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Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 16:21 UK

Big jump in S Africa sex offences

South African policeman points his gun at protesters
The police are struggling to cope with the crime levels

The latest crime statistics in South Africa show a slight decrease in the murder rate but a sharp rise in burglaries and sexual offences.

While the murder rate has fallen by 3%, this still represent more than 18,000 killings per year and is one of the highest rates in the world.

Sexual offences have risen by 10%, which the government partly attributes to the inclusion of attacks on men.

Officials insist that security is not a problem at the 2010 Football World Cup.

This is being hosted by South Africa - the first time the event has been held on the continent - and the country is expecting tens of thousands of extra foreign visitors.

Opposition parties have criticised the government's record on crime.

Nationwide, some 2.1m serious crimes were recorded in the past year.

Intolerable

Police Minister Nkosinathi Mthethwa told Parliament in Cape Town that a collaborative effort was needed in the fight against crime.

Mr Mthethwa said while there had largely been a decrease in robberies at big businesses, small business and informal traders had seen an increase in violent robberies.

CRIME IN SOUTH AFRICA
Up
Sexual offences: 71,500 (10%)
Burglaries: 18,400 (27%)
Business robberies: 13,900 (41%)
Down
Murder: 18,000 (3%)
Street robbery: 72,194 (7%)

"Issues like the vulnerability of cash often [on site] and the unavailability of resources to implement crime prevention measures contributes to making these businesses vulnerable," he said.

Overall, thefts in business have shot up by 41% over the past year.

Residential burglaries have also shown an increase - of 27%.

The statistics revealed more than 18,000 South Africans were attacked by robbers in their own homes.

"It is one of the crimes that are most intrusive and personalise the crime experience… We simply cannot tolerate a situation where people do not feel safe in their homes," he said.

South Africa has long had extremely high levels of rape.

Earlier this year, a survey in parts of South Africa reported that one in four men admitted to having forced a woman to have sex against her will.

This is the first year that sexual offences against men have been included with those against women.

Last month, a white South African man was given asylum in Canada after saying he had been attacked on seven different occasions.

His lawyer argued that the government was unable to protect its citizens.

But Canada's government has launched an appeal against the granting of the refugee status after protests from Pretoria said the ruling was "racist".

The legacy of apartheid, social deprivation and corruption within the police force are among the reasons often cited for high levels of crime.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says President Jacob Zuma has put the fight against crime centre stage with the appointment of a new, tough-talking Police Commissioner.

But many commentators warn against populist measures and say that unless the underlying problems are addressed, violent crime will continue.



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