JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rates of violent crime increased for a third year in a row in South Africa, a worrying sign that violence has become a characteristic of the country, the police minister said on Tuesday.
South Africa's murder rate has increased by 4.6 percent, according to official crime statistics.
"There are still high levels of violence and aggression in our society and this is a serious concern," Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko told parliament. Poverty and inequality, and the prevalence of firearms contributed to this, he said.
At least 17,805 South Africans were murdered last year, a rate of 49 every day in a population of 54 million, according to the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition party.
"This number of deaths is what one would expect from a country at war," Diane Kohler Barnard, a Democratic Alliance member, said in a statement.
The decrease in numbers of rape and other forms sexual violence by 5.4 percent may mean that victims do not trust the police enough to report these crimes, said Kohler Barnard.
More than 50,000 sexual offences were reported to South African police last year, but the number of sexual victims willing to report these crimes has dropped by 21 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to a national survey on victims of crime, carried out by Statistics South Africa, a government agency.
The increase of robberies, a crime typically carried out by repeat offenders, also points to police ineffectiveness, said Gareth Newham, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, an independent think tank.
"With a budget of around 80 billion rand (about $5.7 billion), some of the best technology in the world, and more than 194 000 personnel, the SAPS (the South African Police Service) should be better able to reduce crimes such as robbery," Newham said in a statement.