Gareth Newham: Most Crimes Are Committed By South Africans, Not Undocumented Foreigners


Undocumented foreigners in South Africa has always borne the blame for all the crimes committed across the South African Country.

This has on, numerous occasions raised many calls for all these illegal immigrants to be fished out and either locked up at the state police cells or even deported.

While these perceptions may not all be true, it is also true that some, not most of the crimes in the country are committed by foreigners.

Giving a somewhat vivid analysis of the crimes committed in South Africa, Gareth Newham, the head of Justice and Violence Prevention, ISS Pretoria, raised concerns on how undocumented foreigners in South Africa are usually blamed for crimes in the country despite the lack of evidence to back such perceptions.

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Blaming undocumented foreign nationals for crime in South Africa is nothing new, despite the lack of evidence to back such perceptions. However the South African Police Service (SAPS) Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange has reportedly claimed that about 60% of suspects arrested for violent crimes in the province are illegal immigrants.

The writer also argued that the report by the Gauteng Police Commissioner Major General Deliwe de Lange claimed that about 60% of suspects arrested for violent crimes in the province are illegal immigrants were baseless because they were not backed with facts especially as the police don’t publicly release data on the nationalities of those they arrest.

“Firstly, the commissioner refers to ‘violent crime’. The police do not have a category called ‘violent crime’, but divide violent crimes into seven broad categories: murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, aggravated robbery, common robbery, assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm (GBH) and common assault. Collectively the SAPS refers to this broad group of crime categories as ‘contact crime’ – as there is direct contact between perpetrators and victims,” said Gareth Newham

He referred to the 2016/17 crime report which states that a total of 171 466 contact crimes were reported to Gauteng police out of which 48% ((81 767 cases) were assault cases while 2.4% (4 101 cases) were murder cases and 31% of cases (53 793 cases) were categorised under aggravated robbery cases.

The detection rate by the SAPS for all contact crimes in the past financial year was 52.28%. The detection rate is determined by the proportion of cases opened where the police identify a perpetrator, or where the case is closed as ‘unfounded’ – when an investigation finds that no crime occurred, he said.

“Therefore we cannot assume – as some media reports did – that De Lange was stating that most violent crimes were committed by undocumented foreigners. What she said was that most people arrested for violent crimes were not South Africans.”

 This comes amid the puzzling question posed on the South African government on how to deal with migrants.

The mayor of the city of Johannesburg has even offered the Home Affairs department an ultimatum to come up with ways to deal with undocumented foreign nationals in the city.

Mashaba who has been a the forefront of the fight against crime across South Africa and within his municipality, also revealed his plans to evacuate all undocumented immigrants from the city, saying he is not responsible for them.

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Meanwhile, Newham has said that the problem with targeting people because of their profile rather than the specific crimes committed is that it has little or no impact on public safety. “If most people who commit violent crimes are undocumented foreign nationals and the police are arresting large numbers of them, why has this not brought down the level of serious violent crimes in recent years”

“Over the past five years in Gauteng, the number of murders has increased by 36.9% and aggravated robbery has increased by 53%. This suggests that Gauteng police are targeting the wrong people. If they were effectively targeting and arresting the people who were committing murders and robberies, these crimes would be decreasing substantially, ” Newham argued.

Newham called for an urgent need for SAPS data to be shared better so as to develop more effective anti-crime strategies. “Until there is greater cooperation and information-sharing between the police and other sectors of society, South Africa is unlikely to achieve sustainable levels of public safety,” he said.