South Africa is deploying the army to fight crime – here’s how the murder rate compares to an actual war zone

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, has announced that he will be deploying members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to parts of the Cape Flats as violent incidents have spiked in recent weeks.

Presenting his departmental budget speech on Thursday (11 July), Cele said that he had asked president Cyril Ramaphosa for permission use the army, with deployment starting from 02h00 on Friday morning.

“We have started to deploy extra police and tomorrow we are sealing off the Cape Flats with the South African Defence Force, the special forces, and the South African police.,” he said.

“We’ll make sure that the people of these places are finally safe.”

Cele said that some of the areas which SANDF members will deploy to include:

  • Khayelitsha;
  • Phillipi;
  • Harare;
  • Gugulethu;
  • eMfuleni;
  • Kraaifontein;
  • Mitchell’s Plain;
  • Bishop’s Lavis;
  • Delft;
  • Elsies River;
  • Nyanga.


Commenting on the recent violence, community safety MEC Albert Fritz said that the Western Cape is now a ‘war zone’.

“War is commonly defined by the UN and other such institutions as an act of conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

In the Western Cape, between November 2018 and May 2019, there were already more than 2,300 murders recorded in the province – 1,875 people were murdered in the past six months alone, Fritz said.

According to the latest crime statistics, there were 20,336 murders in South Africa between April 2017 and March 2018, showing a 7% increase from the previous year.

This puts the country’s murder rate at close to 36 people murdered per 100,000 population – with Cele noting that 57 people are being murdered each day.

This is well below actual conflict areas such as Syria (212 per 100,000 people) and Afghanistan (40.4 per 100,000 people).

However, a 2018 report by the BBC found that some specific areas have crime rates which far surpass the rest of the country.

“According to ISS’ Crime Hub, several precincts have a murder rate estimated at more than 100 per 100,000. That’s higher than in most of the war zones considered above,” the BBC said.

“In Philippi East, a township of Cape Town, the rate was estimated at 323.4 per 100,000. It was 214.52 in Madeira in the Eastern Cape province and 177.3 at Pietermaritzburg’s central city station in KwaZulu-Natal.”

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South Africa is deploying the army to fight crime – here’s how the murder rate compares to an actual war zone