11 September 2018

Africa: Factsheet - South Africa's Crime Statistics for 2017/18

Photo: Government of South Africa
Major General Sekhukhune says a two-year comparison of contact crimes shows that murder went up by 6.9% - from 19016 in 2016/17 to 20336 in 2017/18.

This factsheet summarises statistics for South Africa's main crimes of public interest during 2017/18.

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.

Researched by Africa Check

This factsheet summarises the statistics in two ways:

absolute numbers (20,336 murders, for example)

crimes per day (56 murders every day).

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.)

We will add these in an update to this factsheet as we have discovered a discrepancy between the population estimates Statistics South Africa supplied to us and that used by the South African Police Service.

Here are statistics for the main crimes of public interest.

1. Murder

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, murdered 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.

In 2017/18, an average of 56 people were murdered every day.

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.

Murders of women and children

In 2017/18, a total of 2,930 women were murdered in South Africa. 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.

Attempted murder

A total of 18,233 attempted murders were reported to the police in 2017/18, up slightly from 18,205 the previous year.

2. Sexual offences

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.

Rape

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.

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.

3. Assault

Common assault

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 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.

4. Robbery

Common Robbery

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. 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 robbery

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. On average, 61 households were robbed each day.

South Africa's 2016/17 Victims of Crime Survey revealed that only 56.7% of victims reported this crime to the police.

5. House burglary

A house burglary is committed when a person "unlawfully and intentionally breaks into a building" with the intention to take something on the premises.

This was reported as the most feared crime in South Africa in the 2016/17 Victims of crime survey.

In 2017/18, 228,094 house burglaries were recorded - an average of 625 houses per day.

South Africa's 2016/17 Victims of Crime Survey revealed that 28.3% of house burglary victims didn't report the crime to the police because they thought the police would not act.

6. Other crime

Carjacking

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.

Cash-in-transit heists

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).

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