South Africa's High Murder Rate Is Disturbing

2015-08-04 09:27

South Africa is among the most violent societies in the world, with annual death records which are way above those in conflict torn nations. The murder rate in South Africa has approximately halved since 1994, but remains chillingly high at an annual average of 15 500 (31/100 000).

The global average for intentional killings is around 6 out of 100 000 people per year. This leads to an unfortunate average of 437 000 killings per year. The African average to this ratio is 12, 5/100 000, which accounts to about 135 000 human beings being killed annually - not through disease or vehicle accidents - but through the hand of another.

South Africa, at an annual rate of 31 out of 100 000 people being murdered, is vastly above both the global and the African average. For a nation which prides itself as an ambassador of democracy and human rights, this figure is bewildering.

As South Africans, we have it transfixed in our psyches that Somalia is in a ‘civil war’. No South African would wish to vacation in Somalia, because we assume embassies, hotels and market places erupt into explosions at random there.

Unfortunately, at an annual rate of 8 people per 100 000 murdered, Somalia is paradise compared to South Africa. During some of the worst years of the Somali conflict, like in 2012, a reported 3 300 people were killed. This equalled the South African average of 31/100 000, in consideration that Somalia and South Africa have populations of 10 million and 50 million respectively.

Now, the Somalian annual murder rate has simmered down to 8 per 100 000 people (app. 800 killings). Ours remains at a constant bloodcurdling 31 per 100 000 (app. 16 000 annual killings). This implies in a sense that we are in an equivalent of an adverse civil war or conflict, but there is no sense of alarm.

As said, the rate of murder in South Africa has about halved since 1994 (67/100 000), but remains ominously high by all standards. This distressingly high figure is made up of sporadic killings which are reported daily in the media.

But murder itself is the end result of a violent culture, which includes ‘common’ offenses like assault and rape. Typically, murder crimes are associated mostly with robbery. But a significant percentage of killings is also attributed to domestic violence, disputes, hate crime and even contract killings.

The murder rate had been on a steady decline since 1994, only to pick up again a bit in the past few years. According to Statistics South Africa, of the 458 933 deaths which were recorded in 2013, the leading killer in South Africa was TB, accounting for 8.8% of all deaths. Other leading causes included AIDS, pneumonia, heart disease, car accidents and murder.

Statistics released by the Police in 2014 showed there were 17 068 murders in the year 2013/2014, which was a 5% increase from the previous year’s 16 259 figure. The 2013/2014 murder figure but accounts for only 3.7% of all deaths recorded for that period, the concern being that murder is an intentionally perpetrated form of death, which is a startling reality.

As highlighted, South Africa has one of the worst murder rates in the world. On record, the Southern African region has some of the highest murder rates in Africa. Most people would mistakenly identify the South with stability and democracy, while the North is purportedly violent and unstable. Records prove the opposite.

Our own neighbour Lesotho is a shameful record holder in this regard, with a 38 out of 100 000 murder rate. Another close neighbour of ours with a 33.8/100 000 ratio is tiny old Swaziland. Other African states with terrifying murder statistics include DRC (28.3/100 000), Rwanda (23.1/100 000), and Nigeria (20/100 000).

This horrid murder statistic cannot justly be attributed to living conditions, but is more of a culture than anything. South Africa is considered much wealthier than Malawi, but the murder rate in Malawi is a highly encouraging 1.8/100 000. The most peaceful country in Africa by these statistics is Algeria, equalling a much revered European country like Sweden, at 0.7 killings per 100 000 people.

A common South African would shriek at the suggestion of travelling to countries like Iraq (8/100 000), Afghanistan (6.5/100 000), and even Syria (2.2/100 000). Considering that their latest statistics are better than South Africa’s by ample proportions, it appears we have some serious misconceptions about ourselves and statistical truths.

The Americas remain the most violent region in the world. Honduras records the highest murder rate in the world at 90.4/100 000. The poverty stricken Central American state’s other Caribbean neighbours like Bahamas (29.8/100 000) and Jamaica (39.3/100 000) are equally entrapped in the vicious cycle of intentional killings.

Another region which only compares to Southern Africa and the Americas in terms of aggravated deaths is South America. Venezuela records a staggering figure of 53.7/100 000, while Colombia and Brazil both register 30.8/100 000 and 25.2/100 000 respectively.  Chile, on the other hand, is at a much lower 3.1/100 000.

At 31 murders per 100 000 people, South Africa’s rate of intentional killings is disturbingly high. The statistics differ by province of course, with Limpopo enlisting the lowest and Western Cape the highest.

On the surface, we appear like an exemplary democracy, but in statistics, we are worse than most war torn areas.


(Check Out My Blog on Twitter: @JustSmartRage)

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