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South Africa, still reeling from Oscar Pistorius, has made international headlines again with horrific footage of Daveyton police dragging taxi driver Mido Macia behind their vehicle for the five hundred metres to the police station, where (according the inmates) they spent the next 2 hours beating, kicking and bludgeoning him to death.

Even before being exposed to this truly hideous footage, 35% of South Africans interviewed for futurefact in 2012 admitted to being “scared of the police”. This was particularly true of lower socio-economic groups where this went as high as 40%.

But, four out of ten South Africans believe:“There is no point reporting a crime as the police do nothing” and almost half say that “If my house was being robbed, I’m more likely to call community/ neighbours/ security company than the police”.

Three in ten said that they only report a crime to the police if they need a case number for an insurance claim (what does this say about the accuracy of our crime statistics?).

Reinforcing the level of fear, distrust and at best lack of confidence in the police, almost three in ten say they “would never go to a police station on my own to report a crime”.

But maybe the greatest indictment of the South African Police Service (SAPS), our police force, whose service Code of Conducts starts: “I commit myself to creating a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa”, is that two thirds of South Africans believe that “a lot of police are criminals themselves”.

Time Magazine (Monday 11 March) has as its cover story “Man, Superman, Gunman – Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s Culture of Violence”. In it writer Alex Perry quotes fellow journalist Jonny Steinberg’s thesis that: “the consent of citizens to be policed is a pre-condition of policing”.

futurefact finds that in South Africa policing has broken down to the extent that 63% of South Africans say that they are “afraid and alert all the time in case they become victims of violence” and 46% believe that when someone breaks into your house you have the “right to shoot to kill”. It is quite clear that there is too little trust in the SAPS for people to want to be policed by them.

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from futurefact 2012 which is based on a probability sample of 2,946 adults aged 15 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and representing 21.6 million adults. If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za