South Africa still ranked at the top or near the top in the world in terms of per capita rates of murder, rape and assault, with more than 46 people a day being killed and 187 people a day falling victim to sexual crime.
The figures were for the period from April 2009 to the end of March 2010, just before the soccer World Cup, when an increased police presence led to claims of significant drops in crime during the June-to-July event.
The high crime rate has been a drag on foreign investment in Africa’s largest economy, made it more difficult to recruit high-level talent from abroad, retain talent at home and added costs to businesses for security and insurance.
“Even if there are marginal declines, the high crime rates definitely have a negative impact on investor perceptions of South Africa,” said Gary van Staden, political analyst with NKC, a group of independent economists.
Successive governments have pledged to cut crime, putting more police on the street and launching high profile campaigns that have done little to reduce the violence.
Massive unemployment, poverty, huge disparities in income, easy access to weapons and the lingering effects of the racial oppression of apartheid have been cited by experts as reasons for the persistently high levels of violent and property crime.
More police on the street caused the murder rate to fall for the year by 8.6 percent, although that was still nearly 17,000 homicides in a country of 49 million.
Only central and south American countries plagued by the narcotics trade have comparable murder figures.
The number of reported sexual offences dropped by 4.4 percent, but there was an increase in home burglaries and property theft as the economy suffered its first recession in 17 years.
“The tide is turning against crime and criminal, as we push back the frontiers of evil,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told a news conference.
The government of President Jacob Zuma has made crime reduction one of its top policy priorities and demonstrated during the World Cup that it could get tough.
But many citizens have complained security dropped off after the event and partners in a governing alliance with Zuma’s ruling African National Congress do not see the changes as lasting.
“It is of major concern that the socio-economic conditions, which feed crime, are not improving,” the country’s largest labour federation, which is a long-time ANC ally, said in a policy paper this month. Reuters