Why is there so much crime in South Africa?

18,000 murders a year! (I’d have to do some math to see how that compares to the U.S. adjusting for population difference, but it still seems awfully high.)

Nationmaster.com will do the math for you.

South Africa ranks second (behind only Columbia) in overall murders per capita; the U.S. is 24th. South Africa, however, ranks first in muders by firearm per capita - well ahead of Columbia (the United States is eighth in this category) And S.A. also ranks first in manslaughter per capita; Columbia is again second and the United States doesn’t appear at all in the top fifty nations.

The usual suspects, no? Poverty, social dislocation, seething class resentments, lack of good jobs for the underclass, etc. There’s also some suggestion that criminal elements, and even underpaid policemen, from neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe come to South Africa to commit crimes, just because South Africa is the rich neighborhood, so to speak.

The good news is that apparently the crime rate is going down. From an article in today’s CNN: “Institute for Security Studies…analyst Antoinette Louw said the murder rate in South Africa has gone down 40 percent in the past seven years. The number of carjackings, Louw said, is down 20 percent since 2000.”

Another reason I’ve seen suggested, can’t recall where, is that when Apartheid was ended, the new government dissolved the all-white police forces, and the new forces have not yet become effective enough.

Can’t say I’ve noticed this (whites being let go) - there was a certain segment of the force that wouldn’t work for the “enemy”, of course, but we’re well rid of them. Also, the Army is no longer much used as the first line of policing as in the past. That’s got to reduce operational effectiveness, I think.

There are a lot of reasons I can think of, most of which have been touched on:
[li]Guns, Guns, Guns - there are a lot of guns here, and crimes like armed robberies are committed with AKs, not pistols. Hell, I know where I can rent an AK by the day. More weapons flooding in all the time, too, from warzones.[/li][li]Poverty - I’m not affluent, we’re a one-car, 2-bed/1bath professional family, but I’m willing to bet I’m in the top 90th percentile in the country, and unemployment is high. I live in the part of SA that’s best-off as far as unemployment, too[/li][li]Social stratification - related to poverty, but also with race and education thrown in. This makes for ghettoisation, and you better believe most of that murder rate is black-on-black township violence. I have no hard cites, though, because our shitty police highups won’t release the stats, we need to rely on NGOs for guesstimates.[/li][li]Ironically, given what I said about poverty above, compared to the festering hellhole that is the rest of Africa, SA is an affluent jewel. This makes it a destination, a target and a market for criminals, from the organised armoured-car robbers (allegedly mostly ex-Zimbabwe military ) to the Nigerian and Congo drug cartels. Also a lot of traumatised/dehumanised refugees who know how to use an AK better than an ATM, with no better prospects.[/li][li]There was probably a lot of under-reporting of township crime under Apartheid that’s now less hidden, so a significant post-apartheid jump was almost inevitable.[/li][li] Our elected leadership doesn’t provide a sterling example either - read up about Deputy President Zuma, Health Minister Zuma (see a pattern?) or the Shaik brothers. Nepotism and corruption is as prevelant here as in Washington, DC. Our President’s OK, but less of a strong figure than I’d like on the internal party discipline front.[/li][/ul]

Still, I look on the bright side - that’s all criminal murder, I don’t know how the Congo or Sudan sit on those lists, or how the mechanistic accounting of human suffering rates the dying in the rest of the continent from war and famine vs. our murder rate. All I know is, I’d rather live here than anywhere else on the continent, hell, most anywhere on the planet.

This is just a guess, but besides the other reasons, it occurs to me that decades of apartheid might have created a social/psychological contempt for the law. Obedience to the law tends to involve respect for the law, and respect for the law generally requires a belief that it’s fair. Not rigged for or against you.

The extremely politically-incorrect joke goes that after the fall of apartheid, when the long-expected “white massacre” didn’t happen, the disappointed hordes had to go out and kill somebody.

Quite understandable. Looking at it from a foreigner’s POV, however, especially an Americans – maybe we instinctively hold your country to unrealistically high standards. Fighting Apartheid, demanded sanctions and divestment, etc., it was all such a fashionable cause here in the '80s (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that we subconsciously expected victory to lead to some kind of a social utopia – maybe even something that would spread peace and democracy and industrialization and wealth to the rest of Africa.

I haven’t a cite, but perhaps if you counted state-sanctioned kidnapping, torture and murder committed by the Apartheid-era military, police force or BOSS (creepiest. acronym. ever), you might see a drop in crime rates following democratisation.

