Are SA whites really being killed ‘like flies’? Why Steve Hofmeyr is wrong

Comments 46

South African musician Steve Hofmeyr has claimed that the number of white South Africans killed by blacks would fill a soccer stadium, that white Afrikaners are being killed "like flies" and that a white farmer is murdered every five days. But the claims are incorrect and grossly exaggerated. In fact, whites are less likely to be murdered than any other race group.

Are white Afrikaners really being killed “like flies”? Is a white South African farmer being “slaughtered every five days?” Would the number of whites “killed in SA in black on white violence” fill one of the country’s largest football stadiums?

These are some of the claims made recently by Steve Hofmeyr, one of South Africa’s most popular, and controversial, Afrikaans singers and performers. In a post on his blog and Facebook page titled “My tribe is dying”, Hofmeyr made several sweeping statements about South Africa’s murder rate and the quality of life of white Afrikaans-speaking South Africans.

Within a day of it being posted, Hofmeyr’s blog entry and a pie chart that he used to support some of his claims were “liked” by  more than 2,000 Facebook users. A similar number also shared the post on their Facebook pages.

The Facebook entry was subsequently removed but later reposted without the pie chart. By way of explanation Hofmeyr stated: “The facts are good but they shouldnt  be in a pie-chart. Im removing the pic. It will be replaced with the real PIE.” On his Facebook page Hofmeyr explained the issue with the pie chart was not with the statistics, rather: “It should be separate charts (pre&post Apartheid).”

At the same time, Hofmeyr posted an image of the interior of a “World Cup soccer stadium”  – which appears to be Johannesburg’s Soccer City – together with a statement that the “amount of whites killed in SA in black on white violence” would produce a body count capable of filling the stadium’s seats.

‘A lot of bodies to lose in stats’

Hofmeyr then went on to make the following statements on Twitter:

  • Old SA averaged 7039 murders/year from 1950. New SA averaged 24206 (SAP) or 47882 (Interpol). Sorry Columbia (sic). We still champs.”
  • When SAP claimed 26000 murders in 96, Interpol counted 54000. A lot of bodies to lose in stats.”
  • There is a discrepancy of 10 000 murders per year between government and MRC figures!”

Several readers asked Africa Check to investigate the accuracy of Hofmeyr’s various claims, among them that:

  • Whites are being murdered at a rate faster than any previous period in South Africa’s history.
  • A white farmer is murdered every five days.
  • During apartheid, black-on-black violence was responsible for the majority of black homicides, with only a fractional percentage of black murders due to government forces.
  • “Whites killed by blacks since apartheid 77.3%”.  This is unclear as Hofmeyr has not indicated what factor the percentage is of however Africa Check assumes Hofmeyr is stating 77.3% of all white homicides (since 1994) have been perpetrated by blacks.
  • The number of whites killed by blacks in South Africa is equivalent to, or more than, the number of seats at Soccer City stadium, which has a maximum seating capacity of 94,736.
  • There are significant discrepancies between murders reported by the South African Police Service and other agencies and that these discrepancies have been used to hide or obscure the “truth” about murder in South Africa.

Where does Hofmeyr get his information?

Hofmeyr declined to reveal his sources to Africa Check but later stated on Twitter: “Our unpopular pie-chart is from a book by Vusi Tshabalala and merely highlites the lie of white on black genocide during Apartheid”. Africa Check has not been able to establish whether Vusi Tshabalala really exists or which publication Hofmeyr was referring to.

On various white right-wing sites, reference is made to a “Vusile Tshabalala” who supposedly wrote an article in 2001 about the “killing fields” of post-apartheid South Africa. Invariably the sites describe Tshabalala as a “journalist” and then, for emphasis, as a “black journalist”. No indication is given of where Tshabalala worked, nor does he appear to have written any other articles.

Hofmeyr’s other claims appear to stem from a 2003 paper titled, “Murder in South Africa: a comparison of past and present”. It was written by Rob McCafferty, then a communications director for the conservative Cape Town-based lobby group, United Christian Action.

McCafferty’s paper, published at the peak of crime levels in South Africa, appeared to offer a comprehensive survey of crime literature and subsequent analysis of crime data and trends over a period of more than five decades. There are, however, several significant flaws in the presentation and interpretation of data, some of which McCafferty acknowledged himself.

There are no ‘average’ murders

McCafferty’s paper presented a graph based on figures sourced directly from “annual police reports and CSS: Statistics of Offence annual reports” showing the total number of murders reported to the police between 1950 and 2000.

McCafferty conceded in his paper that “factors such as population growth and differentials in time periods…would make it unfair to compare this data” and pointed out that it was “not logically sound to do such comparisons”.

But McCafferty proceeded to do just that and aggregated 44 years of murder numbers (309,583 recorded murders from 1950 to 1993) to reach an “average” of 7,036 murders a year under apartheid.

He then contrasted that figure with his own aggregation of post-1994 Interpol statistics, from which he determined an annual average of 47,882 murders.

This appears to make a case for a shocking increase in homicides in the post-apartheid era. But, as we explain below, the Interpol murder statistics McCafferty used are widely regarded as inaccurate.  And McCafferty’s “average” murder numbers show a very different picture when plotted against South Africa’s population figures.

Murder and other crime statistics are commonly expressed by statisticians, crime analysts and researchers as a ratio per 100,000 of the population rather than in raw numbers. McCafferty’s failure to have done so indicates exactly why this is preferred practise.

