SMOKE: Crime Comparison

Originally published: 24 March 2004

If you're a South African then you've almost certainly been a victim of crime at some stage of your life. If not, please let the rest of us know where you live so that we can live there too.

But I'll be honest - although I too have had numerous brushes with crime (and I'm not talking about my own criminal activities here, I'm talking about crimes perpetrated against me), I don't get the sense that the place is exactly a war zone.

I don't live in Johannesburg, of course, which means my life is probably easier (I hear you can't even go home at nights in Jozi because if you do you get murdered or hijacked, which would explain why Joburg folks work all day and all night while Capetonians only spend two hours a day at work and spend the rest of their time chilling on their couches, making their way through vast piles of marijuana).

But the media never prints stories like: "Very few crimes today!", or "Lady not raped!", which means that surely we are getting a skewed idea of what our crime levels are actually like?

I took it upon myself to get all Woodward and Bernstein and headed over to Nationmaster.com, a resource of country statistics which are pulled from the information supplied in the CIA World Factbook, the definitive source of country statistics around the globe.

I concentrated on pulling our crime stats in comparison to other countries, and came up with some interesting facts.


South Africa is the rape capital of the world. Charlize was right after all.

The rape statistic in South Africa is 1.21 rapes per 1000 people, which is way ahead of Montserrat in second place (0.83/1000) and Australia in third (0.8/1000). The countries you are least likely to be raped in are Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Yemen, all of which have 0 rapes per 1000 people.

That's an interesting statistic, actually. So many westerners regard Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia as being repressive to women, but I would think that there is nothing more repressive to women than rape.

And it's the westerners who are doing all the raping, in particular South African males.

Rape Top 10

1. South Africa 1.21 per 1000 people
2. Montserrat 0.83 per 1000 people
3. Australia 0.8 per 1000 people
4. Seychelles 0.8 per 1000 people
5. Canada 0.75 per 1000 people
6. Zimbabwe 0.49 per 1000 people
7. Jamaica 0.49 per 1000 people
8. Dominica 0.34 per 1000 people
9. United States 0.32 per 1000 people
10. Iceland 0.26 per 1000 people


Colombia snatches this one, I'm afraid, and I can attest to that - I personally have had to contribute to the murder statistic in Colombia, although if you quote me on that I'll call you a liar. Sometimes a thing has to be done about a thing, and a man has to take care of another man, and yet another man must dig a grave. It's hard to explain.

Colombia's murder rate is 0.65 per 1000 people, while South Africa is a lowly 0.5 per 1000 people, but I hear our criminals are working on it.

Rather unbelievably Jamaica is tied for third with Venezuela on 0.33 - gives the "Marijuana promotes peace and harmony" brigade some food for thought, I would think.

The least violent places are Qatar and - yes - Saudi Arabia, with 0 murders per 1000 people. The plot sickens.

Murder Top 10

1. Colombia 0.65 per 1000 people
2. South Africa 0.5 per 1000 people
3. Jamaica 0.33 per 1000 people
4. Venezuela 0.33 per 1000 people
5. Russia 0.2 per 1000 people
6. Mexico 0.13 per 1000 people
7. Lithuania 0.1 per 1000 people
8. Estonia 0.1 per 1000 people
9. Latvia 0.1 per 1000 people
10. Belarus 0.1 per 1000 people


South Africa has settled into a comfortable but respectable fourth place for robberies - the king of the crop is Spain, with 12.41 robberies per 1000 people.

I'm not sure whether that means that 12.41 people per 1000 are robbers, or if 12.41 people of every thousand people get robbed, but either way it doesn't really matter - thievery is big business in Spain.

The UK and USA come in at 8th and 10th respectively, which just goes to show that no matter how fantastic your economy nor how powerful your leaders, there's a bunch of folks who still can't get jobs.

Qatar is the country with either the least robbers or the least robberies, which ties in quite nicely with their non-murderous ways. I'd be interested to find a stat which says how many murders are committed while committing a robbery - I'm willing to bet there are quite a few.

With nobody robbing anyone in Qatar the likelihood of murder is slim.

I checked up on old Saudi Arabia, and they are sixth from the bottom, in keeping with their generally perfect behaviour. One or two little burglars around, but nothing to cause concern. Be sure to lock your bicycle up.

Robberies Top 10

1. Spain 12.41 per 1000 people
2. Chile 7.14 per 1000 people
3. Costa Rica 5.02 per 1000 people
4. South Africa 4.51 per 1000 people
5. Estonia 3.36 per 1000 people
6. Mexico 2.08 per 1000 people
7. Portugal 1.7 per 1000 people
8. United Kingdom 1.59 per 1000 people
9. Uruguay 1.58 per 1000 people
10. United States 1.46 per 1000 people


South Africa is only 14th on the frauds per 1000 people list (1.54), so our white collar criminals are lagging way behind the street professionals.

