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World & Nation

Year of terrible headlines sees South Africa’s homicide rate leap again

Masiphuelele protest lack of policing

A woman shouts Tuesday during a protest over the lack of policing in the township of Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa.

(Nic Bothma / European Pressphoto Agency)

It’s not just today’s headline: South African homicides are rising again.

Crime is a daily horror, with South Africans confronted with constant bare-bones news summaries that make the country seem, at times, almost like a war zone.

Six pupils suspended for Vosloorus school gang rape

Aug. 20, 2015 -- Two 7-year-old school girls are receiving counseling after allegedly being raped by six boys at a school in Vosloorus. The suspects, aged between 7 and 10, have now been suspended.

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Although homicides have declined significantly in the last two decades, South Africa remains one of the most violent societies on Earth: Police crime statistics released Tuesday reported that killings rose by 4.6% – or 782 bodies – in 2014-15, after a similar increase last year of 5%. Every day, on average, 49 people are killed by others.

But it is the extreme brutality of South African crime – the shocking rapes and killings of children, or the lengthy torturing of elderly farmers – that confounds analysts.

The man took me to the bushes and hurt me – Rape victim, 4

Sept. 3, 2015 -- A KwaZulu-Natal woman has described the horror of finding her 4-year-old grandchild who was raped, hanged and left for dead.

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Prem Balram, the head of a north Durban rescue service, Reaction Unit SA, was there to rescue the 4-year-old girl after she was attacked, raped and left barely alive, hanging by the neck from a tree early one morning after her grandmother left their house and went out to a shop.

“The child was hanged by strips torn from her own blanket. She was profusely covered in blood,” Balram said. “The perpetrator had fled the scene. You get really angry. You want to react violently towards the suspect.” The child survived but her attacker was never found.

See the most-read stories this hour >>

Murdered farm couple tortured for hours, court hears

Feb. 20, 2015 -- A Free State court has heard how an elderly woman was raped by three attackers while her husband was forced to watch, before they were shot dead on their farm.

“The brutality is definitely worsening,” Balram said. “They’re not just simple robberies. People, they’re going out of their way to hurt people. Two weeks ago I was at a robbery. A man stole a man’s phone. He ran away, then he just came back and killed the old man for just nothing, for a phone. I have seen a person who was killed for seven rand [about 50 cents]. I have seen a man killed for a beer.”

South African police statistics are often criticized by activists for the lack of detail. For instance, no rape figure was released Tuesday, just a broad sex offenses figure that includes a range of crimes, from indecent exposure to rape. With most rapes unreported, little effort is made to establish the prevalence of rape and determine whether the number of attacks it is increasing or declining.

But on Tuesday police figures on those jailed convey a horrifying picture. Last year, 36,225 people were jailed for violent crimes against women, and 695 life sentences were handed down by South African courts for heinous crimes against women.

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Woman raped with four-month-old baby tied to her back

July 17, 2015, Cape Town - A 20-year-old North West woman was raped by a knife-wielding attacker while she had her 4-month-old baby on her back, police have confirmed.

A million people were arrested for serious crimes in 2014-15, in a country of 54 million and prison capacity of about 160,000, according to government statistics. Car hijackings rose 14.2%, truck hijackings rose 29% and aggravated robberies (involving violence against people) rose 8.5%.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said the idea that police alone could solve South Africa’s crime problem was “a hallucination,” and he called for tougher laws on firearm licensing and steps to reduce alcohol abuse. Police confiscated 450 million gallons of illegal booze last year, he said.

After deadly mob attacks this year, mainly on African foreigners, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega drew criticism Tuesday when she singled out foreign nationals as a cause for alarm. Phiyega said police had plans to improve registration of immigrants without documents in order to trace those guilty of crimes. She also blamed media coverage of crime, saying it led to copycat attacks.

Schoolboy raped in horror ‘race attack’

Feb. 5, 2015 -- A group of boys from an agricultural high school in the Northern Cape made a video of themselves brutalizing a black pupil and sodomizing him with a broom handle.

The first responder, Balram, said he had seen so much horror that he had become desensitized.

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“I have seen people mutilated. I have seen kids’ hands and genitals cut off. There was an 86-year-old man and a 92-year-old woman shot dead. Both were blind and disabled. The old man had a marble eye. They hit him so hard with a metal bar that the marble eye landed [two yards] away from his body.

“I have seen a guy murdered in a wheel chair. People say they’ll only kill you if you resist or pose a threat. That’s absolute nonsense.”

NEWSLETTER: Get the day’s top headlines from Times Editor Davan Maharaj >>

Elderly nun raped, suffocated

May 1, 2015 -- The murder of an 86-year-old nun has sent shock waves through the Ixopo community. Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher from the Sacred Heart Home in Ixopo was found dead in her room on Saturday by a fellow sister.

South Africa’s homicide rate was 31.9 per 100,000 population in 2013-14, down from 66.9 in 1994. South Africa remains well below the world’s most murderous countries -- Honduras, at 90 homicides per 100,000 population in 2012, currently ranks as the world leader. But South Africa’s rate is nearly 10 times that of the United States, whose rate in turn is more than 10 times higher than the safest countries, such as Iceland and Japan.

“One of the reasons why violent crime remains intractable is because police lack a clear strategy for dealing with organized violent crimes, like robberies and aggravated robberies that tend to be carried out by organized criminal groups,” said crime analyst Chandre Gould, of the Institute of Security Studies. “One relies on crime intelligence for that.

“But we also lack a clear crime prevention strategy. We are not drawing at the moment on the wealth of evidence that exists that indicates what might work.

“We need to be putting in place programs that support at-risk families and at-risk youths. And we need to make sure that children have somewhere safe to go after school. None of these kinds of strategies has been discussed today.”

What motivated the pedophile ring behind baby rape in South Africa?

June 29, 2015 -- An alleged pedophile with a fetish for the sexual abuse of babies in nappies will appear in court on July 1. Why did he do it? Was it a case of instant gratification, sexual entitlement or possibly even virgin cleansing?

“I think what we are seeing is that South Africa is still amongst the most violent societies in the world and this remains a clear concern,” Gould said.

But why the extreme brutality in South Africa?

“There are many theories. One of the factors is intergenerational violence. Children living in communities that have high levels of intra-family violence and high levels of violence in the community are more likely to go on and repeat that violence. One of the reasons it remains so intractable is that we have not addressed the problem,” Gould said.

Teen raped in taxi rank ‘for wearing a short dress’

July 14, 2015 - A teenager was raped in a Pietermaritzburg taxi rank by men who said she was wearing a short dress because she wanted to show off her body.

Balram is among those who’ve lost confidence in the courts.

“The punishments are not enough to scare people away from crime,” he said. “Corruption is the other problem. They can pay their way out, in this country.

“I carry a firearm with me all the time. I have burglar bars and alarms all around my house. I’m paranoid about crime because I have seen it so often and I have seen how easy it is. If everyone knew what was really going on, they would all be paranoid too, I can tell you that.”

Source for crime headlines: News24, South Africa.

Follow @RobynDixon_LAT for news from Africa

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