According to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey of countries with reliable crime statistics, South Africa – with a murder rate of 31.9 per 100 000 people – has the 14th highest murder rate in the world. Granted it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and sees an influx of tourists during the holiday crazy season, the high murder rate is worrisome none the less. The number of reported murders increased by 4.2 percent while sexual crimes increased by 2.9 percent with a 10 percent jump in reported attempted murders. Crime stats will not prevent you visiting a destination, but knowing which areas to avoid might prevent you from becoming one. The following list contains the top 10 most dangerous places in South Africa with the number of assault cases reported for 2013.
10. Park Road, Freestate (1 029)
Park Road Police Station in Mangaung, a township near Bloemfontein, recorded the third highest number of serious total crimes reported at any police station in South Africa in the 12 months from April 2012 to March 2013. National crime statistics released by the Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, showed that 13 870 cases of serious crime were reported at this police station in the period under review. This translates to a 17.5 percent increase on the 11 807 cases recorded in the corresponding period between April 2011 and March 2012. At Park Road, the number of murder and sexual assault cases dropped to 20 and 177 respectively and during the same period there were 26 cases of murder and 190 sexual assaults recorded. “Phew” by South African standards.
9. Plessislaer, Kwazulu-Natal (1 142)
Situated on the outskirts of the sleepy hollow town of Pietermaritsburg in Kwazulu-Natal, this precinct has only 11 police officers to service more than 13 areas within their jurisdiction. No wonder residents feel safer calling on the help of private security companies in their time of need – or taking the law into their own hands. This tiny district also recorded 105 murders, 36 attempted murders, 325 sexual crimes and a shocking 935 residential robberies. They made this list because of the high crime rate per capita given that this is one of the smallest settlements in the country and it borders one of the most prominent business centres in the Kwazulu-Natal province.
8. Chatsworth, Kwazulu-Natal (1 195)
An Indian denominated community near the coastal city of Durban, Chatsworth has long been viewed as one of the nation’s drug and gang-related crime hotspots. The South African Police Service annual crime statistics revealed for April to March that at smaller Police Stations like Malvern and Bayview, the crime is lower as compared to Chatsworth Stations, which police a larger area. The area of concern is the increase in murder at Chatsworth from last year’s 45 to this year’s 76. The number of rape incidents shows a large increase of 33 more rapes compared to last year, but an overall increase over previous years. In total 189 sexual crimes were reported, 416 robberies with aggravated circumstances and 328 automobiles were stolen. In total 1 395 arrests were made for drug-related crimes. Oh, and the area also reported 32 kidnappings.
7. Moroka, Gauteng (1 217)
Soweto. A while back the crime in this area was so out of control that the newly appointed station commander for the precinct, Brigadier Joseph Seaba, had to do something drastic. So he started the trend of arresting scores of people for public order offences like public drinking and public urination and then bragging about the number of arrests made over a weekend. Despite none of them being for serious crimes like carjacking which has shot up to 102 reported for the 2012/2013 period. During this same period 48 cases of murder, 258 robberies, 49 kidnappings and 910 house burglaries were reported. Only one truck was hijacked in comparison to the 208 automobiles reportedly jacked during the same period which makes one seriously weigh up your transport options for the daily commute. Brigadier Seaba has since resigned from the police service after having been ordained a bishop of the St John’s Apostolic Mission in the Vaal. He said that prayer kept him and his team alive during his time serving in Moroka. Well…
6. Johannesburg Central, Gauteng (1 254)
The country’s biggest metropolis and central business hub can be a dangerous place, even by South African standards. You will surely not be under constant threat at all times, but you should be aware of the potential dangers. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) of the US Department of State rated the crime threat in Johannesburg as “critical”. These crimes range from pick-pocketing to ATM manipulations and more seriously, elaborate armed robberies targeted at businesses or cash transports. The inhibition threshold for resorting to violence is notoriously low amongst South Africa’s criminal elements – a mugger with a gun or knife is likely to use their weapon if provoked, so don’t resist or try to fight back if confronted. In support of these claims the past year recorded 53 murders, 983 robberies with aggravating circumstances, 2 358 common assault cases and 641 car jackings. A total of 18 cases of public violence and 65 kidnappings topped off the list of activities you could indulge yourself in right in the middle of town – often in broad daylight.