Germany is the fraud capital (10.76), which makes sense - just ask Jurgen Harksen.

Oh - and take a wild guess where the least frauds occur? Indeed. Saudi Arabia. Which means you can't corrupt them there either. There's no murder, fraud, rape nor robbery in Saudi Arabia, so precisely what do they do there? Work?? Surely not.

Fraud Top 10

1. Germany 10.76 per 1000 people
2. United Kingdom 5.34 per 1000 people
3. New Zealand 5.31 per 1000 people
4. Finland 2.89 per 1000 people
5. Korea, South 2.82 per 1000 people
6. Hungary 2.72 per 1000 people
7. Norway 2.72 per 1000 people
8. Canada 2.69 per 1000 people
9. Czech Republic 2.61 per 1000 people
10. Slovenia 2.54 per 1000 people


Woohoo! Back at number one! Kicking Montserrat's ass!!

(Saudi Arabia is 50th, with 0.2 assaults per 1000 people, but that's fair enough - they have to blow off steam somehow).

Assaults Top 10

1. South Africa 12.27 per 1000 people
2. Montserrat 11.38 per 1000 people
3. Mauritius 8.99 per 1000 people
4. Seychelles 8.74 per 1000 people
5. Zimbabwe 8.18 per 1000 people
6. United States 7.98 per 1000 people
7. New Zealand 7.72 per 1000 people
8. United Kingdom 7.54 per 1000 people
9. Canada 7.32 per 1000 people
10. Australia 7.22 per 1000 people


Manslaughter is defined by Nationwide as "non-intentional homicides", and South Africa is comfortably in first place (0.25/1000), with Mexico (0.18) and Costa Rica (0.15) rounding out the top three.

You have to wonder - considering our high murder rate - just how many manslaughters in this country are actually manslaughters, and how many of them are murders unproven through inept prosecution.

Whatever the case - if you live in South Africa not only is the likelihood of you being murdered the second-best in the world, but your chances of being killed accidentally are even better. Which means that one way or another - if you come to South Africa you can expect to die.

Which means I'm doing alright. I must be one of the chosen ones.

(Oh - Saudi Arabia. 0/1000. Shock. Horror.)

Manslaughters Top 10

1. South Africa 0.25 per 1000 people
2. Mexico 0.18 per 1000 people
3. Costa Rica 0.15 per 1000 people
4. Zimbabwe 0.09 per 1000 people
5. Korea, South 0.08 per 1000 people
6. Romania 0.06 per 1000 people
7. Italy 0.03 per 1000 people
8. Turkey 0.03 per 1000 people
9. Estonia 0.02 per 1000 people
10. Australia 0.02 per 1000 people


Finally - life expectancy at birth. You would expect South Africa to have a pretty low life expectancy considering all the murdering, raping, thieving, assaulting and manslaughtering going on all around us - and you'd be right.

Of the 235 countries in the list South Africa has the 209th lowest life expectancy rate - on the day you are born it is assumed that you will live to be no older than 45.43 years old.

Compare that to the country with the highest life expectancy - Andorra (83.48 years) - and you know where the clever people go.

Interestingly enough - Botswana has the lowest life expectancy (35.29 years), and it also has the highest HIV/AIDS death rate in the world (15.08 deaths per 1000 people).

Bit of a no-brainer, of course, but it helps illustrate why you are likely to live longer in Andorra than down south in Africa (South Africa is seventh on the list of HIV/AIDS deaths, with 6.87/1000 people, while Andorra don't even make the list).

Life Expectancy Top 10 1. Andorra 83.48 years
2. Macau 81.78 years
3. San Marino 81.33 years
4. Japan 80.91 years
5. Singapore 80.29 years
6. Australia 80 years
7. Guernsey 79.9 years
8. Switzerland 79.86 years
9. Sweden 79.84 years
10. Hong Kong 79.8 years


On paper you'd have to say you'd be mad to live in South Africa: we are the rape, manslaughter and assaults capital of the world, we have the second most murders per capita, and we are comfortably in the top 20 of almost every conceivable crime list.

We are riddled with AIDS, which is naturally a problem considering the extremely high incidences of rape, and we won't even live to see our 46th birthday.

Maybe I don't get out much, and I certainly have the benefit of not living in Johannesburg, but I'm still alive. As is everyone I've ever known - other than for Nicholas, an old school pal of mine who drove into the back of a parked van and broke his neck. Committed manslaughter upon himself.

All I do know is that no matter how peaceful the Saudis are, nor how old you get in Andorra, the old saying holds true despite the Dante-like depiction of the horrors of this country: "There's no place like home."

And there ain't.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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