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South Africa sees sharp jump in murder rate

Published on 19/09/2014

The murder rate in crime-plagued South Africa rose to almost 47 killings a day in the past year, according to damning police statistics released Thursday.

Some 17,068 people were murdered in the country in the 12 months to March, police commissioner Riah Phiyega revealed, a five percent rise from the previous year.

“Murder did show an increase and we are very concerned about that because they are 800 more compared to the previous year,” said Phiyega.

Data shows that South Africa, with a population of 53 million, has among the highest rates of violent crime in the world, with murders up more than nine percent in two years.

Evidence of this scourge is seen everywhere in the country.

The few who can afford it barricade themselves behind high electric fences, shuttling too and from buildings with armed guards in cars fitted with tracking devices and smash-proof windows.

But the vast majority of victims live in the country’s poorer areas and townships.

Like much of the world South Africa’s economy was hit hard by the global financial crisis and inequality remains shockingly high.

Experts say the high rate of crime is linked to a lack of respect for the rule of law.

Until the end of apartheid in 1994, “South Africans had little reason to respect the law, and no reason to believe in the rule of law” said Chandre Gould, a researcher at Pretoria’s Institute of Security Studies.

“South African attitudes towards the law are demonstrated in small things, such as the high number of people who drive without seat belts and who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” she said.

“The many teachers who still beat children at school; police officers who break traffic rules; drivers who ignore red traffic lights and so on.”

While Friday’s statistics also showed an increase in attempted murder, robbery and theft, the longer 10-year-trend showed that overall crime is on the decline.