Joburg ranked among 10 most dangerous cities in the world
Numbeo’s 2020 Crime Index, which was released this month, is based on survey responses from visitors of the website from around the globe.
SA earned an alarming crime index of 77.49 out of 100 and a measly 22.51 rating out of 100 for safety.
These scores on the crowd-sourced global database earned the country a ranking of the third most dangerous in the world, with only Venezuela and Papua New Guinea being rated as more unsafe.
Meanwhile, Joburg, the economic hub of the country as well as the richest city in Africa, has together with Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg and Durban been ranked in the world’s top 10 most dangerous cities, according to the study.
DA Gauteng spokesperson for community safety John Moodey was not surprised.
“The crime statistics as compared to other countries are self-evident in that they reflect that South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries internationally,” he said.
But while the explosion of various forms of crime in the country, and Joburg in particular, has become near commonplace, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to worsen the situation.
The national lockdown significantly reduced major crimes in the country, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, who last month announced a drop in criminal activity, comparing March 29 to April 22 last year to March 27 to April 20 this year.
This included murder, which saw a whopping 72% decline during this period, rape dropped by 87.2% during the countrywide shutdown as well as carjacking which reduced by 80.9% during a similar period last year.
But as lockdown restrictions are being gradually reduced and the country gradually returns to normalcy, crime is also expected to make its return.
Hermann Pretorius, deputy head of policy at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said the countrywide shutdown will have far-reaching implications for the country and its citizens, who will bear the brunt for many years to come.
“If we assume that economic deprivation contributes significantly to the levels of crime, the effect of Covid-19 on crime will be vast.
“While the initial lockdown of the country was a prudent decision, the extension of the lockdown has had devastating effects on the economy, forcing previously healthy business to close, which cost jobs and exacerbated poverty.”
These conditions, he feared, would vastly contribute to a spike in crime as unemployed and desperate South Africans find illegal and unconventional ways to survive. “Without a strong economy, businesses can’t thrive and jobs cannot be created. Without jobs, people cannot earn an income to look after themselves and their families.
“Such economic circumstances put immense pressure on people who need to be able to provide so, with the likely consequences of Covid-19 being an explosion of poverty, I think it’s very likely that a corresponding rise in crime is to be expected.”
With SA and its cities increasingly regarded as a haven for crime and with rating agencies recently downgrading the country to junk status, the country will struggle to attract international investors and visitors.
“Investing is already an act of putting assets at risk. Crime exacerbates those risks enormously, compromising the safety of whatever assets make up the investment. This scares off investment,” Pretorius said.
Citizens, too, will struggle to cope with the anticipated increase in crime.
“Generally, high levels of crime have a negative effect on the psychological well-being of our citizens,” Moodey said. “An unhealthy population, both physical and or mental, leads to lower productivity and this makes labour an even more expensive cost of production.”
These sentiments were echoed by Pretorius, who said stress levels in South Africa were high because the risks of crime affected almost every part of life.
“Our productivity as people and as a country suffers because mental, physical and economic resources are spent on the worries and the prevention of crime.”
Despite the trauma associated with crime, he said many South Africans had acclimatised to this reality. “This has become the norm. High fences and expensive alarm systems are the rule, not the exception.”
As Numbeo’s 2020 Crime Index revealed that safety in Joburg is of particular concern, Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Noxolo Kweza said law enforcement authorities would continue with their strategies, including visible policing. She added that they would continue to analyse crime trends and formulate a response accordingly.