On that note, I’m reminded of the debate within America, early 19th Century, of helping freed slaves form a colony in Africa (which ultimately bore fruit in the founding of Liberia, of which the less said the better). One reason given on the pro side was that such a state would “form a nucleus for the redemption of the continent.” (I.e., its conversion to Christianity.)

Well yes, but back then slavery was justified by the clergy (no, not all, just most_ because it was civilising the heathen (better a life of suffering than an eternity of damnation…) and due to a wacked-out interpretation of Noah’s curse on Ham.

Is that a realistic expectation, though? I mean, how cosy was the Deep South 12 years after the Civil War? It has really only been 12 years, and we had a covert civil war here too. I think things are improving on a daily basis.

And how much peace and democracy has the US spread in the Americas and parts foreign (IMO, negative amounts)? I, for one, don’t want us to use the excuse of “spreading peace and democracy” to violate other nations’ rights. I used to just barely stomach our involvement in the AU peacekeeping forces on ideological grounds, the reality on the ground is more sickening than that (sexual abuse and suchlike by peacekeepers) and I’ve come around to a use-economic-influence-only stance.

Sure, I’d like my gov. to do more to engage the rulers of e.g. Zimbabwe, for them to use a bigger economic stick, but I’d hate for us to become everything I dislike about American foreign policy, mirrored in Africa.

I wasn’t thinking in terms of military action, but that the establishment of at least one genuine, egalitarian, and rich and industrialized democracy in Africa would prove the thing possible, and then other countries might get with the program. Also, that under the right circumstances, and with international sanctions (and labor unrest) no longer holding you back, industrialization might grow so rapidly that it would gradually spread north from SA.

OK, the knock-on effect, I understand. I think it’s a possibility, but it needs
[li]Time - again, it’s only been 12 years. Realistic expectations and all that.[/li][li]Investment - specifically, investors not put off by a crime rate that won’t really affect their investment directly. [/li][/list]
…and we still have labour unrest. But then, so do some First World countries.

Believe me, it’s a time of rapid growth here. The level of development is outripping the power and other infrastructure, and there’s the added wrinkle that we also have to electrify and utilify townships that were excluded in the past. We’re still playing catchup, but Cape Town’s got several new high-rises buildings going up even as we speak.

egalitarian - Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people. adj : favoring social equality; “a classless society” [syn: classless] n : a person who believes in the equality of all people.

SA is a wonderful country and the people are working together very well. Compared with the past it is a whole new world, but if you think that the rest of Africa should wait for SA to become “a classless society” you are way off track. That is not a criticism, but simply part of how they are evolving. They don’t need the extra load of being sxpected to save the rest of Africa.

I didn’t mean it in that sense. I meant an egalitarian society the way the U.S. is – not classless, but casteless. Under Apartheid, there was a definite racial-caste hierarchy.

There’s just one problem-- or so I was told when I visited there, a few years back. Outsiders looking at South Africa, say “Not a bad country, but . . . whew! look at the neighborhood!” For reasons why the neighborhood looks bad see Mr. Dibble’s first post, and add in AIDS. South Africa has enormous NUMBERS of AIDS cases, but not too bad percents of AIDS cases, but some of its neighbor or near neighbor countries have truly appalling percents of persons with AIDS (like 1 in 6 or 1 in 8 people with AIDS, IIRC).

South Africa has, and always has had, a disproportionate amount of the resources which are valuable to other nations–especially prosperous nations. Great climate, good geography (base of the African continent, so people had reason to stop there), gold, diamonds, you name it.

And actually, there is another minor problem, which is kind of a subset of the first one, the real problem. A number of affluent white people, seeing the writing on the wall for Apartheid, sent their children and their money overseas–to the US and Europe mostly, if my memory and my informat are correct. Those children are now well educated, reasonably affluent adults contributing their resources to their local economies, not sending the money back home.

You know, I don’t like the way that sentence reads, it isn’t that the parents that I’m thinking of didn’t want to live in a world where blacks and mixed race folk were as valued as white folk, it is more a case that they were afraid of what was going to happen. They wanted their children to be able to live in peace, they were afraid that Apartheid wouldn’t end peacefully, they didn’t want their children to be innocent bystanders affected by the brutality required to keep Apartheid in place. They didn’t want to lose their money and their children’s hope for a brighter tomorrow to be stolen away and given to other people, no matter how deserving. So they sent their children to foreign colleges and universities and encouraged them not to return to South Africa.

IIRC, from news reports at the time, most of them went to Australia.

Could be, in fact, Australia fits the “requirements” I was sort of thinking of well enough for me to be embarassed that I left it out of my list.

Also, relocating there would require no adjustment to the north-of-the-equator seasonal cycle. And they’ve got surfing! :slight_smile: