FACTSHEET: South Africa’s crime statistics for 2019/20

We look at a number of crimes in the public interest, and include the rate of crimes committed relative to the most recent population estimates – a measure not included in the police’s crime statistics for 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.

The police released South Africa’s crime statistics for 2019/20 on 31 July 2020, a month earlier than expected.

This comes on the back of a June 2016 resolution to release the statistics every three months, minister of police Bheki Cele said in the briefing. He said he believed the new approach “would allow for timeous intervention measures aimed at crime reduction”. 

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a South African policy institute, welcomed the move, saying figures released annually were “too outdated to be of significant use”.

This factsheet presents the latest statistics in three ways.

First are the number of reported crimes (21,325 murders, for example) and then the average crimes per day (58 murders a day). 

A third important statistic is the crime rate (36.3 murders for each 100,000 people). This gives insight into crime relative to the population. It’s vital for accurately determining whether crime has increased or decreased from year to year and reveals which regions of South Africa have higher rates of crime.

Crime rates were not included in this year’s statistics. This was a decision taken by the crime registrar, police spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told Africa Check. She directed us to Statistics South Africa, who gave us the most recent population estimates

The factsheet looks at a number of crimes of public interest. It covers 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.

1. Murder

Murder is the unlawful and intentional killing of another person. Murder statistics are considered the most reliable, according to the ISS. This is because most murders can be independently verified.

The number of murders in South Africa increased by 303 from 21,022 in 2018/19 to 21,325 in 2019/20. On average, 58 people were murdered every day.

The ISS noted a smaller increase in the number of murders in 2019/20. In 2017/18, cases increased by 1,320. In 2018/19, they rose by 686. 

“Arguments and misunderstandings” were the main cause of murder in cases where a motive could be identified. The second most common cause was “domestic related”. 

The national murder rate decreased slightly from 36.4 per 100,000 people to 36.3. The Eastern Cape province had the highest murder rate in 2019/20, at 59.5.

Murders of women and children

In 2019/20, a total of 2,695 women were murdered in South Africa – down from 2,771 in 2018/19. This means a woman is murdered every three hours. A total of 943 children were murdered. 

The figures for murder of women and children are preliminary. According to Maj Gen Norman Sekhukhune, head of police crime research and statistics, verification of the dockets – which link a victim to a crime – could not be finalised due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Attempted murder

In 2019/20, 18,635 attempted murders were reported to the police – down from the 18,980 reported in 2018/19. 

Gauteng recorded the largest number (4,639) of attempted murders, followed closely by KwaZulu Natal (4,161).

2. Sexual offences

“Sexual offences” is a broad category of crime that includes rape, compelled rape, sexual assault, incest, bestiality, statutory rape and the sexual grooming of children.

Reported sexual offences increased to 53,293 in 2019/20 from 52,420 in 2018/19. Most of these were cases of rape.

The rate of sexual offences decreased slightly from 90.9 per 100,000 in 2018/19 to 90.8 in 2019/20.


Rape

South Africa’s legal definition of rape is broad. It includes the oral, anal or vaginal penetration of a person (male or female) 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 42,289 rapes in 2019/20, up from 41,583 in 2018/19. This means the police recorded an average of 116 rapes each day.

The rape rate remained at 72.1. 

But the police’s rape statistics should not been viewed as an “accurate measure of either the extent or trend of this crime”, the ISS has warnedThere is no recent and nationally representative estimate of how many women are raped in South Africa each year.

3. Assault

Common assault

Common assault is defined as 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 2018/19, some 162,012 common assaults were recorded. This increased to 165,494 in 2019/20. On average, 453 people were victims of this type of assault every day.

The rate of common assault increased from 280.8 per 100,000 people in 2018/19 to 282 in 2019/20.

Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm

The police recorded 166,720 assaults with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm in 2019/20, down from 170,979 in 2018/19. This means, on average, 457 such assaults were recorded every day.

4. Robbery

Common robbery 

Robbery occurs when a person uses force to unlawfully and intentionally remove and appropriate property belonging to another person. It is a contact crime –  violence is used against another person.

In 2019/20, 51,825 common robberies were recorded, up from 51,765 the year before. On average, 142 common robberies were recorded each day.

Robbery with aggravating circumstances

In robbery with aggravating circumstances, a person uses a gun or weapon to commit the crime. 

In 2018/19, 140,032 robberies with aggravating circumstances were recorded. This increased to 143,990 in 2019/20. On average, 394 robberies with aggravating circumstances were recorded each day.

House robbery

House robberies occur when people are confronted and become victims of robbery in their homes.

In 2019/20, 21,130 incidents of house robbery were reported – down from 22,431 in 2018/19. On average, 58 households were robbed each day.

South Africa’s 2018/19 victims of crime survey revealed that only 60% of victims reported the crime to the police.

5. House burglary

A house burglary occurs when a person “unlawfully and intentionally breaks into a building” with the intention to steal something. This is a property crime. There is no contact between victim and perpetrator.

In 2019/20, there were 205,959 house burglaries reported to the police – an average of 464 houses per day.

South Africa’s 2018/19 victims of crime survey revealed that only 48% of households reported the crime to the police.

6. Other crimes

Carjacking 

In 2019/20, a total of 18,162 cars were hijacked. This was an increase from 16,026 the year before. On average, 50 cars were hijacked each day.

Theft of cars or motorcycles

In 2019/20, 46,921 cars or motorcycles were stolen – an average of 129 each day. This is down from 48,324 in 2018/19.

Cash in transit heists

There were 164 cash in transit heists in 2019/20, down from 183 in 2018/19.


 

© Copyright Africa Check 2020. Read our republishing guidelines. You may reproduce this piece or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events. This is subject to: Crediting Africa Check in the byline, keeping all hyperlinks to the sources used and adding this sentence at the end of your publication: “This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website", with a link back to this page.