led by Kgalema Motlanthe encourages parliament to guide the development of a national strategic plan on gender-based violence, which is multisectoral, coordinated and inclusive with a strong monitoring and evaluation component to hold all to account. However, this has also not happened. Therefore, we should not wonder why crime persists.

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