South Africa Murders Increase to Highest in More Than Decade

The number of murders in South Africa climbed to the highest level in more than a decade as the police force struggled to get to grips with violent crime.

The number of homicides rose by 1.4% to 21,325 in the 12 months through March -- an average of 58 a day -- the police service said in its annual crime-statistics report. The murder rate of 36 per 100,000 people was little changed from the previous year and compares with an international average of seven per 100,000. The number of rapes, sexual offenses and car hi-jackings also increased, but property-related crime declined.

“We are not where we want to be,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said at a briefing in Pretoria, the capital. “However we are pleased with the improvements in most stubborn crime categories.”

Violent crime is fueled by widespread alcohol and drug abuse, and perpetrators often know their victims, the police data show. A lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus should have a positive impact on the current year’s statistics, with preliminary data showing it helped curtail homicides and other crimes.

South Africa Murders Increase to Highest in More Than Decade

The police force and national prosecuting agencies saw an exodus of key personnel during former Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred nine-year rule, undermining its ability to bring criminals to book. While President Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma in early 2018, has said that combating crime is one of his top priorities, his administration has struggled to rebuild the law-enforcement agencies.

Key Statistics:

  • The number of sexual offenses rose 1.7% to 53,293, while the number of attempted murders decreased 1.8% to 18,635
  • Incidents of truck-hijacking rose 1.7% and car-hijackings increased 13.3%
  • Commercial crimes rose 0.1%
  • There were no bank robberies during the period under review, compared with four the year before
  • Covid-19 is taking its toll in the police force -- 12,138 officers have contracted the disease, 4,904 of whom have recovered, while 113 have died.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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