According to McCafferty’s graph, less than 2,500 murders were reported to the police in 1951. The census results of that year indicate that the total population of South Africa at the time was 12,671,452. The “murder ratio” therefore works out at 19.73 murders for every 100,000 people.

By 1970, the total number of reported murders appeared to be approaching 7,000. With a population of  about 21,7-million, this would equate to a murder ratio of 32.12 per 100,000.

McCafferty’s graph showed that the number of homicides increased steadily from 1950. What McCafferty had not taken into account was that South Africa’s population had also steadily increased.

By 1994, SA’s murder numbers, according to McCafferty, had reached 25,000 a year. With a population of just under 40-million, this translated to a murder ratio of a 62.5. South Africa’s murder rate for all races peaked in the period during and following the transition to democracy.

However, in a paper published by the Medical Research Council, crime analyst and author Antony Altbeker found that by 2003/4 the rate had fallen to less than 43 murders per 100,000. The murder rate has continued to decline since then, dropping to 30.9 for 2011/12 according to the South African Police Service Crime Statistics Overview. Significantly, given Hofmeyr’s claims, it is lower than the murder rate documented in 1970 under apartheid.

All the independent security and research experts we consulted for this report agreed that current murder figures provided by the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) should be considered accurate.

The trouble with apartheid-era data

Both Altbeker and Mark Shaw, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies who has worked extensively with apartheid-era crime data, told Africa Check that official police figures during apartheid were not an accurate representation of national homicide rates.

Crime reports from the Bantustans – the nominally independent black “homelands“ established under the auspices of the apartheid state – were not included in South Africa’s national figures. In addition, according to Shaw, “a proportion of homicide cases among Africans were not reported or recorded” owing to the absence or lower levels of policing in the townships and rural areas.

Therefore it is probable that while white homicides during apartheid were accurately documented by the state, the number of black homicides was understated in official reports. For this reason, the “blacks killed” portions of Hofmeyr’s chart must be discounted; the data is simply not reliable enough to make any accurate findings – and the role of apartheid in creating or contributing to violence and murder in black communities is difficult to isolate.

Since 1990, race has not been listed as a category in official death records. This deliberate omission may have been intended to avoid exactly the kind of issue raised by Hofmeyr’s claims; the interpretation of raw data by non-experts to support some form of race-based conspiracy theory. In reality, however, the absence of such information has effectively perpetuated a race-crime mythology in South Africa.

It is, however, possible to gauge trends in white homicide based on older data. A 2004 report published in the SA Crime Quarterly compares homicide rates across all races from 1937 to 2003. Based on this, it is clear that homicide rates for all races increased over this period  (although they fell somewhat from 2003 onward). However, the increase in the white homicide rate began in the late 1970s and has remained markedly less than the increase in murder rates for all other race groups.

Murder by numbers

A central thread of Hofmeyr’s claims relates to apparent discrepancies in South African murder statistics.  Hofmeyr cites figures that appeared in McCafferty’s report which stated that “[w]hile police crime statistics show there were 21,683 murders in 2000, the [Medical Research Council] puts the figure at 32,482″.  McCaffrey also stated that ”while the SAPS claims there were 26,883 murders in 1995/96, Interpol claims there were 54,298”.

In its report at the time, the MRC said it “notes discrepancies in the statistics concerning road traffic accident deaths and homicides which needs further investigation”.  A revision of the 2000 data was published in 2006, in which the total number of deaths was revised downwards, from 550,000 to 520,000, and the “number of injury deaths” [which include homicide and traffic accidents] was “revised down by about 10,000”.

Based on this updated information, it was stated that “[o]f the estimated 59,935 injury deaths in 2000, 46% (27,563) were homicides”.  That still leaves a discrepancy of nearly 6,000 deaths.

Altbeker dealt with this specific issue in great detail in his report on murder and robbery in South Africa, in which he argued that “the MRC’s figures cannot be reliably used to refute the numbers presented by SAPS”. In short, he found that the data used to compile the MRC’s estimates had been incomplete or flawed and had yielded an inaccurate and overstated picture.

The “murder gap” between Interpol and SAPS numbers is easier to explain. Altbeker told Africa Check that Interpol combined both murder and attempted murder figures for South Africa, resulting in inflated numbers. This is confirmed by the 1999 Global Report on Crime and Justice published by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. Altbeker wrote extensively about the challenges with international crime data collection and comparison in a separate paper.

Both McCafferty and Hofmeyr’s claims about murder number discrepancies must therefore be dismissed.

White death in a time of democracy

Whites are far less likely to be murdered than their black or coloured counterparts,” Lizette Lancaster, who manages the Institute for Security Studies crime and justice hub, told Africa Check. This is supported by an analysis of a national sample of 1,378 murder dockets conducted by police in 2009.  In 86.9% of the cases, the victims were Africans. Whites accounted for 1.8% of the cases (although whites make up 8.85% of the population).

According to Lancaster official police statistics show that between April 1994 and March 2012 a total of 361 015 people were murdered in South Africa. Applying the 1.8% figure, it would mean that roughly 6,498 whites have been murdered since April 1994.

Even if there were some variation on the 1.8% figure, the number of white murder victims would still fail to come anywhere close to filling a soccer stadium. The fact is that whites are less likely to be murdered than any other race in South Africa. The current murder rate of white South Africans is also equivalent to, or lower than, murder rates for whites recorded between 1979 and 1991.

