overview crime report

RSA - Annual Summery 2018

overview crime report

South Africa faces a range of political and security risks leading into the May 2019 general elections and continuing difficulties in overcoming economic and governance challenges.

This fuels civil unrest across the country, as service delivery failures as well as a robust labour union culture lead to repeated demonstrations in urban centres, though the more violent of these protests are generally in informal settlements and townships while other central areas of Johannesburg typically see significant disruptions to travel.

 As is the case across the country, the primary threat in Johannesburg is crime, which affects even affluent areas where there are assaults and robberies, which can be violent and assailants often carry weapons, as well. Moreover, a major focal point for this is OR Tambo International Airport, where travellers are often targeted for robberies as they depart the airport premises.

As a whole, there are risks associated with road travel and efforts must be taken to mitigate the threat of robbery while driving. There remains a minor but growing concern of militancy, with notable militant attacks taking place in the Durban area, though Johannesburg may be vulnerable to “lone-wolf” attacks as well.

Anti-Western sentiment is a concern in its connection to anti-white sentiment, which is common in the country, though in Johannesburg this would likely only manifest as verbal insults rather than violence.

 South Africa has a range of political and security risks to contend with as the country continues to struggle with its growth and development in the post-Apartheid era.

The political environment of the country is likely to be increasingly tense over the coming months as the country is set to go to general elections in May 2019, where President Cyril Ramaphosa will seek a new term as the population will vote for parliament, which will in turn choose the next president.

Ramaphosa initially took office when former President Jacob Zuma resigned under pressure in February 2018 after a series of corruption scandals, including the “State of Capture” scandal that implicated Zuma in allowing the Gupta family to influence government appointments and contracts. However, this takes place as the question continues to be raised regarding the extent of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s domination and whether its influence is beginning to wane. In this context, political rallies and demonstrations are expected to increase over the coming months, organized by ANC as well as several opposition parties, with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) proven to be the most prone to violent civil unrest. These protests are expected to take place

throughout the country, with major urban centres commonly seeing demonstrations.

The risk of civil unrest is also inextricably linked to the robust civil society and labour union culture of South Africa, which also leads to recurrent strikes and protests nationwide.

These groups frequently demonstrate over labour concerns, socioeconomic grievances, political movements, and their protests can be both peaceful as well as see unruliness, often depending on the particular organizers.

 The more common and even more frequent source of violent unrest in South Africa is service delivery protests organized by residents of townships and informal settlements who decry the poor provision of government services and poor infrastructure in their neighbourhoods.

 This speaks to the serious economic and governance challenges of the South African government, which has had difficulty in developing and governing its most impoverished areas. A large source of these dilemmas are connected to entrenched corruption within the government, which was severely worsened under the Zuma administration, and has led to rocky paths through reforms and some unpopular austerity measures.

Further crises in government are exemplified by the high-profile mismanagement of the state-owned power company, Eskom, which has raised recurrent concerns over the possibility of a decline in electricity supply, as well as the political infighting and negligence that led to Cape Town being placed under severe water restrictions ahead of real concerns of fully running out of potable water. In any case, chronic poverty and underemployment, as well as corruption within the government to include the security services, has contributed to high levels of crime, the rates of which are growing in much of the country.

Crime remains the primary security challenge in the country as a whole, seen across all major cities. This comes in the form of both individual activity and gang violence, with the latter being particularly prominent in townships and informal settlements.

 The effects of this can be seen as areas such as Cape Town’s Cape Flats neighbourhoods have been classified as among the most violent cities in the world. However, crime remains a high risk even in commercial and affluent areas of the country, involving street crime as well as violent incidents, as well as the escalation of dynamics such as turf wars between taxi unions in Cape Town as well as Johannesburg. Amid these threats, foreign nationals have been repeatedly victimized, including Western tourists, airline crews, business travellers, and others.

 Finally, a newly prominent but still fairly limited concern in South Africa is the threat of militancy, following a stabbing attack at a Shiite mosque and a string of IED incidents in the Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal Province in May and July 2018. These developments were later revealed to be linked to the Islamic State (IS), as the perpetrators were likely a locally-organized group who were radicalized from afar rather than being directly organized and supported by militant groups.

However, this speaks to the vulnerability of some Sunni Muslims in South Africa to this type of propaganda and the potential for further similar attacks. This activity has been concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal thus far, likely because the province hosts one of the larger Muslim populations in the country, and it is possible it could spread to other areas, particularly Cape Town, given its own sizable Muslim community.

