FACT CHECK: ‘Crime infested’ Johannesburg is not fake news


We’ve fact checked the crime statistics in both cities‚ and the two countries‚ in response to the outrage by the African National Congress to a Australian MP slating “world-class” Johannesburg as crime-infested.

Unfortunately‚ the City of Johannesburg‚ Gauteng and South Africa’s bad reputation for crime – particularly violent crime – is not without basis.

There are 29 murders recorded per 100‚000 people in South Africa‚ as opposed to 1.0 per 100‚000 people in Australia. Johannesburg’s murder rate is 28 per 100‚000.

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Screengrab via SAPS

In 2016 Victoria’s estimated population was around 5.9 million‚ while Gauteng has 13.4 million residents.

Victoria state‚ one of the worst affected regions for homicides in Australia‚ recorded 66 murders in the year ending in September last year.

Gauteng recorded 3‚842 murders in 2015/2016.

Crime statistics in Victoria‚ between September 2015 and 2016‚ show a significant increase in assault‚ robbery‚ theft‚ dangerous and negligent acts endangering people‚ drug use and possession and public nuisance offences.

Assault and related offences were up 12.6%‚ from 37‚974 at the end of September 2015 to 42‚754 at the end of September 2016. Robbery was up 21.5%‚ from 2‚522 last year to 3‚063 in the previous year‚ and drug use and possession was up 5.4%‚ from 22‚547 to 23‚768.

Gauteng’s statistics for the year beginning in April 2015 to March 2016‚ released in September‚ show assault‚ robbery and drug-related crime all increased.

The province’s figures for assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm increased by 2.3% to 42‚790 offences last year‚ from 41‚830 in the previous year. Common assault was up 3.9% to 17‚379 crimes last‚ from 18‚051 in the previous year.

Robbery with aggravating circumstances increased by 5‚1% to 49‚792 offences last year‚ from 47‚362 in the previous year. Common robbery was up 3.9% to 18‚051 last year‚ from 17‚379 in the previous year.

Drug-related crime in Gauteng increased by 21.1% to 55‚442 offences last year‚ from 70‚264 in the previous year.

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Screengrab via SAPS

America’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) sums it up with its ratings: Australia’s crime risk is regarded as low‚ while South Africa carried a “critical” warning.

Melbourne‚ it states‚ “is generally a very safe city”‚ adding: “One of the most common crimes is non-violent theft‚ resulting from targets of opportunity.”



Visitors to South Africa‚ however‚ are warned about a string of potential crimes‚ with Osac stating: “Crime is notable for: 1) the level of violence associated with personal/property crimes‚ as criminals do not hesitate to use lethal weapons; and 2) the occurrence of crimes across all metropolitan areas regardless of the socio-economic status of a particular neighbourhood. Crimes range from petty muggings to ATM scams to armed residential home invasions and murder. These crimes occur with frequency…”

The ANC this week asked the High Commission of Australia in Pretoria to “clarify the comments” made by opposition politician Matthew Guy when he accused Victoria state leaders of “standing by and allowing Melbourne to become the Johannesburg of the South Pacific“. The comment was made in the context of how the government there manages its youth justice system.

But the ANC was irked at what it called a “lazy stereotype“ of characterising African cities as crime havens. “They serve to tarnish the reputation of the City of Johannesburg — known widely as the gateway to Africa; and regularly cited amongst several indices as world-class city.”

South Africans see humour in the spat: “Yay this guy!!! He doesn’t know nobody insults our Joburg but us‚” Zaid Jala shared to @TimesLIVE.

TimesLIVE readers also recalled that South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma previously took a pot shot at another African country.

“Zuma once did the same about a highway in Malawi. Lol‚” said David Junior while Ntlahla Tiva also remembered the context‚ posting “Who remembers Zuma making fun of public roads of Malawi? He said this at Wits university when he was justifying etolls in Joburg”.

Zuma’s comments date back to 2013; he said that South Africans shouldn’t “think like Africans generally” and that highways in Gauteng province are “not some national road in Malawi”.

Many South Africans want the ANC government to do more to combat crime. Here is a selection of reader views on the TimesLIVE Facebook page‚ shared in response to the ANC’s statement on Thursday:

Joburg is a home of criminals‚ especially in the CBD. I don’t understand why ANC is tripping now?????? – Hlologelo Malatji

It doesn’t matter who we’re compared to‚ as South Africans‚ our government must face the truth and facts and deal with it. It seems people are immune to the truth – Ndivhu Stan Mashanzhe

Kk kk now it hurts that you let criminals build a safe haven in Joburg without trying to save it in best way possible. Decades of neglect have resulted in it being such a mess though recent urban renewal projects are still far from turning the tide – Ginola Simba

Why does the ANC hate the truth. How does one expect to get help if he has a serious wound but tries to hide it. Credit to Herman Mashaba for acknowledging the problem facing our city and his willingness to solve it. But from where I’m sitting it is clear that @myANC will try all they can to make sure that the new mayor fails. Sad thing is that only ordinary citizens are affected – Theo-Dixie Silaule

Western countries think South Africa is a crime heaven… they are robbing us of good potential investments worth millions and try by all means to destroy our image and drag us to the mud while making themselves look better to the world – Sabelo C Mbuyane

Irked by what…..the guy was telling the truth. Yes Johannesburg is crime infested in fact the whole of SA is crime infested. – Bongani Maphela

ANC doesn’t like the truth. It is a crime haven of SA. It is also filthy – Bhakaniya Mahlangu

Being offended does not change reality. – Eduard Overbeek

Statistics don’t lie. South African cities are crime ridden – Eugene Van Niekerk

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