According to the 2011/12 SAPS annual report, Lancaster said,“only about 16% of murders occurred during the commission of another crime, mainly aggravated robbery. About 65% of murders started off as assaults due to interpersonal arguments and fuelled by alcohol and/or drugs, result[ing] in a murder”. The vast majority of murders are, she said,“social fabric crimes often perpetrated by friends or loved ones”.

The 2012 Victims of Crime Survey confirmed this assertion, stating that 16.1% of victims were “murdered by unknown people from outside their residential area” with an additional 10.9% of “murders … committed by known perpetrators outside [the victims’] residential area”, and the balance of homicides committed by community members, spouses and friends or acquaintances.

Even if the proportion of “outsider” crime was doubled for white homicide victims, this would still fall drastically short of the “77.3%” of white murders that Hofmeyr appears to claim are at the hands of black perpetrators.

Farm attacks

The interpretation of data on “farm attacks” is problematic as it relies on old police data and current, self-reported data collected and submitted by the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAUSA).

TAUSA figures for the 22 years between 1990 and 2012 state that 1,544 people were killed in farm attacks, an average of about 70 a year or one every 5.2 days. A report by trade union Solidarity, issued in 2012, found that 88 farmers were murdered in the 2006 to 2007 financial year.

So was Hofmeyr correct in claiming that “a white farmer is slaughtered every five days”?

According to a 2003 police committee of inquiry into farm attacks, cited by Solidarity, 38.4% of farm attack victims were described as being black, coloured or Asian. TAUSA’s figures suggest that 208 (or 13.5%) of those murdered in farm attacks between 1990 and 2012 were black.

Hofmeyr’s statement that a white farmer is murdered every five days is therefore also incorrect. The claim would only be true if he included all farm attack victims of all races.

Conclusion: Hofmeyr’s claims are grossly incorrect

Hofmeyr’s claims are incorrect and grossly exaggerated the level of killings.

South Africa certainly has one of the highest crime rates in the world and one that is characterised by a particularly high rate of violent crime. This is not an area where degrees of comparison offer any form of comfort. South Africans are affected daily by crime.

South Africa remains gripped by its fear of crime. In the 2012 Victims of Crime Survey, about 35% of households believed that crime had increased since the previous period.

Public figures like Hofmeyr, who disseminate grossly misleading information about crime patterns, only serve to contribute to this underlying fear. In addition, such misinformation creates or entrenches existing racial divisions and perpetuates an unfounded fear and hatred of other races.

Edited by Julian Rademeyer


Additional reading:

Where murder happens in South Africa

Farm murders: A national priority? (PowerPoint)

BLOG: Why it is more dangerous to be a farmer than a policeman in South Africa

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s official crime statistics for 2012/13

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s official crime statistics for 2013/14

A guide to crime statistics in South Africa

The politics of crime statistics

On 1 July Steve Hofmeyr issued a written response to both this report and an article confirming Africa Check’s findings which was published by the Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport.

The numerous claims Hofmeyr made and the “statistics” he presented do not add up. Since it was published, his post has had to be updated several times, removing, among other things, data that he claimed related to South Africa which actually came from another continent (and was also misconstrued).

Hofmeyr’s strongest argument boiled down to this: “Far more than facts, it is people’s emotions and experiences that matter … So ‘our people die like flies’ is still applicable, emotionally – and does not need to be supported by facts.”

Africa Check understands that perceptions do of course matter. As stated in our report, South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world and all murders are to be abhorred. Crime data, like all data everywhere, could and should be improved. This is something Africa Check is campaigning for. However, this is not a reason to dismiss inconvenient facts as Mr Hofmeyr does.

The sooner we all understand the reality of crime as it affects all individuals, the better that those living in South Africa will be able to engage with, participate in or lobby for initiatives aimed at addressing the very real problems that do exist, and that affect individuals from every community. Crime touches all of us, irrespective of race.

2 July 2013

© Copyright Africa Check 2013. You may reproduce this report or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events, subject to providing a credit to "Africa Check a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. Twitter @AfricaCheck and".

Comment on this report

Comments 46
  1. By ozoneblue

    So it is just more denial. Denial of ever increasing white poverty because of racist government employment legislation. Denial of anti-white racism that is openly perpetuated by senior government, ANC leaders and other blacks in senior leadership positions. Denial of the “killing of the boer”. Denial of the ANC’s policy of racial mobalization. Denial and more denial, Oh the fact are iffy? So where are the stats that you rely on to debunk those – right there are none because the only time when it is politically correct and we are obsessed with racial profiling is when it comes to AA/BEE. But when it comes to crime and murder stats – such racial profiling is “racist”? Yeah right.

  2. By Carol Slabolepszy

    It is vital that there is some way that we can get ‘sensational’ and emotional writing corrected…surely Steve Hofmeyr should be held accountable for this inflammatory article.

  3. By Patrick Cull

    Very interesting reading, however if you spend a number of paragraphs stating that the accuracy of apartheid police data for murders cannot be supported, then on that basis making any comparison with more recent data cannot be supported either. The data cannot be used to prove Mr Hofmeyr wrong or right – however we get the point that since the data is not to be trusted then neither is his assertion factual or to be trusted.

    Other than that – thanks for clearing that up. I especially found the data that only 16% (ish) of murders are not by people known to the victim. It would make interesting reading to see how this figure compares with other countries with large murder rates.