 At this time, the threat remains fairly limited, but adds another source of pressure on the security services and further tensions within the social and political landscape of the country.

Murder increase in South Africa:

Murder trend over the last 10 years has reached the highest rate in 2018.

Total Crimes:   Worst 10 precincts in 2018, Gauteng.

  • Dobsonville is an area in Soweto.

Johannesburg, Gauteng

 As a whole, Johannesburg is safe for travel, though visitors are advised to maintain heightened vigilance for the risks associated with violent criminal incidents such as armed robbery, civil unrest, and the distant threat of militancy.

The city in general has endemic levels of crime, involving a range of methods, targets, and locations for criminal incidents across the greater metropolitan area. While such incidents are particularly high in the low-income informal settlements, significant

 levels of crime are observed in affluent areas of Johannesburg, including the two main business hubs of Douglasdale and Sandton, as well as in the vicinity of the OR Tambo International Airport.

 Civil unrest tends to follow trends over political concerns, socioeconomic grievances such as service delivery failures, and labour actions, with the city experiencing regular demonstrations, particularly in neighbourhoods on the outskirts. These protests can be large-scale and, at times, violent in nature with participants blocking roads and highways with burning tires and rocks. Such protests are heavily cracked down upon by security forces using forcible measures such as tear gas and thus should be avoided.

While low-scale militancy-related incidents have been recorded in South Africa, they have remained focused in KwaZulu-Natal Province thus far. However, given the general

emerging trend of Islamic State (IS) sympathizers within the country, there is the distant possibility of

 Localized militants attempting to launch an attack in Johannesburg, which given displayed capabilities would likely be small-scale, incurring low casualties. Xenophobic sentiments remain a societal problem, manifesting in instances of verbal insults against Westerners in Johannesburg. Finally, there are some health concerns associated with travel to South Africa, in particular high rates of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, though private medical facilities are advanced in Johannesburg.


Security Risk

Johannesburg as whole has high crime rates, including violent crimes, with the period between September and December having the highest crime rates in light of the holiday season. This phenomenon does not only take place within impoverished communities but represents a common threat throughout the city, including in affluent areas such as Sandton and Douglasdale.

The overall numbers in 2018 is almost the same as 2017 with slightly decrease of 3% of the total crime cases.

These criminal activities include murder, hijackings, cash-in-transit heists, auto thefts, and armed robberies, targeting individuals walking on the streets, driving their vehicles, or inside residences as well as businesses. Assailants mostly carry weapons, including firearms and cold weapons, and it has been widely demonstrated that these perpetrators are willing to use those weapons.

Many of these attacks underscore the use of systematic planning and coordination by the assailants, as well as the frequent involvement of insiders, corrupt police officers, and criminal gangs. As such, crime represents a major challenge and threat when travelling in Johannesburg, regardless of the area.

 It is highly important to emphasize that downtown Johannesburg represents one of the areas with the highest crime rates in the city, with Johannesburg Central, Hillbrow, and Sunnyside being within the ten worst precincts regarding crime rates within Gauteng Province, which encompasses Johannesburg as well as Pretoria.

OR Tambo International Airport is located in Kempton Park, an area with high crime rates in general. Most importantly, travellers from the airport are specifically preyed upon as criminals view them as valuable targets as they often carry high sums of money in cash as well as luggage.

In this context, foreigners and particularly those who can be perceived as wealthy are the most vulnerable to airport area attacks. In broad terms, the most common modus operandi of criminals who operate in this area is to identify possible victims at arrivals, follow them via vehicle as they depart from the airport premises, and then rob them at gunpoint either still in their vehicle or upon their destination.

These criminals do not only target solo travellers but have carried out fairly bold attacks against groups. For example, in September 2017, a bus transporting 36 Dutch tourists was robbed at gunpoint when criminals managed to halt the bus when leaving the airport.

Sandton, the primary business hub of Johannesburg where a sizable number of international businesses, travellers, and expats can be found, and what can be regarded as a relatively safer area of the city, particularly in its CBD and some residential suburbs. With that being said, there nonetheless remains significant concerns regarding crime in Sandton,







Sexual offences



Common assault



Common robbery



Robbery with aggravating






Burglary at non-residential






Burglary at residential






Theft of motor vehicle



Illegal possession of firearm



Drug-related crime



Commercial crime






Robbery at residential






Robbery at non residential






Sexual assault