Cape Town is South Africa’s real crime capital

The second annual State of Urban Safety Report by the Urban Safety Reference Group and the South Africa Cities Network has found Cape Town to have the highest rates of murder, robbery and property-related crimes in the country.

The State of Urban Safety report is a consolidated city-level reading of the state of violence and crime in South Africa, which aims to provide an evidence-based set of data to inform policy and practice in making the country safer.

The report identifies key problem cities in the country by looking at crime rates (per 100,000 people – in line with international norms) on a municipal level, rather than by precinct, as reported by the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Urban areas account for a disproportionate amount of crime – the report found that the nine metro areas covered by the report were home to 40% of the country’s population, but accounted for a much larger proportion of total crimes: almost 80% of all hijackings and half of all murders.

Across 21 indicators of crime, Cape Town featured as the worst ‘ranked’ in six, performing worse than other cities in five others. By way of comparison, Joburg – which has the second worst crime levels – ranked worst in four categories and worse than other cities in six.

The table below outlines city crime rates across different crime groups.


1 – SAPS data; 2 – data not available; 3 – SAPS data

The report also provided a brief overview of crime levels compared to the fear of crime in each respective city. Here, Cape Town has the highest recorded level of fear and experience of crime.

According to the USRG, across the nine cities, fear of crime seems to correlate well with only one crime type – murder. The three cities with the highest levels of fear (Cape Town, Buffalo City, and Nelson Mandela Bay) also have the highest murder rates.

“Despite having the highest police activity, Johannesburg’s residents experience relatively high levels of crime (second only to Cape Town), and have moderately high levels of fear of crime,” the group said.

“Residents of Tshwane are the least fearful, which may be because the city has the lowest murder, assault and sexual offences rates of all the cities.”

The murder rate is used internationally as a measure of overall rates of violence. Cape Town has improved its murder rate slightly, but still remains the most violent city in the country, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay.

While most of the cities’ positioning has remained the same, year on year, Buffalo City has moved past eThekwini as the third most violent city in the country. The report echoes data from international security groups, which found that Cape Town has one of the highest murder rates in the world – ranking 13th among the most dangerous cities, globally.

This is how the cities compare to the previous report in terms of murder:

City 2014/15 Murder rate per 100,000 2015/16 Murder rate per 100,000
Cape Town 65 62
Nelson Mandela Bay 48 54
Buffalo City 42 48
eThekwini 45 42
Manguang 40 41
Msunduzi 37 38
National Average 33 34
Johannesburg 33 30
Ekhuruleni 31 31
Tshwane 19 18

The report highlighted the worrying trend seen in Nelson Mandela Bay, where a sharp increase in the murder rate was seen. Without intervention, the city could move to the same level seen in Cape Town, it said.

Buffalo City and Mangaung lead the cities for assaults and sexual offences but have relatively low robbery rates, unlike Cape Town, which has the highest rates for robbery and property-related crimes. Robbery is also an issue for Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Ekurhuleni, whereas Msunduzi and Mangaung have the two lowest robbery rates of the cities.

The City of Tshwane has the lowest murder rate, assault rate and recorded sexual offences rate, while Ekurhuleni has the lowest property-related crime rate of all the cities (followed by Msunduzi). Johannesburg has the highest rate of police activity targeting people driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.

Recorded murder rate per 100,000 people over time (2005 – 2015)


Read: Cape Town is the 13th most violent city in the world

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Cape Town is South Africa’s real crime capital