74 people are murdered every day in South Africa – these are the worst areas

 ·17 Feb 2023

The South African Police Service has published the latest crime stats for the third quarter of 2022/23, covering October to December 2022.

According to the latest data, 7,555 murders were recorded over the period, averaging 82 murders every day – an alarming number by any measure.

Taking a wider view of the whole of 2022 (which encompasses 4Q21/22 data through to 3Q22/23), 27,066 murders were recorded in the calendar year, averaging 74 people every day.

Taking the quarterly date on a per 100,000 people measure, it’s clear that murder rates are rising.

A five-year view of the data paints a bleak picture, with the current murder numbers and murder rates showing an escalating level of violence.

While many crimes subsided and levels decreased in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, South Africans’ violent tendencies still managed to shine through.

In 2018, officials recorded 20,808 murders, averaging 57 a day. In 2019, this rose to 59 murders a day.

Reflecting the worst of the pandemic and lockdown, murders dropped to an average of 53 a day in 2020, but saw a resurgence in 2021 to 65 murders a day and now 74 murders a day in 2022.

Expressed in proportion to the population (i.e., the murder rate per 100,000 people), the picture is no less grim.

In 2018 and 2019, South Africa maintained a murder rate of 36.0 and 36.8 murders per 100,000 people, respectively. During the worst of lockdown, this subsided to 32.6 per 100,000.

In 2021, the country’s murder rate shot up to 39.5 murders per 100,000 people and now sits at 43.7 murders per 100,000 people at the end of 2022.

The table below outlines South Africa’s murder numbers for the last five years.

Year Total Murders (Jan-Dec) Average per day Est. Population (StatsSA) Murders per 100k people
2018 20808 57.0 57.73 million 36.0
2019 21648 59.3 58.78 million 36.8
2020 19459 53.3 59.62 million 32.6
2021 23758 65.1 60.14 million 39.5
2022 27066 74.2 61.93 million 43.7

Put into greater context, a murder rate of 43.7 per 100,000 people makes South Africa one of the most violent places in the world.

Worst murder regions in South Africa

According to the latest quarterly stats, KwaZulu Natal was the worst province for the number of murders between October and December 2022, recording 1,821 crimes over the period.

This is followed by Gauteng (1,721), the Eastern Cape (1,501) and the Western Cape (1,198).

However, more densely populated regions like KZN and Gauteng are prone to having higher incidents of crime simply due to the fact that so many more people live in those provinces. When taking population numbers into account, the picture changes.

Looking at murder rates per 100,000 people, the Eastern Cape emerges as the most violent province in the country, with a murder rate of 22.5 per 100,000 over the three-month period.

This is followed by the Western Cape (16.5) and KZN (15.6). All other provinces fall below the national average (12.4) – including Gauteng (10.6).

Worryingly, all provinces, except for Limpopo, are pointing to a trend of rising violence.

Looking at a more localised level, as has historically been the case, the top 30 worst precincts for murder in South Africa are largely based in the provinces identified above – the Western Cape, KZN, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

Mfuleni has ranked as the new murder capital in the country, taking over from Nyanga and Inanda in previous quarters.

The worst precinct in the problem provinces are as follows:

  • Western Cape: Mfuleni
  • KwaZulu Natal: Inanda
  • Eastern Cape: New Brighton
  • Gauteng: Johannesburg Central

According to the SAPS, the why, how and where of murder in South Africa are broadly the same as they have always been.

Most reported murders occur due to arguments, misunderstandings, road rage and provocation. The second most common cause is a result of vigilantism and mob justice, followed by retaliation or revenge.

A significant number of people are also murdered during robberies and in gang-related crimes, the SAPS said.

Most murders take place in a public place, such as a street or an open field or a parking area – or at the residence of the victim (including places known to the victim or perpetrator). A small percentage take place on farms or on rural holdings, with 11 murders recorded at residential farms.

Worryingly, women are far more likely to be a victim of murder in South Africa than men – almost three times as many women than men were murdered over the period.

In most murder cases, a gun was used as the murder weapon, followed by knives, sharp instruments, blunt instruments, body parts, and bricks/stones.

Read: Violent crime in South Africa is getting worse – here are all the latest stats

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