Startling data from the most recent crime statistics, released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday, 18 August 2023, has thrust Newcastle into the disconcerting position of being ranked the third highest city in South Africa for reported sexual assault cases.
Covering the period from April to June 2023, these statistics expose a stark reality that calls for immediate attention and collective action.
During this time, a total of 1,642 sexual assault cases were reported nationwide, which is 65 cases less than the same time in 2022. This decrease in reported cases, however, is overshadowed by the unsettling revelation of Newcastle’s ranking.
Outranked solely by Mfuleni and Nyanga in the Western Cape, Newcastle’s South African Police Service (SAPS) registered a total of 13 reported cases in the three months of April to June 2023, which is 10 more cases than the previous year. This increase in reported cases has sparked deep concern among both local officials and the community.
Sifiso Zwane, of KwaZulu Private Ambulance, delved into the nuances underlying these numbers. He stressed, “This figure does not take into account the number of women who did not report sexual assaults made against them. Fear plays a big role when it comes to reporting cases. This is because the victims might feel they won’t be believed,” said Zwane.
The disheartening ranking has elicited strong reactions among local government officials. Faizel Cassim from Newcastle Municipality voiced his concern, stating, “Alcohol is often associated with sexual assault. The Newcastle Municipality will need to look at the legality of alcohol outlets and taverns in town and shut down the illegal establishments.”
Moreover, Cassim emphasised the importance of collaboration between the Newcastle Municipality, Newcastle SAPS, and the Newcastle Community Forum (CPF) to create a safer environment for women and girls.
While Cassim pinpointed alcohol as a contributing factor, Sifiso Zwane brought attention to the need for men to understand the importance of respecting women’s rights. “There are men who struggle with women saying no to them and this needs to change.”
Lizzy Arumugam, the spokesperson for Newcastle SAPS, stressed the gravity with which law enforcement approaches the issue. “We are doing awareness campaigns with the Newcastle Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit, educating people on sexual assault. We are also urging people to report sexual assault cases to the nearest police station.”
Furthermore, when looking back on the numerous articles published by Newcastillian News, on the subject, the reams of articles indicate a sizeable issue across the area.
On 7 July 2023, a Gutenberg factory supervisor sexually assaulted and strangled an employee.
Then, a local man sentenced in June 2023, was charged with sexually assaulting a woman multiple times. He took her to a forest, forced her to remove her clothes, and raped her. He then took her to a house and proceeded to sexually assault her multiple times.
The above is not forgetting a Newcastle NPO founder, who used his position to prey on underage girls.
In light of these concerning statistics Rochelle Els, Managing Director of Pixelfish Marketing and Newcastillian News stated,
“Being in the bad news business, we are subjected to daily horrors committed throughout the region and province. Over the years, I have noted how sexual assault cases have increased and how there seems to be no actual response from Government to this massive problem. As a woman and mother to two daughters, it is a fear that cannot be explained. The reality of the situation is, if drastic measures are not taken, such as terrifying levels of punishment for sexual assault, then this area will become a place unfit to raise daughters or for women to enjoy a normal life.”
As public disapproval mounts over Newcastle’s rank in the latest crime statistics, it’s crucial to engage in thoughtful discourse. Share your viewpoints on these disturbing findings in the comment section below.