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South Africa: Crime and security

View the table depicting SA’s crime stats. Number of murders, prison population etc.
  • Between 1994 and 2011 the overall rate of serious crime in the country came down by 20%. Rates of murder and attempted murder came down by 52% and 55% respectively.
  • During the same period the daily incidence of the 20 most serious crimes increased by 3%.
  • In 2010/11 some 44 murders, 181 sexual offences, 278 aggravated robberies, and 678 burglaries were committed per day. On average, police arrested 413 people per day on drug-related charges. (The dates 2010/11 refer to the police reporting year, which runs from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011.)
  • In 2009 reports of numerous instances of manipulation of crime statistics by ‘a substantial number’ of police stations surfaced in the media. That year 12 officials of the Mountain Rise police station in KwaZulu-Natal were charged with tampering with crime statistics. The station had received a R500 000 bonus for being the top station in the reduction of crime. The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) found 170 unregistered dockets hidden in a room at the station. In the Western Cape the ICD investigated 1 000 dockets after receiving complaints that police were registering complaints as inquiries rather than criminal cases on the police database to keep down crime figures. In April 2011 the ICD announced that it had sent a report on alleged manipulation of crime statistics by police officers in Paarl and Oudtshoorn to the National Prosecuting Authority for consideration [Mail & Guardian Online 15 April 2011; Sunday Times 13 December 2009].
  • The general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Mr Zwelinzima Vavi, said as many as 13 members of Cosatu or the African National Congress (ANC) were murdered in recent times owing to political infighting. Mr Vavi added that in some instances the suspects belonged to the same organisations as their victims [Business Day 26 October 2011].
  • A political group that campaigns for the establishment of a separate independent state for Afrikaans-speaking people within South Africa, Geloftevolk, said more than 40 000 white people had been murdered since the country’s new democracy. The group said the murders constituted a genocide of white people [Geloftevolk van Suid Afrika, minutes of a meeting dated 28–30 October 2011].
  • Many rural farmers had resorted to keeping their sheep inside their homes at night to prevent their being stolen. The chairman of the National Wool Growers Association said the theft of sheep in Ermelo (Mpumalanga) over a 20-year period had reduced the area from a significant wool producer to one of the smaller producers worldwide [Business Day 11 March 2011]. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said there was around R15bn worth of contracts capable of being investigated in the country. The SIU reportedly found 306 conflict of interest matters, to the value of R3.4bn, between them affecting most government departments [Parliamentary Monitoring Group,, accessed 17 October 2011].
  • Between 2010 and 2011 the number of police officers murdered decreased by 8%. Between 1994 and 2011 the number of such crimes went down by 65%.
  • Of the 5 869 complaints and notifications lodged against SAPS members to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) in 2010/11, some 56% were criminal cases and deaths either at the hands of police or in police custody. The remainder of the cases involved violations of the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 – such as where a police officer may fail to apprehend an abusive spouse — and incidents of misconduct.
  • Of the 2 493 criminal cases reported to the ICD in 2010/11 some 68 resulted in convictions and 28 in acquittals. Other cases were carried over to the following financial year.
  • On 13th April 2011 police officials assaulted and shot to death Mr Andries Tatane during a protest march by residents of Ficksburg (Free State). Two days later the deputy chief executive of the Institute, Mr Frans Cronje, wrote an open letter to the minister of police that called for the suspension and prosecution of all the officers implicated in Mr Tatane’s death. Subsequently, eight police officers were suspended and charged for serious assault and murder. The trial date for the eight policemen was set for 23 November 2011 [SAIRR, Open letter on the death of Andries Tatane, 15 April 2011; News24,, accessed 7 June 2011; Independent Newspapers,, 14 July 2011].
  • Between 1996 and 2011 the degree of overcrowding in prisons grew by 52%.
  • The proportion of prisoners sentenced to less than six months declined by 93% between 1995 and 2011 while that of prisoners serving sentences of 10 years and longer went up by more than 2 400%.
  • Between 2008/09 and 2010/11 the rate of assaults on prisoners rose from 83 to 317 per 10 000 prisoners. Members of Parliament were informed that this was likely to increase the number of civil claims against the Department of Correctional Services [Business Day 13 October 2011].
  • In January 2011 the Correctional Matters Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament. The Bill made provision for accused persons who were remanded in custody to be released into police custody for seven days for further investigation. Civil society organisations criticised the provisions as they believed they would lead to the abuse and torture of detainees [Business Day 26 January 2011].
  • In May 2011 the state of California in the United States was ordered to release more than 30 000 prisoners to alleviate prison overcrowding. The reduction in the prison population was a requirement of the US constitution aimed at addressing the violation of prisoners’ human rights, according to the court judgement. The order gave a mandate of no more than 110 000 prison inmates. At the time of the ruling there were over 143 000 prisoners against accommodation for 80 000 [Financial Times 24 May 2011].

Download the full report here:

* This report was prepared by South African Institute of Race Relations


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