JOHANNESBURG—Forty-two people are murdered a day in South Africa and sex crimes remain high despite small annual falls, statistics showed Thursday, in one of the world’s most violent societies.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said murders had continued a downward trend since the end of apartheid in 1994 and had been reduced by 27.6 percent from more than 18,000 recorded eight years ago for the year ended in March.
“We are not there yet, but with the participation of all sectors of society, we are turning the tide against crime,” he said, presenting the country’s annual crime statistics.
“We must win the battle against crime, in whatever form it manifests itself. Crime affects all the people of our country across class, gender, religion and color. It is our common enemy and collectively, we shall defeat this scourge.”
South Africa remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world outside of conflict zones, with a murder rate surpassed only by Latin American nations embroiled in gruesome battles with narco-traffickers.
The annual murder rate fell 3.1 percent to 15,609 deaths, an average of about 42 killings a day. Other crimes such as attempted murder, aggravated robberies, serious and common assaults also saw a downward shift.
Most of the violence occurred in sprawling townships outside suburbs that were once designated as white-only under the apartheid regime.
Johannesburg’s tightly packed Alexandra township saw 58 murders over the year while nearby swish Sandton recorded nine.
Cape Town’s rich seaboard neighbourhood of Camps Bay recorded no killings, while outlying Gugulethu had 120.
Mthethwa said sexual offences remained “stubbornly high”, adding that under-reporting was a problem.
Total sex crimes fell to 64,514, down 1,682 on the previous year. Rape also fell 1.9 percent, from 56,272 last year.
“The decrease should be understood in perspective, that as a government we still remain concerned about the conviction rate of criminals who commit such crimes,” he said.
Just under 800 children under the age of 18 were murdered and nearly 26,000 sexually assaulted, showing lowered levels in both categories.
But Mthethwa also warned against rising numbers of young children being targeted by criminals.
“One of the shifts that we have witnessed is that although crimes against women and children are decreasing, we are now seeing a trend where young children are now being targeted and abused,” he said.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) thinktank said the statistics left out serious crimes such as corruption, political assassination and domestic violence.
“Of course we welcome the ongoing reductions in most violent crime categories,” ISS crime and justice programme chief Gareth Newham told the Sapa news agency.
“However, these statistics do not reflect some serious endemic and emerging security threats facing South Africans.”
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) blasted the “miniscule” drop in the crime statistics.
“These incremental changes are cold comfort to law-abiding citizens who live in fear of criminals,” Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA’s shadow minister of police said in a statement.