Posted on May 5, 2024

Soccer Star’s Murder Highlights South Africa’s Crime Problem as Election Nears

Nellie Peyton, Reuters, May 2, 2024

In the South African township where Luke Fleurs grew up, some friends joined gangs before they reached high school age, but Fleurs found another path: he was so brilliant at soccer that he rose to be a professional player at South Africa’s top club.

Fleurs’ success story ended abruptly last month when he was killed at a Johannesburg petrol station by someone stealing his car.

The 24-year-old’s murder not only sparked public grief due to his profile as a Kaizer Chiefs defender but also highlighted South Africa’s crime problem. South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an average of 75 a day.

Voter frustration over the government’s inability to curb rising crime rates is one of the reasons the ruling African National Congress is expected to lose its majority in a May 29 election, after 30 years in power.


At 45 per 100,000 people in 2022/23, South Africa’s murder rate was the highest in 20 years, police figures show, roughly equivalent to Ecuador’s and higher than that of Honduras, a country plagued by extreme gang violence.

The murder rate in the United States, one of the highest in the developed world, was six per 100,000 in 2022, according to government data.

High levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality have created fertile ground for crime to take root in South Africa, compounded by the proliferation of organised criminal groups and a flood of illegal weapons in recent years, analysts said.


The ANC’s election manifesto says it will modernise policing, develop capabilities to combat cybercrime and gang violence, and implement a data-driven approach, among other measures.

The proportion of murder cases being solved has been declining. In 2022/23, there were 27,494 murders and 2,982 convictions, according to government figures.

“Basically, one in 10 murders is ever solved by the police,” said Ziyanda Stuurman, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group who wrote a book about policing in South Africa.

“There’s the general belief that you can get away with murdering somebody and you’re never going to get caught.”