In September 2005 the SAPS released its latest batch of crime statistics for the country, covering the period April 2004 to March 2005. The trends that emerge from these figures suggest that South Africans should be
encouraged by the successes shown in managing down the levels of crime. This article describes some of the
key trends and explains what can and cannot be read into them.
The problem of gangs is not new to South Africa. This is one of the reasons that Cape Town has been included
in an innovative international study that has identified the phenomenon of 'children in organised armed
violence'. Given the youthfulness of South Africa's population, as well as levels of poverty and unemployment,
the risk factors for children's involvement in armed gangs as recorded by the international study should serve
as an early warning to us.
The legislation passed in 1997 that provides for mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes was recently extended for another two years. At the time, the aim was to reduce serious and violent crime,
achieve consistency in sentencing, and satisfy the public that sentences were sufficiently severe. This article
argues that the legislation has achieved little or no significant impact with regard to these goals. Instead,
many agree that the provisions have exacerbated the problem of overcrowding in South African prisons.
The kidnapping and murder of both Leigh Mathews and Frances Rasuge in 2004, and the criminal trials of their respective killers, have heightened awareness and concern about kidnapping for ransom in South Africa. Several media articles have suggested an increase in the number of kidnappings, or at the very least that kidnapping for ransom is a significant problem that South Africans ignore at their peril. This article examines the evidence for such claims as well as issues that should lead to caution in describing kidnapping for ransom trends.
It is frequently noted that police crime statistics can reflect reality badly because of under-reporting and under-recording. Less frequently noted is the fact that other sources of data can be just as problematic. This
article reflects on two sources of statistics on murder - the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System and
the MRC's Burden of Disease estimates - and argues that the incautious use of these data can lead to