The most violent cities in South Africa – with a new number 1 ranking among the worst of the worst in the world

 ·14 Mar 2024

The Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice has published its annual ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world – with Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha) leaping past Cape Town and Durban to be ranked as the most dangerous city in South Africa.

The report has been compiled annually for over a decade and 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 2023/24 ranking, four South African cities again feature in the top 50, this time led by Gqeberha, which jumped nine places in the ranking and now features within the top 10.

Cape Town was previously the only South African city to have the dishonour of being in the top 10, when it ranked 8th in 2019, and 9th in 2015.

Since then, however, the Mother City has improved its positioning, now ranking 17th – below even Durban – and in the best position since its 20th place ranking when the list started in 2013.

Durban ranked 15th in the 2022/23 ranking – its worst position so far – and improved to 16th in 2023/24. Joburg, which has a global reputation for being a hotbed for crime, ranks 26th overall, a continued decline, having ranked 34th last year.

These findings are consistent with data compiled by the South African Cities Network, showing the same trend.

As has been the case for more than a decade, 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.

South African cities also carry the dishonour of outranking many of the cities by the sheer number of murders on record.

Only five cities recorded over 2,000 murders – and South Africa accounts for three of them.

  1. Port-au-Prince (Port Principe) in Haiti: 3,502
  2. Joburg: 3,084
  3. Cape Town: 3,072
  4. Guayaquil in Ecuador: 2,807
  5. Durban: 2,653

50 Most Violent Cities in the World 2023

It is also worth noting that, despite the improvements in the ranking for Cape Town and Durban, the actual murder rates for all South Africa’s cities tracked by group rose – some sharply.

  • Cape Town’s murder rate increased from 63 per 100,000 people in 2022/23 to 63.9 in 2023/24 (+0.9).
  • Durban’s murder rate increased from 59.4 per 100,000 people in 2022/23 to 65 in 2023/24 (+5.6).
  • Joburg’s murder rate increased from 41.4 per 100,000 people in 2022/23 to 49.5 in 2023/24 (+8.1).
  • Gqeberha’s murder rate increased from 57 per 100,000 people in 2022/23 to 78.3 in 2023/24 (+21.3).

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 and is approaching the top 20.

Durban and NMB, which debuted at the lower rungs of the ranking, are now reaching the top with murder rates doubling.

Global Ranking South Africa


The latest crime stats for South Africa continue to paint a grim picture when it comes to violent crimes.

Murders in the third quarter of the 2023/24 year (October to December 2023) increased by 2.1%, leading to 155 more murders compared to Q3 2022/23.

The police recorded a total of 7,710 murders over the period, meaning an average of 84 people were murdered every day in Q3.

The third quarter data gives the final tally for the 2023 calendar year as well, with the country ultimately recording 27,368 murders between January and December 2023 – an average of 75 murders per day.

Read: 84 people murdered every day in South Africa- these are the most dangerous areas

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