Crime in South Africa

Crime in South Africa

Crime is a prominent issue in South Africa. South Africa has a high rate of murders, assaults, rapes, and other crimes compared to most countries. Many 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:[3]

  • 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.[3]
  • The high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and marginalisation.[3]
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[3]
  • The reliance on a criminal justice system that is mired in many issues, including inefficiency and corruption.[3]

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.[4] 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[5] on the victims of crime which shows the picture of South African crime as more typical of a developing country. These statistics show that South Africa has lower rates of violent crime than many African and South American countries.


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.[9] The annual crime statistics released in 2011 show a continuing downward trend, except for rape, which went up by 2.1%.[10] Business Against Crime attributed the reduction to improvements in the criminal justice system and policing.[10] There have been numerous press reports on the manipulation of crime statistics that have highlighted the existence of incentives not to record violent crime.[11] Nonetheless, murder statistics are considered accurate.[7]

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

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

Sexual violence

According to a survey for the period 1998–2000 compiled by the UN, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita.[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.[19]

Car hijackings

South Africa also has a high record of car hijackings when compared with industrialised countries, typically characterised by a lower rate of car ownership.[citation needed] 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.[20] Certain high-risk areas are marked with road signs indicating a high incidence of car hi-jackings within the locality.[21]

Farm attacks

Crime against commercial farmers continues to be a major problem in the country.[22]

One incident involved a farmer being stabbed 151 times using various weapons such as a garden fork, panga, shovel, sharp knife and a brick.[23]

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 education or less.[24]

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.[25] South African police sources stated that Nigerians living in Johannesburg suburbs operate advance fee fraud (419) schemes.[26] 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.[27]
In response the South African Police Service has established a project which has identified 419 scams, closing websites and bank accounts where possible.[28]


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 issue of gated communities is controversial, with some arguing that they are akin to a return to the pass laws. Research suggests that these pose a threat to democracy and risk causing further community division.[29] The law requires that entry control measures within these communities should not deny anyone access. However, these measures are generally considered effective in deterring traffic and the entry of undesired individuals.[30]

The numbers of enclosed neighbourhoods (existing neighbourhoods that have controlled access across existing roads)[31] and security villages (private developments physically walled or fenced off, usually with a security guard)[31] within municipalities differ substantially. Gauteng has the highest number of enclosed neighbourhoods: a 2003 survey found that the metropolitan municipalities of Tshwane and Johannesburg reported the highest numbers of enclosed neighbourhoods, with 36 and 300 respectively.[32] The highest numbers of security estates were recorded in Emfuleni (40) and Madibeng (31) municipalities.[32] There are also a number of illegal road closures in many municipalities, with more than 200 reported in Johannesburg in 2003.[32]

The Gauteng Local Rationalisation of Government Affairs Act 10 of 1998, makes legal provision for the “Restriction of Access to Public Places for Safety and Security Purposes”, and regulates security access restrictions within Gauteng Province. Chapter 7 of the Act governs the implementation of security access restrictions, and any Council procedures must comply with the provisions it contains.[33]

After public hearings were held in September 2004, a special report was released in 2005 by the SAHRC. The Chairperson of the SAHRC, Mr Jody Kollapen wrote, "The Commission, even though satisfied that a legal basis does exist for security access restrictions, including boom gates and road closures, urges local authorities and communities to consider and exhaust alternate access restrictions, including guards and guard houses, traffic calming measures and closed circuit television."[33]

Private security companies

In order 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.[34] A December 2008 BBC documentary 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.[citation needed] 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.[35] 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.[36] 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,[when?] the government has employed a widely publicised gun amnesty programme to reduce the number of weapons in circulation. In 1996, the government adopted the National Crime Prevention Strategy, which aimed to prevent crime through reinforcing community structures and assisting individuals to get back into work.[37]

The 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.[38]

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. ^ a b c d e f Why South Africa is so violent and what we should be doing about it — Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
  4. ^ NationMaster: South African crime statistics. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  5. ^ Victimisation in the developing world, United Nations Crime and Justice Research Institute
  6. ^ Coloured homicide trends in South Africa Institute for Security Studies, March 2004. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  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. ^ Crime, security in SA..., IOL, 6 November 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  10. ^ a b Report: South Africa Crime Rate Shows Sharp Decline | Africa | English
  11. ^ The reliability of violent crime statistics — Institute for Security Studies
  12. ^ SAPS data reproduced by the Institute for Security Studies
  13. ^ South African Murder rates 2003-2010
  14. ^ "NationMaster: South African Crime Statistics". 
  15. ^ SA 'rape capital' of the world, News24, 22 November 2005. Retrieved 10 March 2007.
  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.,8599,1680715,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-world. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  20. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (24 October 2007). "Why insurance firm snubs Citi Golfs". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  21. ^ "Extreme weekend". 15 April 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  22. ^ Farmer killed, dragged behind bakkie,, Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  23. ^ Farmer stabbed 151 times,, Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  24. ^ "SA, capital of white-collar crime," Mail & Guardian
  25. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (7 March 2004). "419 fraud schemes net R100m in SA". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  26. ^ "Rip-off artists exploit land reform," The Namibian
  27. ^ "How to impersonate a central bank via email," Times of India
  28. ^ "Crime Prevention – 419 Scams". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  29. ^ Karina Landman, Gated communities in South Africa: Building bridges or barriers?, International Conference on Private Urban Governance, Mainz, Germany, 6–9 June 2002. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  30. ^ Gated communities are effective
  32. ^ a b c GATED COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH AFRICA: A review of the relevant policies and their implications
  33. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  34. ^ Cops spend R100m on private security protection,, 10 March 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2007.
  35. ^ Police Survey 2006IOL News on crime scourge
  36. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (5 July 2006). "DA challenge on Burundi". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  37. ^ "Independent Projects Trust: Crime prevention projects". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  38. ^ Fight or flight?, Cape Argus, 2 June 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2006.

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