  4. By Martin van der Merwe

    Am I the only one living in South Africa, SA is a 100% worse than 20 years ago, in the 80’s we could walk the streets, no electric fences, no burglar proofing in front of our windows etc etc. no every night someone or a few is murdered, more than 52000 + murders a year, where Africa Check get their stats from I have no idea but they are so far off! @ Carol, where on this planet do you live, surely not is SA, SA is the crime capital, murder, rape capital of the world, I am so sick of people denying the fact that we actually living in a murderess cesspool!!!!!!

  5. By Sean Crookson

    Contrary to what Africa Check reports, the South African Police Service do have records of the race of people who die. Simply check form SAPS180, where all these details are required.

    You seem so eager to disprove things you aren’t taking care to check your own facts!

  6. By Marthinus

    Thank you for an enlightening article. It is amazing how, even in the light of overwhelming evidence presented in your article and many others (including my own), people still WANT to believe that whites are being slaughtered. The reaction to crime is caused by so many factors that are prevalent in the white psyche, such as unemployment, employment equity and feelings of being disowned – in a political desert for want of a better description. The fact is that today I feel much safer in South Africa than I did in the 80’s. I don’t think whites are being slaughtered. I think all South Africans are being slaughtered. Be that as it may, SA still has a lower crime rate per capita than some states in the US! Why is it so difficult for people to acknowledge that on average and overall, this country is a better place than it was 20 years ago? I was in the police and the army in the 80’s and from my personal experience I can tell you that there is no way that I want those years over again and I think we are in a vastly better space today – even the white people. Stop feeling disenfranchised. Do something constructive. Stop complaining.

  7. By John

    I also think Steve Hofmeyr is an idiot. Now that that’s out the way … I think this website could be an important tool for civil society in Africa. To do that, however, it needs to establish its credibility. The only way it will achieve that is if it sticks to cold, empirical facts. It seems that most of the content is being supplied by journalists who are trained to find a story. As a result, the pieces posted on here have emotive, newspaper-ish headlines like “Why Steve Hofmeyr is Wrong” and contain paragraphs of journalistic waffle that is unnecessary for the purpose of verifying the fact and ultimately winds up expressing an opinion.

    In the piece you did on Cape Town toilets, you wound up stating that Cape Town is not the worst city in the country, when it is in fact the best city in the country. In so doing, you became part of the debate. In this case, you’ve shifted the discussion to the question of which race faces the highest risk of being murdered.

    For this site to be truly useful, I think you need to establish a rigid process along the lines of that sticks to empirical facts and analysis without journalism. To my mind, it should work like this:

    1) State the fact you are checking – 1 white person is murdered every 5 days in South Africa.
    2) State the true facts – 1 person (all races included) is murdered every 5.2 days in farm attacks in South Africa. The Police and Solidarity say 62% of farm attack victims are white, TAUSA says 87% are white. So, 1 white person is murdered every 6.02 days (TAUSA) or 6.6 days (Solidarity).
    3) State whether the claim is true or false – It is false. However, the stat only takes into account farm attacks and in this regard it is somewhere between 62% and 88% correct which is 1 day out and so not grossly inacurrate.

    Then move onto the next fact, i.e. could the victims fill a stadium?

  8. By Marthinus

    @ Martin. No, you are not the only one living in SA. You are however one of the many who criticise and complain purely for the sake of complaining. 20 years ago there was as much crime if not more. I know. I was in the police force during that time. What qualifies you to make statements about the accuracy of Africa Check’s statistics? Did you bother to look at their sources and where the statistics come from? Have you done anything to substantiate YOUR claim that the stats are incorrect? Where are YOUR facts? I am also sick of some people Martin. In particular I am sick of people like you and Steve Hoffmeyr that rouse up everyone around them with their negativity and grossly exaggerated claims without one iota of evidence to substantiate anything. As I said in my previous comment. People like you WANT it to be true. It is not…

  9. By Africa Check

    Sean, the SAPS180 forms are not publicly available and the only publicly available data about murder is contained in SAPS annual reports and on the SAPS website and does not provide a breakdown by race. It hasn’t done so since the early 1990s.

  10. By ozonblue

    @marthinus. So you are saying that whites only “feel disenfranchised” and there is no factual evidence relating to the continued race-baiting aimed at whites on public platforms coming from the governing party including ministers like Angie Motshekga just a couple of days ago and similar comments about “white males” for example in WC or “pale males” in Guateng, senior black leaders advocating for the murdering of whites, or that the EE act for example is discriminating against “non-Africans” in general and the white minority in particular. If you believe all of that is just a perception then I certainly don’t know in which country you are living in my friend. And please stop telling us to “do something constructive” when we are increasingly excluded from participation by racially based AA/BEE legislation. What is it exactly that you want us to do when we are forced by legislation not to do something constructive?

  11. By Themba Mthwalo

    @Martin Van Der Merwe.
    When talking about “We” I presume you refer only to white people, as there is no way in hell you are referring to the conditions to which I was raised under. I grew up partly in Gugulethu, a township now famous for the murder of Anni Dewani. In the 80s, I was a teenager and I remember adults being robbed at knife point on weekends or monthends, for their misley wages. Finding dead bodies on the street was not uncommon, though many of these were as a result of the apartheid forces. I remember being shipped away by my parents to avoid the gangs in the townships which were sponsored by the SAP to distabilise the anti-apartheid effort in the townships. Police caspers were a common site in the township and we were so used to crime that even celebrating New Year was a dangerous proposition which resulted in people burning tyres and blocking roads. My step-brother was murdered in the 80s and my other step-brother was hit in the hard so hard that he had to retire before he turned 30. He died 15 years later having never recovered. So, when referring to “we” do make it clear that you are referring to white people who received overwhelming protection. However, “we” cannot refer to South Africa even in your world.

