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Crime in South Africa

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Title: Crime in South Africa  
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Subject: Politics of South Africa, Private security industry in South Africa, Biometrics use by the South African government, Xenophobia in South Africa, Healthcare in South Africa
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Crime in South Africa

Crime is a prominent issue in South Africa. South Africa has a very high rate of murders, assaults, rapes (adult, child and infant), and other crimes compared to most countries. Most emigrants from South Africa state that crime was a big factor in their decision to leave.[1] The South African Police Service is responsible for managing 1115 police stations across South Africa.[2]


In February 2007, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation was contracted by the South African government to carry out a study on the nature of crime in South Africa. The study concluded that the country is exposed to high levels of violence as a result of different factors, including Why South Africa is so violent and what we should be doing about it] – Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

  • The normalisation of violence. Violence comes to be seen as a necessary and justified means of resolving conflict, and males believe that coercive sexual behaviour against women is legitimate.
  • The reliance on a criminal justice system that is mired in many issues, including inefficiency and corruption.
  • A subculture of violence and criminality, ranging from individual criminals who rape or rob to informal groups or more formalised gangs. Those involved in the subculture are engaged in criminal careers and commonly use firearms, with the exception of Cape Town where knife violence is more prevalent. Credibility within this subculture is related to the readiness to resort to extreme violence.
  • The vulnerability of young people linked to inadequate child rearing and poor youth socialisation. As a result of poverty, unstable living arrangements and being brought up with inconsistent and uncaring parenting, some South African children are exposed to risk factors which enhance the chances that they will become involved in criminality and violence.
  • The high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and marginalisation.

Violent crime

A survey for the period 1998–2000 compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked South Africa second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita and first for rapes per capita in a data set of 60 countries.[3] Total crime per capita was 10th out of the 60 countries in the dataset.

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute have also conducted research[4] on the victims of crime which shows the picture of South African crime as more typical of a developing country.


Around 50 people are murdered in South Africa each day.[5] The murder rate has increased by an order of magnitude in South Africa during the last 40 years,[6] though it has fallen from 66.9 per 100,000 people in 1994–95 to 37.3 in 2008–09.[7] From 2003–2009, crime decreased significantly according to official police data.[8] Between 1994 and 2009, the murder rate reduced by 50% to 34 murders per 100,000 people. The annual crime statistics released in 2011 show a continuing downward trend, except for rape, which went up by 2.1%.[9] Business Against Crime attributed the reduction to improvements in the criminal justice system and policing.[9] There have been numerous press reports on the manipulation of crime statistics that have highlighted the existence of incentives not to record violent crime.[10] Nonetheless, murder statistics are considered accurate.[7]

The country's murder rate started increasing again in 2013/2014.[11]

Homicides per 100,000 from April to March:[12] Homicides per 100,000 from April to March:[13]


The country has one of the highest rates of rape in the world, with some 65,000 rapes and other sexual assaults reported for the year ending in March 2012, or 127.6 per 100,000 people in the country.[1][14] The incidence of rape has led to the country being referred to as the "rape capital of the world".[15] One in three of the 4,000 women questioned by the Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency said they had been raped in the past year.[16] More than 25 per cent of South African men questioned in a survey published by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in June 2009 admitted to rape; of those, nearly half said they had raped more than one person.[17][18] Three out of four of those who had admitted rape indicated that they had attacked for the first time during their teens.[17] South Africa has amongst the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world. If the rapist is convicted, his prison time would be around 2 years.[19] [20]

Car hijackings

South Africa also has a high record of car hijackings when compared with industrialised countries.[21]

A South African insurance company, Hollard Insurance, stated in 2007 that they would no longer insure Volkswagen Citi Golfs manufactured in the previous two years as they were one of the most frequently hijacked vehicles in South Africa.[22] Certain high-risk areas are marked with road signs indicating a high incidence of car hi-jackings within the locality.[23]

Murder of farmers

Crime against commercial farmers is particularly high,[24] and the issue continues to attract significant media attention.[25][26][27][28]

Financial crimes

PricewaterhouseCoopers's fourth biennial Global Economic Crime Survey reported a 110% increase in fraud reports from South African companies in 2005. 83% of South African companies reported being affected by white collar crime in 2005, and 72% of South African companies reported being affected in 2007. 64% of the South African companies surveyed stated that they pressed forward with criminal charges upon detection of fraud. 3% of companies said that they each lost more than ten million South African rand in two years due to fraud.

Louis Strydom, the head of PricewaterhouseCooper's forensic auditing division, said that the increase in fraud reports originates from "an increased focus on fraud risk management and embedding a culture of whistle-blowing." According to the survey 45% of cases involved a perpetrator between the ages of 31 and 40: 64% of con men held a high school education or less.[29]

Advance fee fraud

Advance fee fraud scammers based in South Africa have in past years reportedly conned people from various parts of the world out of millions of rands.[30] South African police sources stated that Nigerians living in Johannesburg suburbs operate advance fee fraud (419) schemes.[31] In 2002, the South African Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, wanted to establish a call centre for businesses to check reputations of businesses due to proliferation of scams such as advance fee fraud, pyramid schemes and fly-by-night operators.[32]
In response the South African Police Service has established a project which has identified 419 scams, closing websites and bank accounts where possible.[33]


Gated communities

Gated communities are popular with the South African middle class, black as much as white.[7] Gated communities are usually protected by high perimeter walls topped with electric fencing, guard dogs, barred doors and windows and alarm systems linked to private security forces.[7] The Gauteng Rationalisation of Local Government Affairs Act 10 of 1998, allows communities to "restrict" access to public roads under the supervision of the municipalities. The law requires that entry control measures within these communities should not deny anyone access. The Tshwane municipality failed to process many of the applications it has received, leaving many suburbs exposed to high levels of crime. Several communities successfully sued, won and are now legally restricting access.[34][35][36] These measures are generally considered effective in reducing crime (within those areas).[37] Consequently the number of enclosed neighbourhoods (existing neighbourhoods that have controlled access across existing roads)[38] in Gauteng has continued to grow.[39]

Private security companies

To protect themselves and their assets, many businesses and middle- to high-income households in South Africa make use of privately owned security companies with armed security guards.

