Despite recent concerns over potential terrorist attacks in South Africa, the World Economic Form notes that civilians around the world are much more at risk of being killed as result of homicide than either terrorist violence or warfare.
Data shows that South Africa is among the top 10 countries in the world when it comes to murder.
As in the case of terrorist and conflict-related violence, there are also hot spots where murder tends to concentrate. People living in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Southern Africa are more at risk of dying of homicide than in most other places, the WEF said.
As many as 46 of the 50 most violent cities are concentrated in the Americas. Also included in the top 15 most murderous countries, though located outside the Americas, are South Africa, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“And beyond these pockets of extreme homicidal violence, the risk of murder is also more widely distributed than violent deaths associated with terrorism or war. There are roughly 85 countries that are consistently above the global average of around seven homicides per 100,000 people.
“In fact, about nine in every 10 violent deaths occurring around the world over the past decade were due to murder; just a fraction can be attributed to either war or terrorism,” the WEF said.
And while the data shows homicide rates up to 2014, in the last quarter of 2015, local stats showed that murders increased for the third year in a row in South Africa.
According to the figures, 17 805 people were murdered between April 2014 to March 2015. In the 2012/2013 period the figure was 16 213.
The WEF noted that extremist violence is much less pervasive than you might think. It is significantly more prolific outside Western countries than in them.
A recent assessment of terrorist risks in 1,300 cities ranked urban centres in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia as significantly more vulnerable than those in Belgium, France, the UK or the US.
At least 65 cities were described as facing extreme risk, with Iraq – especially Baghdad, Mosul, Al Ramadi, Ba´qubah, Kirkuk and Al Hillah – fielding six of the top 10.
“Consider that between 2000 and 2014, there were around 3,659 terrorist-related deaths in all Western countries combined. In Baghdad there were 1,141 deaths and 3,654 wounded in 2014 alone,” the WEF said.
The WEF said that Uppsala Conflict Database Program records conflict deaths occurring in more than 60 wars between 2005 and 2014.
After adjusting the absolute numbers of violent deaths relative to the total population per country, it is possible to determine an approximate conflict death rate per 100,000 people.
“It turns out that the risk of dying violently from war is considerable higher than the probability of being killed in the course of extremist violence.”
Although in some countries this risk is an order of magnitude higher, the overall conflict death rate in conflict zones is still far lower than many might have predicted. For example, the average conflict death rate is sky-high in Syria – site of some of the most horrific warfare over the past decade.
“But it is comparatively lower in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Chad and Yemen, countries that have been exposed to industrial-scale violence. The conflict death rate of course varies according to the ebb and flow of warfare, but the average prevalence is surprisingly low,” the WEF said.
On Saturday, the United States Embassy issued a terror alert stating that South African shopping malls may be targeted. This was followed by similar alerts put out by the British and Australian embassies.
However, News24 reported that the initial US alert is based on claims from a “discredited East African businessman”.
The publication stated that a source with access to South African intelligence said the businessman was a discredited informer who was “only after the money he’d be paid for the information”.
State Security Minister David Mahlobo on Monday downplayed the US government’s terror alert, giving assurances that his department was doing all it could to keep South Africa safe against attacks.