With 49 people killed every day, South Africa has been battling a reputation as one of the crime capitals of the world. Recent trends show that this state of affairs is not going to improve any time soon.
Rates of violent crime increased for a third year in a row in South Africa, sending a worrying signal that violence has become a characteristic of Africa's second-largest economy. According to official crime statistics, South Africa's murder rate had increased by 4.6 percent.
"There are still high levels of violence and aggression in our society and this is a serious concern," Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko told parliament. He added that poverty and inequality, as well as the prevalence of firearms contributed to the high number.
"It's not just simply about numbers. The numbers are also reflective of the state of society. To think we can resolve the issue of murder on our own is effectively just hallucination in a sense, because it's a social problem. It's a problem that's got to be tackled at the level of family units," Nhleko, a long-standing member of the majority African National Congress (ANC) said in parliament.
Crime scene: family home
Nhleko also stressed that a 10-year trend showed a decline in overall crime. However, according to the statistical date, armed robberies, burglaries and South Africa's infamous carjackings had actually increased, while reported sexual offences, assaults and car thefts were decreasing. Some of the incidences could be links to a recent upsurge in xenophobia in South Africa.
South Africa has witnessed an increased in xenophobic crimes in recent years, as migrants across Africa have emigrated to the continent's second-largest economy
However, the country's National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said that perpetrators of contact crimes were largely young males, who were unemployed.
She added that a large proportion of these crimes involved people who had known each other and were frequently linked to arguments, such as family members and spouses.
"A lot happens within private homes where it is difficult to police," she said.
Opposition parties slammed the numbers and said there was a lack of clear strategy to bring crime under control. According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the biggest opposition party, at least 17,805 South Africans were murdered last year alone - an increase of 782 deaths from the year before. The number marked a rate of 49 murders every day on average in a population of 54 million, in addition to almost the same number of attempted murders last year - 17,537.
The Western Cape, the only province led by the Democratic Alliance, witnessed some of the highest crime rates in the country, despite Premier Helen Zille vowing to fight crime
"This number of deaths is what one would expect from a country at war," Democratic Alliance MP and Shadow Police Minister Diane Kohler Barnard said in a statement. However, the area with the most murders in the last year was the Nyanga township in Cape Town, a DA stronghold city within South Africa's only province that is governed by the DA, the Western Cape.
Kohler Barnard added that the reported decrease in numbers of rape and other forms sexual violence by 5.4 percent might imply that victims did not trust the police enough to report these crimes. More than 50,000 sexual offences were reported to South African police last year, but the number of sexual victims willing to report these crimes has dropped by 21 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to a national survey on victims of crime, carried out by Statistics South Africa.
Gareth Newham, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, said that the increase of robberies pointed to police ineffectiveness, highlighting that robberies were typically carried out by repeat offenders.
"With a budget of around 80 billion rand (about 5.1 billion euros), some of the best technology in the world, and more than 194 000 personnel, the SAPS (the South African Police Service) should be better able to reduce crimes such as robbery," Newham said.
"That robberies have increased raises questions about the extent to which police resources are being effectively used," he added.
Police Minister Nhleko also highlighted in his report that in the past year 686 police officers had been arrested for various crimes, as the country's police force continued to shrink.
ss/bw (AP, AFP, dpa)