CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Ten-year-old Marissa Naidoo, who was kidnapped from her primary school, murdered and stuffed in a suitcase, was buried Wednesday as the government released statistics showing that 51 South Africans are killed in an average day.
Eleven years after the advent of multiracial democracy, South Africa remains one of the world’s most crime-ridden societies, a legacy of years of violent suppression during the apartheid era.
Nonetheless, the government has made big strides toward its target of cutting violent crime by 7 percent per year.
The police report said that 18,793 people were murdered in the fiscal year April 2004 to March 2005, down 5.2 percent from the 19,824 reported the previous year.
The report said there were 24,516 attempted murders—down 18.5 percent on 2003/2004. Police officials said this was largely thanks to a government amnesty which persuaded people to surrender some 90,000 unlicensed firearms.
Reported rape rose by 4.5 percent to 55,114 cases, and indecent assault was also higher than the previous year.
At the birth of its new democracy in 1994, South Africa had the world’s highest homicide rate of 67 per 100,000—largely as a result of murders in the country’s impoverished and overcrowded townships.
The rate fell to 40 per 100,000 in 2004, behind Colombia at 67 per 100,000 and Jamaica at 59 per 100,000.
But this compares to rates of some 6 per 100,000 in the United States and 3 per 100,000 in Britain, according to figures from the international police organization Interpol.
“South Africa is really off the scale compared to most other countries,” said Anton De Plessis, head of the crime and justice program at the Institute for Security Studies.