You probably think you know how safe your province is, or have a clear perception of how safe it is. Maybe you think it is the most dangerous province in South Africa and for this reason want to relocate your family. More importantly, is a fear of crime enough reason to make you pack your bags and trek across the country?
Annual crime stats released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) provide insight on types of crime as reported at each station. It does not, however, consider those crimes that were unreported, nor can you use these stats to comment on how safe a province’s population feels. This makes it difficult for you and I to decide whether it would be better to leave our homes, friends, businesses, and schools, in search of a safe(er) haven.
In the 2016 Stats SA Community Survey, respondents were asked to comment on whether they had fallen victim to a crime in their household in the 12 months preceding the survey. The respondents were also asked to comment on how safe they felt walking in their neighbourhood during the daytime and when it was dark outside.
Nationally, an estimated 7.5%, or 1,27m households (of the total 16.9m households), experienced crime in the 12 months prior to the Community Survey. Interestingly, the Western Cape, which is arguably widely viewed as the safest by many South Africans, had the highest proportion of households who reported experiencing crime over the 12-month period. In the Western Cape an estimated 9.7% of households experienced crime, while 9.1% of households in Gauteng were victims of crime.
The Eastern Cape (6.2%), Northern Cape (6.8%) and Free State (6%) all experienced crime levels well below the 7.5% of South African households who reported being victims of crime. Limpopo was safest, with 4.2% of its households reported being victims of crime.
The most widely and frequently experienced crime was housebreaking or burglaries, with 3.6% of South African households citing being victims of this crime category; 1.8% of South African households reported to be victims of house robbery or home invasion, the scarier, more dangerous crime.
As can be expected, the Western Cape and Gauteng had the highest percentage of households who were exposed to housebreaking and house robbery/invasion. In the 12 months leading up the 2016 Community Survey, 2.2% of Western Cape households experienced a house robbery while 2.3% of Gauteng households had to endure this crime. This makes Gauteng the most dangerous in terms of home invasions – by a decimal point.
At the same time, 4.4% of Gauteng households and 4.1% of Western Cape households experienced a home burglary. These crimes were least prevalent in Limpopo where 1.1% of households experienced home invasion and 2.2% of households were victims of break-ins.
Although most South African households (79.4%) reported that they feel safe walking in their neighbourhoods during the day, only 34.3% of these households would feel safe walking when it was dark outside. Again, households in Limpopo are most likely to feel safe with 89.3% of households saying they felt safe taking a walk during the day, and 40.3% reporting that they would feel safe on the streets at night.
Considering all of this, and assuming that we want to move to where we will be and feel safest, we should all be flocking to Limpopo. This is, however, not the case with the Limpopo province reporting the highest number of out-migration in the Community Survey 2016.
In fact, the biggest in-migration is happening in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape, which are the two most dangerous provinces in which to live based on the crime stats discussed above. If it is not crime driving the migration, what is it then?
According to the 2016 Community Survey more than a quarter (25.4%) of households moving across municipalities or provinces do so to move into a new dwelling. The next most significant reasons are to be closer to loved ones (17.8%) and better education opportunities (11.4%). Only 1.1% of households moving across provinces or municipalities attribute crime as their reason for moving.
Traditional factors driving migration, such as employment or retirement, collectively account for 23.7% of households’ decisions to move.
The above suggests that you are more likely to move to a seemingly dangerous province if you’ve bought your dream home there, or if your mom lives there, than you are to avoid the province because of crime and safety perceptions.
Maybe it’s time that we adjust our talk to fit our walk. Do you think we, and the South African media, are too quick to jump on the gangsters’ paradise bandwagon where crime is attributed as the biggest motivator for moving? What if living anywhere in South Africa is actually full of potential and promise?