by ADANE BIKILA (Addis Ababa) / TINTSWALO BALOYI (Johannesburg)
ADDIS ABABA (CAJ News) – ON the international stage, President Cyril Ramaphosa is pledging South Africa’s commitment to help the continent “silence the guns” yet back home, his government is losing the fight against gun violence.
Statistics suggest his country is contending with the world’s highest homicide crisis.
Illegal guns at the hands of trigger-happy criminals are now the main cause of the escalating murders in the increasingly volatile southern African country.
Silencing the guns is a motto of the African Union (AU) to eradicate conflicts in the continent.
“We have set ourselves an ambitious goal to Silence the Guns across Africa,” Ramaphosa told delegates gathered for the 36th African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopia.
“To achieve this goal, we must show zero-tolerance for current and emerging conflicts and redouble our efforts to resolve them,” the South African head of state added.
South Africa is the chair of the AU’s Peace and Security Council for the month of February.
While Ramaphosa was assuring delegates in Addis Ababa, South Africa’s internationally-renowned sensation, Kiernan Forbes (35), professionally known as AKA, was buried, days after assailants shot him dead alongside his associate, Tebello Motsoane (41), outside a hotel in the resort city of Durban.
The killings have been denounced as a hit, in a city that is synonymous with the rising trend of hired assassins. The unresolved, fatal shooting of national soccer team captain and goalkeeper, Senzo Meyiwa, in 2014 has elicited doubts that the pair’s killers will be brought to book.
Meanwhile, last Friday, unidentified gunmen shot dead a councilor of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) in the Eastern Cape, Nomxolisi Nqwena-Maliwa (47), in her car.
The previous day, thugs gunned down anti-crime activist, Judah Mthethwa, in his KwaZulu-Natal home, allegedly for his activism against syndicates smuggling cars to neighbouring Mozambique.
While Ramaphosa was convincing delegates in Ethiopia on ambitions to silence guns in Africa, his under-fire police minister, Bheki Cele, read gory crime statistics that underlined the Southern African country’s unenviable as the world’s murder capital.
Crime statistics for the last quarter of the past year (October to December 2022) indicate violent crime is at its highest since democracy in 1994.
During the three month-period mentioned above, police documented 7 555 murders, or over 82 murders daily, up from 74 the previous quarter. For the first time in South Africa’s history, murders increased above 80 murders per day.
To put things into perspective, El Salvador, the Central American country said to have the highest homicide rate globally, had 496 homicides in 2022, down from 1 147 in 2021.
There has been an escalation in mass shootings in South Africa, further highlighting the circulation of illegal firearms. In the last quarter of 2022, at least 665 people were killed in 3 294 cases of mass shootings.
This is a shocking increase from 578 deaths in 250 cases of mass shootings in the previous quarter.
The most recent statistics Cele presented indicate no less than 15 545 cases of sexual assault, or 169 daily, an increase from 154 per day.
In the third quarter of 2022, gender based violence and femicide skyrocketed.
Some 1 101 murders were attributed to this scourge that in South Africa is known as “the second pandemic”, after COVID-19.
Recently, the man who raped and killed eight-year-old Tazne Van Wyk was convicted to nine life sentences and 259 and half years behind bars.
Given Vhuromu (42) has been handed down 4 life sentences with an additional 135 years behind bars for ten counts of rape and robbery of women and young girls.
Speaking in Ethiopia, Ramaphosa said, “Beyond being a persistent challenge across the region and the world, violence against women and girls undermines our efforts to realise the aspirations contained in the UN Agenda 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2063.”
While Ramaphosa has made the pledge at the AU, South Africans reminded him of the grim situation in his backyard.
“Charity begins at home. Solve the problems in this country first,” said commentator, Mandla Mathebula.
Another commentator, Sokholo Mazolo, concurred urging Ramaphosa to focus on silencing the guns in South Africa first.
“Some 7 555 people murdered from October to December last year, it seems like South Africa is a country at war,” Mazolo said.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) lamented the bloodbath.
“Not since the dawn of democracy in 1994, has South Africa ever been in such a violent, murderous and bloody war against crime as we are today,” said Andrew Whitfield, DA Shadow Minister of Police.
Cele has shrugged opposition party’s calls for his dismissal.
Presenting the crime statistics, Cele said, “Police are also on the pulse in removing illegal weapons off our streets.”
He disclosed in the past 12 months, police have permanently removed and destroyed 65 519 firearms confiscated during operations. Some crooked law enforcers have been implicated in the sale of guns to criminals, while daring criminals have robbed police stations of weapons.
Cele said in the current financial year, 46 police officers had been dismissed for various transgressions.
“Police are also cleaning house and ridding the service of officers who choose to partner with rogue criminal elements,” the minister said.
– CAJ News