The former Transkei region in the Eastern Cape has one of the highest murder rates in the world‚ almost double the South African average.
A study published in December in a UK journal‚ Medicine‚ Science and the Law‚ said the annual murder rate between 1993 and 2015 was 85 per 100‚000 of the population. The only place with a higher rate was Honduras‚ at 90/100‚000 in 2015.
The author of the study‚ Professor Meel Banwari of Walter Sisulu University’s forensic medicine department‚ found that after the introduction of the Firearm Control Act in 2002 gun-related deaths fell by more than 300%.
He used data from the records of more than 12‚600 autopsies conducted on homicide victims at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital’s forensic pathology laboratory‚ the only such facility in the region.
The study found that after the new legislation took effect‚ the use of firearms in murders dropped dramatically. However‚ they were replaced by sharp-edged weapons.
The study said: “There has been no change in the murderous mind-set of Transkeian South Africans.”
Almost half of the traumatic deaths in the Transkei were related to alcohol use. With a rural employment rate of 16%‚ extreme poverty and HIV‚ this created a deadly cocktail‚ said Banwari.
“A poor black man could become either a perpetrator or a victim of homicide during the search of food. They take risks every day to procure a meal. They are also at a disadvantage in getting medical treatment because they are poor‚” said the study.
“It is a vicious cycle: being poor makes one prone to violence‚ and violence propagates poverty.
“It is not clear how this ongoing high rate of murder can be controlled. Education in the community may be an instrument to curb this crime.
Strong policing and speedy court trials are always recommended‚ but nothing has changed in this respect in the last 23 years‚ and the Transkei has become the ‘mini-Honduras’ of South Africa.”
BY ARON HYMAN