One of the most dangerous jobs in South Africa

 ·24 Jul 2023

The murder rate among South African municipal ward councillors is six times higher than the national rate of 45 per 100,000 people, making a ward councillor one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

According to the South African Police Service (SAPS)’s latest crime statistics, acts of violent crimes – including murder – are growing across the country.

The data shows that South Africa’s murder rate has increased from roughly 30 murders per 100,000 to 44.66 murders per 100,000 over the last decade – totalling 77 murders a day on average.

However, data compiled by statistics group The Outlier shows that the murder rate of ward councillors (including mayors) across South Africa is closer to 260 murders per 100,000 over the same period – which is six times higher than the national rate.

There are just over 4,500 councillors working in South Africa’s 257 municipalities. They are elected in municipal elections held every five years, and their job is to ensure the delivery of services.

“Since just before the last election, which was held on 1 November 2021, 71 councillors have died – almost a third of them were shot dead,” the data group said.

Of these 71 councillors, The Outlier confirmed that at least 20 were murdered. Six of these murders took place since the start of 2023, with two of them in June and July. 

Apart from the 20 councillors that were murdered, 21 died from an illness, seven were killed in accidents, and one died by suicide.

According to the data, almost half of the councillor murders took place in Kwa-Zulu Natal (9),  followed by the Eastern Cape (4) and Mpumalanga (3). 

Additionally, most of the 20 murdered councillors were from the ANC, followed by the IFP. All the councillors murdered were shot dead, The Outlier noted.

The spread of political parties hit with murders of their members are as follows:

  • 15 ANC councillors
  • 2 Inkatha Freedom Party councillors
  • 1 independent candidate (Merafong City, Gauteng)
  • 1 National Freedom Party councillor (Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal)
  • 1 African Christian Democratic Party councillor (uMhlathuze, KwaZulu-Natal)

Hitmen are “a dime a dozen”

According to the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), South Africa’s murder rate in 2022 was the second highest in the world for countries with reliable crime data, with only Jamaica (52.98 murders per 100,000) being worse.

Speaking to eNCA, Lizette Lancaster from the ISS said that group violence – gang violence, taxi violence, vigilantism and robberies – were the main cause for the increase in murders.

However, organised crime syndicates are rising on the list of causes, and she noted that hitmen are “a dime a dozen” and are easily accessible by these syndicates.

This has also come with the proliferation of firearms in South African communities over the last decade.

Lancaster pointed to poor policing and regulations as the reasons why these types of crimes remain rampant across the country.

“Assassins, in some instances, will be arrested while kingpins walk free. Therefore, kingpins should also be linked to violent cases.

“Moreover, the firearm registry needs to address some common issues as numerous firearms get leaked into the system via private security, the SANDF’s arms caches and the police, which end up in the hands of for-hire assassins,” she said.

The ISS said that the government must see murder and violent crime as one of the nation’s most important things to tackle.

“It should be unequivocally clear in word, budgets and activities that decreasing this crime is among its highest priorities,” said the ISS.

Read: Kidnapping syndicates in South Africa are now going after ‘easier’ targets

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