  12. By Lizette

    During Apartheid many white South Africans felt safer because we had security forces, pass laws, the Group Areas Act and no regard for Human Rights. Whites lived in what was perceived to resemble an idyllic life like we saw in the Truman Show.

    Today, crime levels remain unacceptably high, especially murder rates, assaults, rapes and aggravated robberies. Crime is everybody’s problem. Blaming a new South Africa and the government does not help. We need to help our communities and ourselves through joint efforts rather than ‘laer trek’. Proactive and inclusive citizen action can make a difference as seen in many communities but only if we empower ourselves through knowledge. This means we need to challenge your believes and perceptions on an ongoing basis. We need to review all the facts and statistics presented even if we do not want to believe these. Race based selective examples (which exclude other perspectives and realities) as well as half-truths and even blatant lies serve to polarise our society even further and feed our fear and paranoia. Therefore we do ourselves no favours.

  13. By Peter Viljoen

    Give us these figures: whites killed by blacks. Blacks killed by whites. No excuses, just the figures please.

  14. By Africa Check

    Perhaps you should read our report, Peter and you will understand that is not quite as simplistic as that.

  15. By Lloyd Kekana

    People like Hofmeyer are not helping this country to reach it intended goal of diverse tolerant culture. in fact it show how narrowly his mind can think, actually it is said for a person like him to articulate such carless statement, his so called people are the same who planted hate amongst South Africans as we now having this bloody legacy. Now when they start to taste spoon of their medicine he is screeming his lungs out, while we are used to jump, see and carry our own flesh and blood being killed by his people and our own who were taught by his people to slain without conscious, Hofmeyer to you remember when the late Eugene Terreblanche said black people are like eggs that can be smashed at anytime, Hofmeyer should be ashamed of himself, if these people of his were so clever and important that other race, why they failed to build harmonious South Africa? just a quick reminder on his short memory, people who said such statements would have been jailed or killed by his people. We know Hofmeyer you are a musician but be careful to sing poetic justice lyrics, Hofmeyer we the decadents of the oppressed manages to forgive and move forward with our life’s and try to make better out of it. You from privileged still stuck on anger, look you were minority from first that is why your forefathers decided to oppress ours because they knew if we would have used our majority they would have had power to rule this country, Hofmeyer just shut up and come up with ideas to build better South Africans

  16. By Michiel

    I agree that the way they do Statistical Analysis for sensationalism is pretty flawed: lies, dam lies and then statistics (Churchill?)

    What I want to know is how Accurate was the Census Data from the period 1937 to 1990, not Just the Homicide Data, Could it be Higher because of the Same Reason listed above about Bantustans being left out and or apathy towards the Apartheid Government to report actual figures on children born etc?

    Please clarify?

  17. By ozoneblue

    @Lloyd Kekana – “Now when they start to taste spoon of their medicine he is screeming his lungs out”. So in fact you are talking about racially motivated revenge which substantiates the theory of political motive. Especially if you look at the brutality involved. The Walkerville trio (See these links: and has fallen completely off the media map now – case postponed end last year never to be heard about again.There are countless cases of this where white victims are sadistically tortured before they are murdered, their bodies mutilated beyond recognition, with very little evidence of anything being stolen. But you tell us this is what we in fact deserve – all of us so you say.

  18. By Africa Check

    Michiel, it is probable that the census data – like the murder statistics – did not accurately reflect the country’s African population in the townships and in the rural areas and homelands.

    The total population of South Africa, and the total number of homicides in South Africa, are likely understated. Statistics regarding black life, and death, under apartheid should generally be treated with caution.

    This is, however, the only data we have available to work with, and is the data on which Steve Hofmeyr and McCafferty based their arguments. The crime analysts and experts we consulted for the report all indicated it was probable white deaths were accurately counted under and after apartheid, therefore the murder rate for whites should be viewed as reliable.

  19. By Frans

    “All the independent security and research experts we consulted for this report agreed that current murder figures provided by the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) should be considered accurate.”
    Ha ha ha ha ha yea right!

  20. By Sandile Duma

    He is still perpetuating the art that the Boers perfectly mastered under Apartheid, that of influencing people through fear by misinforming them. He just shows what a perfect student of right wing propaganda he is, that even after almost 20 years of democracy he hasn’t changed one bit. A true proponent of the old adage of old habits being too difficult to die.

  21. By Willie Bosman

    Just for interest sake, what was the murder rate for whites and blacks expressed as a percentage of the black and white populations before and after the 1994 elections? Has there been a real increase in the murder off white people or not? Is there a disproportional amount of whites being killed or not. I understand with many more millions of black people in the country that whites more blacks are being killed, what I want to figure out is for the total black population what percentage is getting killed and for the total white population what percentage is getting killed. Is this accelerating?

  22. By Africa Check

    Hi Willie. We deal extensively with murder rates and population figures in the report. See the sections headlined: “There are no ‘average’ murders”, “Murder by numbers” and “White death in a time of democracy”. We also explain that the murder rate has continued to fall since 2003/4.

  23. By Johann Robbertze

    Perhaps the old adage has relevance here. There is no one as dumb, or is it blind, than he that will not see. Mind boggling, to spend money and time on research to convince who? Like your predecessors you will bend truth, whichever way that suits you.

