People in other parts of the world know exactly two facts about South Africa, and no matter where they’re from, these facts remain the same and will seemingly never go away.
The first is, of course, that South Africans ride lions and elephants to work – which is a completely ridiculous thing to believe.
Because none of us have any jobs.
And the second is that South Africa consistently ranks among the countries with the highest rape and murder rates in the world.
Unfortunately, this second one is true.
Earlier this week, 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.
Let’s take a look at the horrific findings.
As we’ve seen in previous years, the majority of the world’s most violent cities can be found in the Americas – particularly in Mexico and South America.
South Africa was the only non-American country to crack the top 50.
Tijuana, Mexico claimed the top spot as the most dangerous city in the world. Big fans of murder down there in Tijuana, with 138.26 homicides per 100 000 inhabitants.
Caracas, Venezuela was the only city in the top five that was not Mexican, highlighting just how bad the situation currently is south of the US border. Of the 50 most dangerous countries in the world, 12 of them are found in Mexico, second to Brazil with 17.
Here are the top ten most dangerous cities in the world, with their respective rates of homicide per 100 000 inhabitants:
1. Tijuana, Mexico (138.26)
2. Acapulco, Mexico (110.5)
3. Caracas, Venezuela (99.98)
4. Victory, Mexico (86.01)
5. Juarez, Mexico (85.56)
6. Irapuato, Mexico (81.4)
7. Guiana, Venezuela (78.3)
8. Native, Brazil (74.67)
9. Strength, Brazil (69.15)
10. Bolivar City, Venezuela (69.09)
Other countries to make the list were the United States, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and of course, South Africa. So, where does South Africa rank in 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.
There are two important things to note here. First, the report by the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice is not the only one to come to these conclusions.
Similar findings were also published by the World Atlas earlier this year – which also included Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and Durban in its list of the top 50 most dangerous cities.
This is what the World Atlas had to say about the Rainbow Nation:
“South Africa has often garnered publicity for its high crime and murder rates. Factors such as high unemployment rates and systemic racism have all been blamed for the violent trends in South African cities.”
The second most important thing to note is the absence of Johannesburg, which is also known to have a shockingly high crime rate. Are the other three cities on this list really that much worse?
South Africans were appalled, frightened and disheartened when reading the 2017/18 crime stats, published last year by the SAPS. Some of us may even remember Minister Bheki Cele saying that South Africa was comparable to a war zone when looking at the rate of people being killed each and every day.
Overall, South Africa has experienced an unsettling increase in most crimes – especially murder. According to the crime stats report, 20 336 murders took place across South Africa between April 2017 and March 2018 – a 7% increase from the year before. Minister Cele stated that 57 people are murdered in South Africa every day.
All three South African cities on this list have seen an increase in murder over the last year.
Cape Town’s murder rate worsened from 62.3 to 66.4. Nelson Mandela Bay’s murder rate worsened from 37.5 to 39.2. Durban’s murder rate worsened marginally from 38.1 to 38.5.
Despite its reputation for high levels of crime, Jozi’s murder rate was simply not high enough to be ranked among the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world. In fact, the last time Johannesburg featured on this list was back in 2015, when it came in at number 47.
Of course, there are a couple of things we have to take into account here.
Firstly, Johannesburg has a higher population than Cape Town, which might account for it not being included on this list. Make no mistake – Gauteng is still one of the most dangerous places to live, with staggeringly high rates of hijacking, burglary, kidnapping and CIT heists.
Cape Town hijackers obviously aren’t too interested in having to put up with the dreadful N1 traffic. They wouldn’t make it further than Foreshore without a policeman on a bicycle catching up to them.
Secondly, we also have to remember that every country keeps its own statistics, and South Africa just isn’t on the ball with this. Our statistics are incredibly unreliable. This means that crime could actually be far worse than we have been led to believe – or far better.
Crime is also defined very differently in different countries or areas – and to analyse and compare the most dangerous countries and cities in the world can be both tricky and risky.
Cape Town City’s mayoral committee for safety and security has voiced objections to the report, saying that it is distorted and the work of panic-mongerers.
So, yes, the methodology has to be questioned. When we take a deeper look into our provinces, cities and precincts, we may find different results. Lizette Lancaster, project manager of the ISS crime and justice hub, did just that – and found that Port Elizabeth itself has a higher murder rate than Cape Town, and that East London, in fact, was the worst of all - with a rate of 56.1 per 100 000 people.
Also, a high murder rate does not necessarily lead to the risk of being murdered. According to Lancaster, 80% of perpetrators are found to be relatives, friends or acquaintances of the victim.
In closing, who really knows what’s going on in this country? It’s far better to be prepared and vigilant at all times, no matter where you are.
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