Murders rise in South Africa despite decreasing crime

The number of murders in South Africa, one of the world’s most violent countries, increased in the first three months of the year despite the overall crime rate falling, police said Friday.

A total of 4,976 people were murdered in January to March 2021, during which Covid-19 restrictions were gradually eased, Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters.

That marks a 8.4 percent increase from the same period in 2020.

Almost half — 2,378 — of the murders were in public places such as streets, fields, parks and abandoned buildings.

The latest rise comes after homicides increased by 6.6 percent in the final three months of last year, the minister added.

However in the first three months of 2021, overall crime fell by 8.5 percent.

There was a four-percent decrease in the number of rapes, with an average of 110 cases reported to the police every day.

Over 9,500 rape cases were reported from January to March, 387 fewer than the previous year. More than half took place at the home of the victim or the alleged rapist, Cele said.

Home burglaries meanwhile declined by 20 percent, vehicle thefts by 17.2 percent and assaults by nine percent.

Cele said that in 2,800 of the 75,000 assaults reported during the period, “it was confirmed that alcohol was consumed either by the victim or the perpetrator or both”.

Violence in South Africa had plummeted during a strict coronavirus lockdown between March and May 2020, when the sale of alcohol was banned.