The South African Police Service employ private security companies to patrol and safeguard certain police stations, thereby freeing fully trained police officers to perform their core function of preventing and combating crime.[40] A December 2008 BBC documentary Law and Disorder in Johannesburg presented by Louis Theroux examined such firms in the Johannesburg area, including the Bad Boyz security company.

It is argued that the police response is generally too slow and unreliable, thus private security companies offer a popular form of protection. Private security firms promise response times of two to three minutes.[41] Many levels of protection are offered, from suburban foot patrols to complete security checkpoints at the entry points to homes.


The government has been criticised for doing too little to stop crime. Provincial legislators have stated that a lack of sufficient equipment has resulted in an ineffective and demoralised South African Police Service.[42] The Government was subject to particular criticism at the time of the Minister of Safety and Security visit to Burundi, for the purpose of promoting peace and democracy, at a time of heightened crime in Gauteng. This spate included the murder of a significant number of people, including members of the South African Police Service, killed while on duty.[43] The criticism was followed by a ministerial announcement that the government would focus its efforts on mitigating the causes for the increase in crime by 30 December 2006. In one province alone, nineteen police officers lost their lives in the first seven months of 2006.

Recently, the government has employed a widely publicised gun amnesty programme to reduce the number of weapons in circulation. In 1996 or 1997, the government has tried and failed to adopt the National Crime Prevention Strategy, which aimed to prevent crime through reinforcing community structures and assisting individuals to get back into work.[44]

A previous Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, evoked public outcry among South Africans in June 2006 when he responded to opposition MPs in parliament who were not satisfied that enough was being done to counter crime, suggesting that MPs who complain about the country's crime rate should stop complaining and leave the country.[45]

See also


  1. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (6 October 2006). "SA's woes spark another exodus". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "Police (per capita) (most recent) by country". Retrieved 11 April 2010. 
  3. ^ NationMaster: South African crime statistics. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  4. ^ Victimisation in the developing world, United Nations Crime and Justice Research Institute
  5. ^ "How dangerous is South Africa?". BBC News. 17 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Coloured homicide trends in South Africa Institute for Security Studies, March 2004. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d "The great scourges". The Economist. 3 June 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Crime Statistics in the RSA for the period April 2003 to March 2009 South African Police Service
  9. ^ a b Report: South Africa Crime Rate Shows Sharp Decline | Africa | English
  10. ^ The reliability of violent crime statistics – Institute for Security Studies
  11. ^ SAPA (19 September 2014). "Murder rate increase worries ISS". IOL News. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  12. ^ SAPS data reproduced by the Institute for Security Studies
  13. ^ South African Murder rates 2003–2010
  14. ^ "Total sexual offences". South African Police. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  15. ^ SA 'rape capital' of the world, News24, 22 November 2005. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Rape- silent war on SA women". BBC News. 9 April 2002. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "South African rape survey shock." BBC News. 18 June 2009.
  18. ^ "Quarter of men in South Africa admit rape, survey finds". The Guardian. 17 June 2009.
  19. ^ Perry, Alex (5 November 2007). "Oprah scandal rocks South Africa". TIME. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  20. ^ "Baby rapes shock South Africa". BBC News. 11 December 2001. 
  21. ^ ISS. "Crime in South Africa: A country and cities profile". Institute for Security Studies. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (24 October 2007). "Why insurance firm snubs Citi Golfs". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "Extreme weekend". 15 April 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  24. ^ Counting South Africa's crimes, Mail and Guardian, Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  25. ^ Farmer killed, dragged behind bakkie,, Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Booth, Jenny. The Times (London) . 
  29. ^ "SA, capital of white-collar crime," Mail & Guardian
  30. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (7 March 2004). "419 fraud schemes net R100m in SA". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  31. ^ "Rip-off artists exploit land reform," The Namibian
  32. ^ "How to impersonate a central bank via email," Times of India
  33. ^ "Crime Prevention – 419 Scams". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  34. ^ Constantia Glen goes to court. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  35. ^ Lynnwood Manor won court case. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  36. ^ Brunaly won court case. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  37. ^ Gated communities are effective. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  39. ^ GATED COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH AFRICA: A review of the relevant policies and their implications. Retrieved 5 November 2012. Out of date!
  40. ^ Cops spend R100m on private security protection, SABC News, 10 March 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2007.
  41. ^ Crime in South Africa: It won't go away
  42. ^ Police Survey 2006IOL News on crime scourge
  43. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (5 July 2006). "DA challenge on Burundi". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  44. ^ "Independent Projects Trust: Crime prevention projects". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  45. ^ Fight or flight?, Cape Argus, 2 June 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2006.

External links

  • Institute for Security Studies – A regional research institute operating across sub-Saharan Africa.
  • – An initiative of Business Against Crime to try help people understand and recognise white collar crime and to teach its prevention.
  • SAPS Crime Statistics 2010 – Crime statistics by year and category provided by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
  • Interactive Crime Map – Crime and Economic Statistics by year and category on a geographic, interactive map provided by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP).
  • South African Crime Map – South African Crime Map (Crowd Sourcing)
  • Neighbourhood Watch Crime Map – Neighbourhood Watch Crime Map
  • Crime Stats 2010 – The latest crime stats all in one directory
  • Crime Watch – An initiative to try educated people about crime prevention as well as provide a community.
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