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News Room

South Africa's Deadliest City Is Getting Worse

Jason Snyman
2019-07-01
Recent surges in gang-violence, combined with a number of other turbulent factors, have seen the murder rate in SA's deadliest city (11th deadliest in the world) skyrocket over the last couple of months. Here's what you need to know.

A short while ago, the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice released the results of its annual study on the 50 most dangerous cities in the world. This year, three South African cities were named on that list. 

How does the rating system work? Pretty simple, really. You take the population of any given city and divide it by the number of homicides recorded over the last year. This gives you the murder rate of that city.

South Africa was the only non-American country to crack the top 50. 

Cape Town narrowly missed a spot in the top ten, coming in at 11th on the list – and had the second highest volume of murders anywhere in the world, surpassed only by Caracas. This means that if not for the dense population, Cape Town would easily have made the top ten. 

Within a population of 4.3 million citizens in the Mother City, last year saw 2 860 murders committed – giving the city a murder rate of 66.3 per 100 000 inhabitants. 

It has to be said that this data includes murders taken place in the Cape Flats and other outer reaches of the city, including farmlands, which account for the majority of the figures that we’re looking at. As is well-documented, areas such as Mitchell’s Plain and Nyanga are known for horrific levels of gang-violence.

The second most dangerous city in South Africa came in at 45th place – Nelson Mandela Bay – which includes Port Elizabeth and surrounding towns such as Uitenhage. The area saw 478 citizens from a population of 1.2 million murdered in the last 12 months.

The third South African city to crack the top 50 list was Durban, in 47th place, with a murder rate of 38.51 per 100 000 inhabitants.

Is Cape Town Getting Worse?

Speaking at an end-of-the-month press conference this June, the Western Cape’s Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, stated that a reported spike in crime and murder (specifically related to gangsterism) was of particular concern to the provincial government.

“Between November 2018 and May 2019, there were 2,302 recorded murders,” said Fritz.

He went on to state that he had held a meeting between his department, the SAPS and the Metro police, which focused on addressing problems surrounding effective coordination, cooperation and joint planning. 

“The meeting also discussed various strategies to address the on-going issue of the proliferation of illegal firearms and the seemingly unchecked availability of ammunition, much of which is procured via gun shops using sports hunting licenses,” he said.

South Africa’s latest State of Urban Safety Report has revealed that Cape Town has doubled the murder rate of the other cities, and has seen the murder rate increase by 40% between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

Commenting on the increase of crime in the Western Cape, spokesperson for the Social Justice Coalition, Axolile Notywala, has named a number of contributing factors. 

“Levels of inequality, unemployment, poverty and a government that does not care about the lives or well-being of poor and working class people can be linked to the contributing factors of the high crime rate in Cape Town. Lack of adequate infrastructure and services, as reflected in the two townships (Nyanga and Khayelistsha), which are neglected and have many informal settlements that are poorly serviced.”

Unfair distribution of law enforcement services (which we’ve spoken about in another article, here), lack of adequate infrastructure in high-crime areas and easy access to drugs or firearms. These are the main contributors to the growing gang-violence in and surrounding the Mother City.

At present, Cape Town has the highest recorded rates (of the nine big cities) for murder, robbery, and non-violent property-related crimes. This year also saw it moved from being ranked fourth to ranked third for sexual offences, while Johannesburg maintains top spot for hijackings. 

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