Cape Town, Joburg, Durban and Gqeberha among the most violent cities in the world

 ·21 Mar 2022

The Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice has published its latest ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world, with four South African cities included among them.

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 made available.

In the 2021/22 ranking, four South African cities feature in the top 50, led by Cape Town, which has dropped out of the top 10 to 11th place overall.

As with previous years, the ranking is dominated by South American cities, with South Africa, Jamaica and the US being the only main regional outliers.

Zamora, Mexico, ranked as the most violent city in the world, with over 196 murders per 100,000 people. The top 10 is completely dominated by Mexican cities, first through to eighth position being within the region.

The US city of St Louis and Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, are the only non-Mexican cities featured in the top 10.

While Cape Town has fallout out of the top 10, it still holds the top dishonour of having the highest number of murders overall, with 2,911 murders recorded for the period, giving a murder rate of 62.22 people murdered per 100,000.

Cape Town’s murder rate is heavily weighted towards gang-related violence.

Tijuana is the only other city to rack up over 2,000 murders, with the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice recording 2,124 violent deaths over the period, giving it a murder rate of 103 people per 100,000 – fourth, overall.

Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha), ranks as the second most violent city in the country, having jumped from 45th in 2018/19, to 24th position in 2019/20.

In 2020 the metro eased in the rankings slightly, despite its murder rate going up – a trend which continued in 2021. The city saw its murder rate increase to 52.3 per 100,000 people, but moved down one position on the overall rankings.

Durban, which ranked 31st last year, now ranks 35th – another improvement in the rankings, with its murder rate dropping to 39.98 per 100,000 people.

Joburg, which returned to the rankings in 2019 has also slipped down the rankings, pointing to improvements. The city recorded 1,853 murders (from 2,182 murders in 2020) giving it a murder rate of 30.8 per 100,000 people, ranking 48th, overall.

City 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Cape Town 51.0 60.0 65.5 60.8 62.3 66.4 68.3 64.0 62.2
Nelson Mandela Bay 35.7 34.9 35.8 39.2 37.5 39.2 45.8 51.2 52.3
Durban 32.4 34.7 35.9 34.4 38.1 38.5 40.5 43.4 40.0
Johannesburg 33.3 36.2 37.2 30.8

Most violent cities in South Africa (ranking)

City 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Cape Town 20th 14th 9th 13th 15th 15th 8th 10th 11th
Nelson Mandela Bay 41st 35th 42nd 43rd 46th 45th 24th 22nd 23rd
Durban 48th 38th 41st 50th 44th 47th 35th 31st 35th
Johannesburg 47th 41st 40th 48th

Murder in South Africa

The data from the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice corroborates local statistics published by Stats SA and the South African Police Service, in that the four cities listed by the council are in South Africa’s most violent provinces.

In the latest update on the stats, covering the third quarter of the 2021/22 financial year (October to December 2021) the SAPS noted a marked uptick in violent crimes in South Africa, with the country recording 6,859 murders in the three-month period, up from 6,279 the year before (+9.2%).

Provincially, the SAPS data shows that the Eastern Cape had the highest murder rate over the three-month period, ahead of the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Looking at stations where murders were reported over the quarter, KwaZulu Natal regions were found to be the most prominent, with nine of the the top 30 stations being in that province. This is ahead of eight stations from the Western Cape, eight stations in Gauteng, and five from the Eastern Cape.

Read: Crime in South Africa – what the official statistics don’t tell you

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