Police Minister Bheki Cele during the 2017/18 crime statistics briefing in parliament on Tuesday September 11, 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Police Minister Bheki Cele during the 2017/18 crime statistics briefing in parliament on Tuesday September 11, 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Police minister Bheki Cele has placed the blame on previous police leaders for the escalating violent crime wave in SA.

An example of the leadership laxity was the fact that the security cluster, in which the police services played a key part, had not met for two years when he took over the portfolio.

"Perhaps that is part of dropping the ball‚" he said. "But now we meet regularly … I am putting all these heads [current police leaders] on the block," said Cele.

"I don’t want to ask who dropped the ball. We must pick up the ball. For me, that is the most important thing," Cele said after the presentation in parliament of the crime statistics for the 2017-2018 financial year.

The statistics were largely seen as a reflection of his predecessors Fikile Mbalula and Nathi Nhleko, who held the portfolio under former president Jacob Zuma. Cele was appointed police minister earlier in 2018 by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The 2017-2018 crime statistics showed that SA had recorded an increase in the number of reported serious crimes including murder, attempted murder and sexual offences.

The minister also said the SA Police Service had 10,000 fewer personnel compared with the previous year, a situation that compromised crime-fighting efforts. "We have lost the UN norm of policing which says one policeman to 220 citizens. One police officer is now looking at almost double that," said Cele.

National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole said the total deficit of police officers was at 62,000, but despite the depressing statistics SA had not reached a state of lawlessness.

In 2017-2018 a total of 20,336 murders were recorded, 1,320 more than the previous financial year. This translates to an average of 57 people murdered every day, up from 52 people in 2016-2017. Murders of women and children also rose.

"On average 57 people are murdered a day, which brings us close to a war zone … yet we are not in war," Cele said.

Just more than 50,100 sexual offences were reported, up from about 49,700 in the previous year. There were 238 cash-in-transit heists recorded in the current financial year, up from 152 in 2016-2017.

"It is unacceptable that the murder rate has been on an upward trajectory since 2012-2013. The increase of 6.9% from the last financial year points to the ineffectiveness of interventions implemented by the police," said the portfolio committee on police.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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