10,000 murders uphold SA's name for violence

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The Independent Online


South Africa's designation as the most violent country in the world outside a war zone looks unlikely to change, according to the latest police statistics.

More than 10,000 people were murdered in the first seven months of last year, according to the South African Police Service's National Crime Information Management Centre. In the same period, 1,126,101 serious crimes were reported across the country, excluding the old homelands.

The total includes 46,752 armed robberies, 55,890 cases of car theft, 18,684 rapes, 96,391 aggravated assaults, 90,410 common assaults, and 10,161 murders, an average of one murder every 29 minutes.

While comparative figures for the same period in 1994 were not immediately available, figures for the first six months of 1994 and 1995 showed substantial increases in all violent crimes except murder, which had decreased by 7 per cent in 1995.

Police stress that the figures are preliminary and that they will not know the true picture until later this year. "At the moment we are optimistic that some of the figures, particularly murder, might be on the decrease," said Reg Crewe, national police spokesman. "We will just have to wait and see."

Last year the World Health Organisation named South Africa as the world's murder capital. And last week the South African National Police Commissioner, George Fivaz, said that unless the police force is given the funds it needs to fight crime, South Africa risks becoming a "gangster state".

Violence has long plagued South Africa, but under apartheid the country's whites reassured themselves that it was mostly confined to black townships. While violent crime has now spilled over into the white suburbs, it still affects blacks significantly more than whites. It is estimated that, on average, 15 per cent of a South African's disposable income is spent on security measures.

Thousands of young English-speaking white professionals are opting to emigrate. While the exodus is hard to measure, the High Commission for Australia, one of the most popular destinations, says it receives around 50 applications a week from would-be migrants.

According to one recent survey, there may be as many as 250,000 white South Africans, or 5 per cent of the total white population, now living abroad.

A State of Fear, Section Two