    Just look around you and think. Will the whole of South Africa wake up one morning and decide to spend trillions of Rand on building walls, electric fencing and employ private armies to keep themselves safe? Who or what has to be kept at bay?

    Like the politics of the day this report makes you a laughing stock among reasonable intelligence.

  24. By Chris

    Murder rate is not a good statistic to use for most purposes. For example, over the years medical treatment has evolved tremendously and thus many don’t actually die, where before they would have. Also, because of high crime rates, people are now very vigilant. After two break-ins in my house, the slightest noise wakes me up at night. Others have their revolver at the ready even when relaxing by the pool. These types of measures don’t spare you from becoming a victim of crime (again), but statistically speaking they do save lives. So no one, including Steve, should give that much attention to murder rates. Rather look at attempted murder, manslaughter and other violent crimes. Whites, in general, also have more protective steps/methods in place and in general more access to better health care, so it is to be expected that they would die less, proportionally speaking.

  25. By Michelle

    There seems to be a great deal of conversation going around in the Afrikaans circles about how Afrikaners are victims. I visited SA (my country of birth) a few years ago and got into a heated argument with a fellow Afrikaans friend about just ‘how bad’ the ‘poor Afrikaners’ have it in the new South Africa. The statements echoed Hofmeyr’s inaccurate propaganda and the fact that ‘none of the whites can find work’. I asked in disbelief, just how many Afrikaans friends she had who did not have work. She struggled to name one! This is out of a large circle of friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbours. I live in Scotland. I managed to name four of my friends here (in a first world country can I remind you) all with degrees (two of them with Master’s Degrees from top universities) who cannot find work here. I also have four interns working for free in my company to gain some work experience, because they cannot find paid work. A total wake-up call is needed for these ‘poor and victimised’ Afrikaners!

  26. By Christo

    I’ve read through the whole article and a few of the comments and I must say that most people commenting has only see the great part of South Africa. Yeah, one person spoke about her ‘Afrikaans friend’ that could not name one of her friends that is jobless. Have you been lower in the food chain. NO you haven’t. You are sitting comfortably somewhere overseas and visit your friends that have decent jobs, has a spouse that hit the jackpot by having a company or work for a company that might make money off the government, international companies or even from the really really poor folk in SA. I won’t consider myself rich and have a lot of money and I would also not consider myself poor – otherwise I wouldn’t have the opportunity to comment here as I would have a lack of access to online equipment.

    I’ve seen people, white people, that struggles to get a job. I for one, still have a dream to become a pilot one day. I don’t have the money to go to a flight school, but one thing that kept me from reaching my dream is the fact that I’m white – and I was not allowed to apply for cadet training at SAA… I’m sorry if I sound racist, but I’m not. I’m actually frustrated by the fact that there are people that don’t see the whole picture – and by sitting overseas in Australia, England or the US doesn’t make you a South African anymore. You might still be a citizen but you’re not South African. We have to deal with all these crap here in SA. Every time I get in my car and drive to the nearest big city, I have to be vigilant as not to get hijacked and killed. Every night I go to bed, hoping to see the sun come up the next day as I don’t know if I won’t be killed in my sleep.

    The statement I want to make is this:
    – Don’t think you have the right to comment or say anything while sitting in another country [why are you there in the first place if SA is such a great place?]
    – Steve’s figures might not be correct, but still I don’t feel safe
    – There is a lot of white people in SA that can’t follow their dreams or do their dream job due their skin colour
    – There is a lot of white people without jobs that are really willing to work and help to create a better future

    I’m sorry for the lengthy comment but I had to get it off my back. Ciao

  27. By Straight Talk

    It’s right to focus on murders, it’s easily the most reliable crime statistic. Safer countries will have far more crime in their stats than a country with a much higher murder rate – because people in the more murderous country are less bothered about petty offences and the police are probably more corrupt.

    The report is good Africa Check. I’ve personally known for years that Interpol and the MRCZA numbers that appear on these, frankly, weird blogs and spouted by some seriously weird individuals, are erroneous.

    Had I read his piece on his Facebook page I would have stopped reading after the assertion that South Africa has more unreported murders than Colombia. If any country has an unreported murder problem, then it’s Colombia (or Mexico). He should apologize to Colombia on his page, it’s an appalling comment that totally invalidates what Colombians have to live with. The fact that it has 2,000 likes is extremely troubling, but not entirely surprising.

    Some South African whites complain that the world doesn’t take their crime situation seriously, yet they have no scruples in mocking other country’s crime problems it seems. They do it a lot.

  28. By Me

    Shouldn’t the fact that a group of people feel so marginilised and threatened be a cause of concern for the government, and something they should try and rectify, instead of brushing it aside as just racist ignorance?

  29. By Hloni

    I think Steve has both his feet in his mouth again. Like others who have been brainwashed to think white is good and black is bad, it must piss him off to see blacks around but mostly to hear of a death of a fellow white man. I don’t think it will make sense to kill all white people, if it were true I wouldn’t be surrounded by white Afrikaners who make me feel as if I’m crowding their space by being on a holiday and having dinner in the same room. I got some looks last night when having dinner with my husband..

    Having said all that I don’t think stats reflect at times the reality that SA is and I’ve learnt to take information and be as fair as possible in analyzing it. The fact of the matter is crime is a huge problem and doesn’t really chose color or gender.

