These 3 South African cities now rank among the 20 most violent in the world

 ·22 Aug 2023

The Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice has published its annual ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world, with Cape Town and Durban taking the top dishonours for South Africa.

The report lists the 50 most violent cities by the number of murders per 100,000 people, only considering cities with populations exceeding 300,000, where murder statistics are available.

In the 2022/23 ranking, four South African cities again feature in the top 50, led by Cape Town, which has continued to fall in the rankings, dropping one place to 12th overall.

A big difference from last year’s ranking, however, is that South Africa now has three cities ranked among the 20 most violent in the world: Cape Town, Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha).

Another change for 2022/23 is that the rise of violence in Durban has pushed the city ahead of Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha) to be the second-worst city in South Africa for violence.

As with previous years, the top 10 is dominated by Mexican cities, with the only exception being New Orleans in the United States.

The overall top 50 is dominated by South American countries, with the balance filled by other nations in the Americas, including the USA, Haiti and Jamaica.

South Africa is the outlier and the only non-American country featured in the ranking at all.

While South Africa is not featured in the top 10 rankings, Cape Town ranks first in terms of the sheer number of murders, recording 2,998 deaths, with Joburg and Durban following closely behind.

In fact, only five cities recorded over 2,000 murders – and South Africa accounts for three of them. Tijuana (Mexico) ranks fourth with 2,177 deaths – 821 fewer than Cape Town – and Salvador (Brasil) ranks fifth with 2,085.

  1. Cape Town: 2,998
  2. Joburg: 2,547
  3. Durban: 2,405
  4. Tijuana: 2,177
  5. Salvador: 2,085

In terms of South African cities, Cape Town’s 2,998 murders among the population of 4.76 million people gives the city a murder rate of 63 per 100,000. This is higher than the 62.2 per 100,000 recorded in 2021/2022.

Durban’s murder rate has shot up, moving from 40 per 100,000 in 2021/22 to 59.4 per 100,000 in 2022/23. The city and the province it is in have seen a spate of political killings and mass shootings over the past year.

Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha) has also seen its murder rate climb, and despite dropping down a position, its 57 per 100,000 is still high.

Johannesburg, which has a global reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in the world, has the lowest murder rate among the South African cities ranked, but it, too, has seen the murder rate climb significantly, from 30.8 before to 41.4 in the latest ranking.

Murder rates in South Africa


It’s clear from the data, which has been tracking murder rates over the last ten years, that South Africa has become an increasingly violent place, with all four featured cities steadily climbing the overall rankings.

Joburg, which didn’t even crack the list for half the decade, is now featured every year. Durban and NMB, which debuted at the lower rungs of the ranking, are now reaching the top.

Global Ranking South Africa


Murder in South Africa

Despite the number of murders declining in the latest quarter, South Africa still has an alarmingly high murder rate.

According to the latest Crime Stats from the South African Police Service (SAPS), this violent crime dropped 3.81% from 6,424 in Q1 2022/23 to 6,228 in 2023/24 in Q1 2023/24.

This means that, on average, 68 murders occurred in South Africa every day from April to June 2023.

Provincially, on a per capita basis, the Eastern Cape has the highest murder rate, with 17.1 people murdered per 100,000 over the three months tracked – a slight improvement from 18.0 per 100,000 in Q1 2022/23.

KwaZulu-Natal (13.5) and the Western Cape (12.8) followed in second and third place.

On the other end of the scale, Limpopo and the North West had the lowest number of murders, with 3.3 and 5.5 murders per 100,000, respectively.

Since Q1 2019/20, there has been a decline in the murder rate in Limpopo and the Western Cape.

Read: 68 people are murdered every day in South Africa – here are the danger areas

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