|NOTE: Following the release of South Africa's 2017/18 crime statistics, Africa Check published an analysis which showed that the police had made an error in calculating the 2017/18 crime rates. The police have now revised the crime rates to correct this error. The factsheet below contains the corrected ratios.|
South Africa’s crime statistics for the 2017/18 reporting year was released in parliament on 11 September 2018. They cover the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.
"There's nothing to write home about. Absolutely nothing to write home about,” police minister Bheki Cele told MPs.
This factsheet summarises the statistics in these ways:
- absolute numbers (20,336 murders, for example)
- crimes per day (56 murders every day)
- crime rates (35.8 murders per 100,000).
Given that populations generally grow, the crime rate provides a more fair comparison between years. (For example, most murders were reported in the Gauteng province in 2016/17, but more people per 100,000 in the Eastern Cape were murdered during that period.)
Here are statistics for the main crimes of public interest.
Murder is considered to be the most reliable crime statistic, because most murders can be independently verified, Gareth Newham from the Institute for Security Studies explains.
In South African law, murder is defined as the unlawful and intentional killing of another person.
In 2016/17, the police recorded a total of 19,016 murders. The statistics for 2017/18 show it has increased to 20,336 murders.
The murder rate increased from 34.1 per 100,000 people to 35.8. In 2017/18, an average of 56 people were murdered every day.
READ: Where murder happens in South Africa
Murders on farms and smallholdings
There is no crime category called “farm murders” or “farm attacks” in South Africa. Rather, the police keep track of crimes which meet a definition included in the 2011 Rural Safety Strategy.
An attack or murder should be recorded if the victim is a person living, working on or visiting a farm or smallholding “aimed at disrupting the legal farming activities as a commercial concern”, major-general Norman Sekhukhune, head of police crime research and statistics, explained to parliament. The crimes of murder, rape, robbery or the intention to inflict bodily harm are included. However, crimes resulting from domestic violence, liquor abuse or common social interaction are excluded.
Sekhukhune added that the police reconciled these statistics with those kept by other stakeholders, such as agricultural unions.
In 2017/18, the police recorded 62 murders during 58 attacks. Of those murdered, 52 were the owners or occupiers of the farm/smallholding, 9 were farm workers and one was a farm manager. Forty-two murders took place on farms, 15 on smallholdings and one at a cattle post.
The majority of the murder victims (46) were white.
READ: Statistics on farm attacks and murders in South Africa
Murders of women and children
In 2017/18, a total of 2,930 women were murdered in South Africa. This means that the femicide rate was 15.2 murders per 100,000 women.
More boys (691) were murdered than girls (294).
Murders of women and children made up 19.3% of the total murder count in South Africa in 2017/18.
A total of 18,233 attempted murders were reported to the police in 2017/18, up slightly from 18,205 the previous year. The attempted murder rate decreased from 32.4 to 32 per 100,000 people.
The sexual offences category contains such crimes as rape, compelled rape, sexual assault, incest, bestiality, statutory rape and the sexual grooming of children.
In 2017/18, a total of 50,108 sexual offences were recorded by the police, up from 49,660 in 2016/17. The majority of the sexual offences recorded were rapes.
In South Africa, rape includes the oral, anal or vaginal penetration of a person (male or female, regardless of age) with a genital organ, anal or vaginal penetration with any object and the penetration of a person’s mouth with the genital organs of an animal.
The police recorded 40,035 rapes in 2017/18, up from 39,828 in 2016/17. An average of 110 rapes were recorded by the police each day.
The rape rate decreased from 71.3 per 100,000 people to 70.5.
But “rape statistics recorded by the police cannot be taken as an accurate measure of either the extent or trend of this crime”, the Institute for Security Studies warns.
Also, the number of rapes committed each year cannot be estimated because there is no underreporting rate for South Africa that is recent or representative.
GUIDE: Rape statistics in South Africa
Common assault is the “unlawful and intentional direct and indirect application of force to the body of another person” or the “threat of application of immediate personal violence to another”.
In 2017/18, 156,243 common assaults were recorded. On average, 428 people were victims of this type of assault every day.
The assault rate decreased from 280.2 to 275.3 per 100,000 people.
The Institute for Security Studies cautions that these statistics may not reflect reality: “Police statistics for assault are notoriously unreliable because most victims don’t report these crimes to the police. Since the victim and perpetrator may be related (such as in a case of domestic violence) victims are often reluctant to disclose assault.”
Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm
The police recorded 167,352 assaults with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm in 2017/18. This means, on average, 458 such assaults were recorded every day.
A robbery is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally forcefully removes and appropriates property belonging to another person.
In 2017/18, 50,730 common robberies were recorded, down from 53,418 the year before. The robbery rate decreased from 95.7 per 100,000 people to 89.4.
On average, 139 common robberies were recorded each day.
Robbery with aggravating circumstances
Robbery with aggravating circumstances occurs when a person uses a gun or weapon to commit a robbery.
In 2016/17, 140,956 robberies with aggravating circumstances were recorded. This decreased to 138,364 in 2017/18.
On average, 379 robberies with aggravating circumstances were recorded each day.
House robberies occur when people are confronted in their homes and are victims of theft.
In 2017/18, there were 22,261 incidents of house robbery recorded. The robbery with aggravating circumstances rate decreased from 251 in 2016/17 to 243 in 2017/18.
On average, 61 households were robbed each day.
South Africa’s 2017/18 victims of crime survey revealed that only 59% of victims reported the crime to the police.
A house burglary is committed when a person “unlawfully and intentionally breaks into a building” with the intention to take something on the premises.
It was reported as the most feared crime in South Africa in the 2017/18 victims of crime survey.
In 2017/18, 228,094 house burglaries were recorded - an average of 625 houses per day.
South Africa’s 2017/18 victims of crime survey revealed that 52.8% of households did not report the crime because they thought the police couldn't do anything about it.
In 2017/18, a total of 16,325 car were hijacked. This was a slight decrease from the 2016/17 figure of 16,717 carjacking incidents in South Africa.
On average, 45 cars were hijacked each day in 2017/18.
Theft of cars or motorcycles
In 2017/18, 50,663 cars or motorcycles were stolen - an average of 139 each day. This is down from 53,307 in 2016/17.
In the last three reporting years, South Africa’s has seen a consecutive increase in this crime category, Sekhukhune told parliament.
There were 238 cases in 2017/18, up from 152 in 2016/17 and 137 in 2015/16.
The most heists occurred on Mondays (76) followed by Saturdays (49).