South Africa is one of the least safe countries in the world

Global polling group, Gallup, has published the results of its latest survey probing perceptions of crime and policing among 142 countries in the world.

The group conducted over 1,000 face-to-face and telephonic interviews in each country – with a total of 152,000 responses – asking people about levels of crime in their area, how safe they felt walking the streets, and how much confidence they had in the local police force.

Gallup then compiled the results into scores, and created an index ranking each country by their overall law and order score.

The Gallup Law and Order Index is a composite score based on people’s reported confidence in their local police, their feelings of personal safety, and the incidence of theft and assault or mugging in the past year.

The higher the score, the higher the proportion of the population that reports feeling secure.

In the latest index, South Africa dropped in the overall rankings, with an index score of 56, now ranked the fifth-worst for law and order among the 142 countries covered.

According to the Gallup, more than two in three people worldwide said in 2018 that they feel safe walking alone at night where they live (69%) and have confidence in their local police (68%).

One in eight (13%) said they had property stolen from them or another household member in the past year, and 6% said they were assaulted or mugged.

In contrast to this, only 31% of South Africans polled said they feel safe (the third lowest overall), while only 59% of people feel confident in the police force’s capacity to fight crime.

While the Gallup index is based on the perceptions of a country’s citizens around their own safety and security, the findings line up with several other sources painting South Africa as one of the least safe places in the world.

Global Peace Index

The 2019 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released earlier this year showed that South Africa continued to slide down the rankings as one of the most violent and dangerous places on earth.

The Global Peace Index (GPI) ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources.

South Africa ranks as the 127th most peaceful country in the world, out of 163 countries and districts measured.

This puts it on the lower-end of the scale (in the lowest quartile), but still some way off war-torn regions like Syria and Afghanistan.

South Africa’s position on the list has declined since 2017, having dropped two places from 125th in 2018, and four places from 123rd in 2017.

According to the index, South Africa ranks within the bottom 20 in the world when it comes to societal safety and security – beating out countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

South Africa has historically scored poorly in a number of areas including:

  • Perception of high levels of criminality;
  • Easy access to weapons;
  • Relatively high levels of political terror
  • High levels of violent demonstrations.

The two factors that stand out, however, are levels of violent crime and homicide, which is what pulls South Africa so far down the list of safe places.

Some areas within the country have murder rates higher than some war zones, the report found.

When calculating the cost of violence, South Africa ranks as the 26th most costly in the world, taking up 13% of GDP, totalling $97.4 billion, or $1,971 per capita (in PPP terms).


Read: The 10 worst areas for crime in every province in South Africa

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South Africa is one of the least safe countries in the world