5. Worcester, Western Cape (1 411)
Being the largest town in the Western Cape’s interior region (Winelands), it serves as the administrative capital of the Breede Valley Local Municipality and as regional headquarters for most central and Provincial Government Departments. The town also serves as the hub of the Western Cape’s interior commercial, distribution and retail activity with a shopping mall, well developed central business district. It also boasts 1 322 cases of armed robbery at residential properties for the last year alone. Coupled with 1 266 counts of drug related crimes and 1 826 counts of petty theft, this bustling little hell hole really attracts the visitors. The year between 2012 and 3013 saw 45 murders and 85 attempted murders with 384 common robberies and 858 assaults with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm. It occupies fifth position purely because of crime to size ratio that would even put the Bronx to shame.
4. Hillbrow, Gauteng (1 575)
Hillbrow, in the heart of Johannesburg is where uncontrolled revellers drop fridges from high-rises on New Year’s Eve and even the South African police force dare not tread. It is one of the most dense pieces of real estate on the African continent and is notorious for harbouring Nigerian drug lords, being over-run by prostitution syndicates and generally just being a very, very nasty place. It houses the infamous Hillbrow Tower which is one of the tallest residential apartment buildings in the southern hemisphere. Within its 54 storeys you will find staircases lined with over-dosing junkies, pushers and families of eight living in two bedroom units. Many of them unemployed and relying on the drug fuelled sub-economy of the area for an income. The Institute for Security Study’s Gareth Newham said clean police officers in Hillbrow did not stand much of a chance: “Hillbrow station has a particular problem with corruption.” The recent 2013 crime stats showed 63 murders, 2 064 cases of common assault and robbery, 765 cases of drug-related crime and 43 kidnappings. These don’t include the cases not reported by the “clean” police officers… of course.
3. Umlazi, Kwazulu-Natal (1 591)
Umlazi is the biggest township in KwaZulu-Natal and the second biggest in South Africa after Soweto. The name Umlazi comes from “umlaza” (Zulu for the sour acid produced from fermented milk or sour milk). It is believed that when King Shaka was passing through the area, he refused to drink from a local river claiming it had the taste of “umlaza”. Today, it could possibly be the highest murder rate in the country that leaves that sour taste in the mouths of visitors to this lovely piece of heaven. Umlazi boasted 122 murders, 262 attempted murders and 1 591 assault cases. On average, 10 people are killed daily in Kwazulu-Natal – a quarter of those in Umlazi.
2. Phoenix, Kwazulu-Natal (1 789)
Phoenix is situated northwest of central Durban along the edges of King Shaka International Airport. It was established as a township in 1976 and is associated with the Phoenix Settlement, built by Mahatma Gandhi. Today it is the largest “Indian” town in South Africa. In stark contrast to the original pacifist, Phoenix is regarded as one of the most dangerous places to even stop over at in the entire country. The settlement sported 2 181 instances of common theft, 1 785 cases of drug-related violence, 32 murders and 48 kidnappings. Common robberies totalled 854 while a staggering 618 vehicles were hijacked during that same period. This places you as the foreign tourist in the 65 percentage bracket of becoming a statistic.
1. Mitchells Plain, Western Cape (2 764)
Conceived of as a “model township” by the apartheid government, it was built during the 1970s to provide housing for coloured victims of forced removal due to the implementation of the Group Areas Act. It is situated 15 miles from the hugely popular holiday destination of Cape Town.
Mitchell’s Plain Police Station sits at the top of the table with 20 304 serious crimes recorded in the 2012/13 year, a marked improvement from 21 094 cases reported in the previous financial year. For years, Mitchell’s Plain experienced the highest violence and property crime rates in the country. With the recent surge in gang violence, Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding areas clearly require in-depth multi-disciplinary intervention. In the recent South African crime statistics, this corner of paradise featured in the top 10 worst precincts in every crime sub category including Common Assault (2 764 cases), Robbery (1 237), Burglary (1 702), Drug-Related crime (6 311), Residential theft (5 595) and Shoplifting (1 577). To add insult to injury they also reported 71 kidnappings.