    Steve’s comment is based on emotions and frustration and maybe a wish that things could go back to the way it was.. Or maybe he fears another Zim is at dawn.. There’s still a long way to go I say…

  30. By Rudi

    It is quite an interesting piece to read this. But I would like to question the motive in the piece. Was this piece done as a true fact finding and well researched journalism, or was it mere slapped together from a couple of sources to put Steve Hofmeyr in his place?

    Fact is, Steve is a symptom of the “New” South Africa. He is unhappy about an increasingly more corrupt government. He is unhappy about service delivery. He is unhappy about crime in SA. So am I. But yet, it is made out to be ok to have 30 murders per 100 people. Why is that ok?

    What about the rape statistic in SA? and what about the rape cases that does not get reported?

    What about the textbook crisis in Limpopo where High School children are supposed to write exams now, without text books?

    I am afraid to say that this piece was just pulled up as a stick to beat Steve with, instead of getting to the real truth. The SA Police service’s results needs to be verified by an external audit, otherwise it is just as good as Steve’s claims.

    Maybe if we all just stand together, and say NO to crime, NO to corrupt officials, NO to rape and we teach our children the difference between right and wrong, we will not be happy with 30 murders per 100 people.

    I do not care if they are white or black. 30 is unacceptable.

  31. By Africa Check

    Hi Rudi

    Thanks for your comment. We do agree with you that a rate of 30.9 murders per 100,000 people – the overall average in South Africa is far too high. Indeed, as we say in the article “South Africa certainly has one of the highest crime rates in the world and one that is characterised by a particularly high rate of violent crime. This is not an area where degrees of comparison offer any form of comfort. South Africans are affected daily by crime.”

    However, we also believe that it is important that debate on any topic is grounded on facts, not myths or misunderstandings. Without that, it is not possible to have sensible informed debate.

    For the other topics you mention, if you check our earlier reports, you will see reports investigating claims made about the true cost of civil claims made against the police and the promises the government has made to set up specialised courts to tackle rape and other sexual offences, and lots more topics.

    Best regards,
    Africa Check

  32. By Pietskiet

    The current murder rate in the USA is described as being horrendously high and unsatisfactory, making them a violent country and the ridicule of many European nations. I just wonder what that would make us as our murder rate slightly exceeds their, yet we have about 250million LESS citizens. In other words, we have far 5 times less people but yet our murder rate it higher! Now you can whip out numbers and throw facts around but in the end it does nothing to change our dire situation. So in my estimation, Steve was correct in saying: the people in our country are dropping like flies.

  33. By ABC

    I’m glad somebody has started to dispel some of the absurd rumours that politicians and celebrities like to make, including Steve’s usual stories. I however do not agree completely with you methodology.

    If you want to dispel faceless rumour, you will need to provide the hard facts, either in the article or as a downloadable document. Just like I don’t trust Steve, I am not going to trust you without seeing the data for myself (with full details on the source).

    Also, some of your conclusions are a bit far reaching, it feels that you have stretched the data to match your conclusion. The one that stood out for me is the murders by 100,000, where you used the highest apartheid figure (1970) compared to the lowest after apartheid (2011/2012). Now the statement made by Steve is very vague, and as you said an average murders figure, even using death by 100,000 figure, would not mean much, but this does not make your conclusion correct. The correct conclusion would be that some years after apartheid would be lower, but a much deeper analysis will have to be done on the figures, and even this will not amount to meaningful conclusions.

  34. By Africa Check

    Thank you for your comment ABC. The source material we used is referenced throughout the report with links to the relevant websites, documents and research reports. Just click on the links.

    As we pointed out in the report, crime statistics are commonly expressed by statisticians, crime analysts and researchers as a ratio per 100,000 of the population rather than in raw numbers. This provides a far more accurate picture of the impact of crime on a population over time and is an internationally accepted measure, which is why we used it.

    South Africa’s population has grown significantly since the 1950s and 1970s and this naturally impacts on the murder rate. McCafferty’s research fails because he did not follow his own advice and take into account factors like “population growth and differentials in time periods”.

    Our report refers to the murder rate in 1951 and 1970, the mid-1990s – when it peaked sharply before dropping – and 2011/2012. The most recent crime stats available are from 2011/2012.

  35. By Patrick

    Perhaps Steve Hofmeyr should be seen as a victim of the media industry. If he had read about the McCafferty study in some article or publication he would have had no idea about any potential flaws in the survey. Most articles regarding studies or trials (especially medical trials) are reported uncritically or even incorrectly as the journalist is usually ill equipped to understand the details of the study/trial/survey that is being reported on. The end result is that end consumers of these publications are left with a potentially warped worldview.

  36. By Monique

    This is a great piece. Thank you so much for this, and for all the vital work you do. Your careful, thoughtful, and thorough analyses are crucial for creating and sustaining a genuine and resilient democracy, and they’re much appreciated.

    I just have a few small concerns, though. I do realise that, since the vast majority of South Africans are black, most crime is inevitably committed by black people. Nonetheless, given that this piece is specifically a debunking of wildly inaccurate and offensively racist, anti-black claims regarding crime statistics, it seem less than ideal to choose a photo of only black crime suspects for the main image at the top of the page.

    Also, a bit further down, there is an image of two murder victims lying in the road. I just find it very hard to believe that a photo of white, affluent murder victims would be used like this–captionless, with unnamed victims lying there simply to illustrate the topic of murder. The use of the chosen photo seems quite disrespectful and dehumanising, as it’s presented.

