A burning issue: violence against women and children

A burning issue: violence against women and children

On 12 September 2019, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, presented the country’s crime statistics to Parliament’s police portfolio committee. He described the statistics as “not that rosy”. The statistics reveal an INCREASE in almost all categories of criminal offending.

  • There were 21 022 murders in the 2018/19 financial year – 686 more than the previous year and an increase of 3.4%. (57 people are murdered per day in South Africa.)
  • Sexual offences increased by 4.6% to 52 420 offences – 2 312 more than the year before.
  • There were 18 980 attempted murders – an increase of 746 cases or 4.1%.
  • Assault with the intention to commit grievous bodily harm increased by 2.2% or 3 670 cases, to 170 079 cases.
  • There were 162 012 common assault cases – an increase of 3.7%.
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances increased by 1.2% to 140 032 cases – 1 668 more than the year before. This category includes hijackings, cash-in-transit robberies and robberies at commercial and residential properties.
  • Common robbery increased by 2% and arson increased by 5.5% to 4 083 cases – 214 more than the year before.

There were 113 089 cases of malicious damage to property – an increase of 1 597 cases or 1.4%.

In total, contact crimes – the categories listed above – increased by 2.6% on average.

The minister noted that alcohol and drugs played a significant part in these criminal activities.

In the same week that these statistics were presented South Africa witnessed a surge of violent xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The country was also in the grip of angry and urgent protests against the abuse of women and children (including kidnapping, rape and sexual assault and murder) following the shocking sexual assault and murder of UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, in a Cape Town post office.


Many of our programme participants are serving sentences for crimes of assault against women and children. Our experience has shown us that these offenders are often serving long sentences. Further, we have noted with concern that many seem reluctant to shift deeply held views that entrench gender inequality. One facilitator noted:

Hi guys. On Citizenship, about ‘what is in the news’, one of the main topics we targeted with the group was the recent high rate of woman and children deaths alongside with abuse of women and children.

It is VERY clear that men in general need to be taught on how to respect and accept that we are equal. Maybe I’m too modern or too retro but I fail to understand how so many males feel entitled to smack/slap or hit a female if they are disputing. A certain issue.

My group felt that the government fails men as they allow woman to be equal to men and thus making “a man’s dignity and pride” to be tarnished, which results in many men having outbreaks of violence towards their partners.

I’ve had a similar discussion with friends and random males and soooooo many young and old black brothers like me seem to try and justify the recent tragedies with blaming the government with all their rights and freedom given to the nation. (Mondli Mabika, 25 Sep 2019)


Noting the very high rates of domestic violence, assault, attempted murder, murder (including those perpetrated by children), gang-related activities, rape and sexual assault, Phoenix Zululand proposes the following programme interventions:

  • Ongoing programme work for serving offenders to promote successful reintegration and restorative justice solutions for offenders/victims/survivors of crime and their families.
  • Intensified programming for the rehabilitation of offenders serving sentences for sexual assault, rape and murder of women and children.
  • Intensified programming for the support of victims of sexual assault, rape and murder of women and children.
  • Pilot programming in local communities for youths (male and female) to promote gender tolerance, sexual and reproductive health, alternative and non-violent methods of dealing with conflict, within a rights-based framework.