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Contact crimes in Q4:2020 – A picture of a deadly South Africa

Andile Sicetsha - 19.02.2021

October – December 2020 was the most violent year-on-year quarter in five years.

The recent quarterly crime statistics that were published by the South African Police (SAPS) depicts a dark and grim picture of the conditions millions of law-abiding citizens had to endure.

Crime in South Africa is at an all-time high

Not only were we in the throes of a war with an invisible enemy, but as the stats suggest, we were constantly faced with a high probability of meeting our fate, in a violent manner.

This spine-chilling reality is portrayed in the figures for contact crimes reported between October and December 2020.

In a span of three months, at a time when movement was restricted in line with strict lockdown regulations, 171 764 contact crimes were reported in South Africa.

Keep in mind, the crime statistics report makes note of crimes that were reported. Logically, one could consider that a probability exists where some crimes never make it to the docket — for whatever reason.

Alas, Police Minister Bheki Cele conceded to the police’s failures in keeping communities safe. At a media briefing, the minister admitted that “the current plan in place now is clearly not working.”

The data, he said, shows that four provinces are the highest contributors to the grim picture of crime in South Africa and something must be done about it.

“As the police ministry and police management, we have taken a decision to have operational oversight in the four provinces and monitor them closely. We expect a turn around plan to be adopted and executed urgently and effectively. Failure to do so must result in consequences,” he barked.

Contact crimes in 2020: Here’s what the numbers say

Breaking down the severity of the problem, we’ve detailed the part of the report that deals with contact crimes, acts of violence committed against people.


Year-on-year data on murder suggests that the period observed in the report, October-December 2020, has been the deadliest in five years with 6 297 homicides committed.

That is a 6.58% increase from the same period in 2019/2020. Placed in context, there was a greater possibility of losing your life in a harsh manner in lockdown than under normal circumstances.


In this area, the police report showed that SAPS has, in the last five years, failed to implement any strategy towards putting an end to sexual assault.

In 2020, 1.8% more rape cases (15 595) were reported than in 2019 (15 325). For women in South Africa, defilement is a greater possibility than murder.

“Over 4900 of the rape incidents took place at the home of the victim or the home of the rapist. 570 were domestic violence-related and 547 of rape cases in this category, involved female victims and 23 were males,” Cele revealed.

Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm

“Violence stalks our society,” was Cele’s perspective on the recent assault stats. 47 875 cases of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm were reported in 2020. That is 276 more than in 2019 (47 599).

Most of these crimes, the minister added, occurred in households and liquor outlets.