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Johannesburg
Photograph: Photo by Evan Bench, used under CC BY

The number of murders committed in South Africa between April 2015 and March 2016 rose to 18,673 - an increase of nearly 5 per cent compared to the same period last year, head of police crime research Norman Sekhukhune told parliament on Friday.

The figure suggests an average of 51 people were murdered daily in the country during the 12-month period.

The murder rate in South Africa, which has one of Africa's highest crime rates, has increased by 20 per cent over the past four years, according to the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

"It still seems to be a problematic crime," Sekhukhune was quoted by the local news agency ANA as saying.

Incidents of robbery with aggravating circumstances and house robbery rose by 2.7 per cent, while acts of business robbery increased by 2.8 per cent.

The number of car hijackings in South Africa soared by a whopping 14.3 per cent to 14,602 incidents, bringing them to an average of 40 daily.

Car hijackings have increased by 55 per cent over the past four years, the ISS said.

Sexual offences in the country were down 3.2 per cent, but the decrease could be due to fewer people reporting them, the ISS added.

"The increase in key crimes shows that South Africa remains under siege from criminals," said Zakhele Mbhele, a lawmaker the Democratic Alliance (DA) main opposition party.

"We are losing the fight against crime," Mbhele wrote in a DA party statement, describing the country's police force as "chronically under-resourced, under-trained, under-equipped, under-staffed."

ISS analyst Lizette Lancaster told dpa that a recent change in police leadership could improve its performance as measures were being taken to target high-crime areas.

Police intervention is effective against organized crime such as robberies and car hijackings, but it cannot entirely prevent murders, many of which are due to interpersonal conflicts, Lancaster said.

South Africa's history of colonialism and apartheid encouraged the use of violence as a way of solving conflicts, while widespread poverty and unemployment create a stressful socio-economic environment that fosters crime, Lancaster said.

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