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Metro municipalities account for most of South Africa's murders: experts

Increase in murder rate largely attributed to four provinces, seminar hears

In South Africa 45 people out of 100,000 are killed every year. Stock photo.
In South Africa 45 people out of 100,000 are killed every year. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/zeferli

Metropolitan municipalities have been red-flagged as the top contributors to murder and violent crime.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and other policing experts, during a seminar on Tuesday titled “Understanding escalating levels of murder in South Africa”, said only four provinces contributed to the high murder rate.

“Murder is not increasing dramatically across SA but in specific parts of the country. The increase is primarily driven by increases in murder in four provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng,” said ISS policing expert David Bruce.

The country’s current murder rate per capita stood at 45, meaning 45 people out of 100,000 are killed in the country each year, said Bruce.

However, the metropolitan municipalities were the largest contributors to the national murder statistics, said senior researcher at SA Cities Network Siphelele Ngobese.

“Metropolitan governments grow twice as fast as other cities and towns. Cities are economic centres and experience high rates of crime and violence. The nine urban municipalities we studied are home to about 40% of the national population but contribute 50% to murders,” she said.

These metros also contribute:

  • 39% to sexual offences;
  • 48% to robberies;
  • 73% to car hijackings;
  • 74% to vehicle theft; and
  • 62% to aggravated robberies.

Nelson Mandela Bay has the highest murder rate, with 80 murders per 100,000 people.

Ngobese said there is a similar trend in the City of Cape Town.

“These places have similar drivers in that they experience high gang activities in neighbourhoods. There is a lot of illicit firearms and gang activities in the area,” she said.

The murder trends show that men were mostly the victims of such crimes, with 60% of murdered victims being men aged between 20 and 39 years. Overall, adult males contributed 81.5% of murder victims in the 2022/23 financial year, said Bruce.

Just more than 4% of murder victims were children, with the majority being teenagers aged between 15 and 19.

“Child murders differentiate strongly between the killing of young infants and of preteens. The number of ... children increases substantially in the age bracket of puberty ... What is striking about it is that within that age category, the high concentration was in the Western Cape and apparently related to gang activity,” he said.

The SA Police Service is struggling to keep up with the rate of organised and sophisticated crime networks across the country and the increasing circulation of illegal firearms.

Policing expert Ziyanda Stuurman said these syndicates operate across regional, provincial and national borders. The recent 2021/22 study by the Global Institute Against Transnational Organised Crimes estimated that more than 2-million illegal guns are circulating in SA, she said.

“The worrying concern about levels of violence and murder across these provinces and the country is the ease of access to illegal guns. Guns flowing into SA are also making their way outside the borders and groups use them in illegal mining and kidnappings in Mozambique.

“If we think of violence and murder in SA, we need to talk about it with our neighbouring countries as well,” she said.

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