JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – After years of decreasing crime, South Africa is grappling with a rise in murders, home burglaries and car hijackings, the police minister said Thursday.
For the first time in nine years, the number of murders has increased, by 0.6 percent in the year to April, minister Nathi Mthethwa said, announcing annual statistics.
A total of 16,259 murders occurred, or close to 45 murders a day.
South Africa has gained a reputation as one of the most violent countries in the world, with murder, rape, robbery and carjacking widespread.
After inroads made to lower the crime rate and repair that image, crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) showed a setback.
Attempted murder, home burglaries, and car hijackings have also increased for the year ending in April while drug-related crimes have soared by 13.5 percent.
"It is clearly evident that there are many underlying contributing factors, these include alcoholism, drugs, unemployment, and the generally violent nature of our society," said national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
The country of 52 million is plagued by unemployment, which currently hovers around 25 percent, as well as widespread drug use and gang warfare.
The statistics are closely watched in the crime-obsessed country, where the rich live behind high electric fences and hire private security guards armed with automatic weapons.
But poor black South Africans are disproportionately affected.
The latest figures are a gift to Democratic Alliance, the country's official opposition party, ahead of the 2014 general election.
The ruling African National Congress will have to fight accusations that its government is unable to fight crime.
However the statistics showed a decreases in sexual assault and common robbery. Sexual offences and rape fell by 0.4 percent.