    Lastly, I do know that the term ‘African’ is widely used in SA as a synonym for ‘black (South African)’, but it strikes me as inaccurate and devisive. Certainly, there is a valid debate to be had about who truly is African and why, but using the term ‘black’ instead at least leaves the answer to that debate open, without automatically excluding even the possibility of white, coloured, Asian, and other South Africans being Africans.

  37. By Africa Check

    Thank you for your comments, Monique. They are greatly appreciated. With regard to your concerns about the main photograph, the man in the centre with his head bowed is the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius. The two men accompanying him are police officers. The picture was carried prominently in the press after Pistorius’ arrest.

    The photograph of the two murder victims has a caption which appears if you scroll over it with your mouse pointer. (We are currently improving various design elements of the website and will be looking more closely at the way that captions are displayed). The image, while distressing and shocking, illustrates a significant point in the paragraph alongside it and also the brutal reality of crime in South Africa.

    In the report, the word “African” is used twice; firstly in a quotation and secondly in reference to a specific study which made use of the term. In all other instances we refer to “black” South Africans.

  38. By liz ward

    very interesting and competent journalism. do I take these facts as correct? I am so sick of dishonest and unreliable information about a country I grew up in and love.

  39. By Aaron

    Nowhere in this article is there reference to an authoritative or definitive statistical source of homicide data in South Africa, let alone a racial breakdown of such. The sources provided either of limited scope, conjecture or extrapolations, and as such cannot be said to be any more “correct” than Hofmeyr’s claims.

    The fact remains that the South African government actively withholds detailed crime statistics, and seems to have great difficulty in producing accurately classified figures for those that it does release. Why?

    Furthermore, the brutality of a large percentage of black on white murders, especially farm murders, where frequently there is nothing stolen and victims have been murdered in horrendous, gratuitously violent ways, is a factor that cannot be addressed in any statistic.

  40. By Africa Check

    Aaron, we refer throughout the report to the sources of the data used and include links to research conducted by leading crime analysts and researchers.

    While there are certainly valid questions to be asked about the accuracy of crime statistics in general, every single researcher and analyst we spoke to (and we spoke to a number who are considered to be leading experts in the field) agreed that current murder statistics are accurate. Unlike other categories of crime statistics, murder figures are extremely difficult to manipulate or conceal.

    The brutality of any murder, no matter who it is committed by or who the victim is, can never be addressed in a statistic.

  41. By Riaan

    You are wrong about steve and dont question him about where he gets the info, just accept the fact is that us white people are still the minority. he has his reasons for saying what needs to be said and all that matters is if people wants to see real reality.
    Honestly i dont trust the government, Politics or the municipality with their records.
    They are still keeping most of those info for themselves.

  42. By JohanM

    @Julian Rademeyer who on earth gave you authority to speak on behalf of Afrikaners. The mere fact that your surname might be of Afrikaans origin, your first name definitely doesn’t, just don’t allow you that right, period.
    Your key fact sources: Rob McCafferty, SAPS, National Planning Commission don’t leave much to the fact that the credibility of such sources are highly questionable. When the education minister starts cooking the pass rates of scholars and the minister of police do likewise, why would any intelligent educated person have any faith in the national planning commission’s so called stats also? Not to talk about Rob McCafferty, who ever the heck he is.
    When a 3yrs old boy is shot execution style and his mother raped for hours and the prize is a cheap cellphone, it doesn’t take an intellectual to figure out that the motive was political, or race hate.
    Bearing the name “Africa Check” might leave one to believe that a vast number of visitors to this web site might be black, it’s clear that the whole issue of white murders is concocted to serve just that specific group. What a shame that someone like you who’s not of black ethnic origin will allow himself to be sucked up into this mess, just to attempt to undermine a credible and very intellectual character like Steve Hofmeyer.
    When we dare to stand up for our own, it’s called racist. If we dare not to agree with Youth day, Mandela day or any Black conscious memorial affair, we’re called racist. When will people learn to realize that the phrase unity in diversity is so applicable to SA, in fact it’s a slogan utilized by the United Nations also.
    White always has to carry the blame for Africa’s failures and their inability to make a success of this beautiful continent. And for now it’s reached such ridiculous preportions, that the international community is starting to express themselves negatively against it.
    Unfortunately the current black generation of politicians have too many apartheid baggage in their system to think otherwise and it might or hopefully take another two generations to overcome this barrier, to ensure that SA really crosses the apartheid rubicon!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. By Julian Rademeyer

    Johan, I have never claimed to speak on behalf of Afrikaners. Some, like Hofmeyr, appear to think that they do.

    If you had read our report, you would have seen that Rob McCafferty was one of the primary sources for some of the many inaccurate statistics trotted out by Hofmeyr, the man you regard as “credible and very intellectual”. (In his initial response to our report, Hofmeyr included crime data that he claimed related to South Africa which actually came from another continent.)

    Nowhere in our report do we say that the murder rate in South Africa, or the brutality that often accompanies it, is acceptable.

    We do however take issue with Hofmeyr’s dishonest attempt to perpetuate a divisive and grossly inaccurate racial stereotype. Crime affects all South Africans, irrespective of race.

    As stated above, the sooner we understand the reality of crime as it affects all individuals, the better that those living in South Africa will be able to engage with, participate in or lobby for initiatives aimed at addressing the very real problems that do exist, and that affect individuals from every community.


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