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By Gareth Cotterell

Digital Editor

Global report ranks South Africa among top 10 countries for crime

Report by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime said cocaine and heroin trade were particular concerns, while extortion is also on the rise.

South Africa has been ranked among the top 10 countries with the highest criminality in the world.

This is according to the latest global organised crime index, released by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC).

South Africa ranks 7th out of 193 countries.  

Global criminality scores:

  1. Myanmar
  2. Colombia
  3. Mexico
  4. Paraguay
  5. Democratic Republic of Congo
  6. Nigeria
  7. South Africa
  8. Iraq
  9. Afghanistan
  10. Lebanon

The criminality index is measured by assessing the criminal markets and criminal actors in each country, according to GI-TOC.

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The criminal market takes into account the financial impact of the crimes, the number of people affected and the presence of violence. The criminal actors are assessed by looking into the organisation and sophistication of criminal groups, as well as their influence of the state and society.

As a continent, Africa has the second highest criminality after Asia. Although Southern Africa is the lowest ranked region on the continent, the report states that four countries have high levels of crime – South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Drug trade

The report said environmental and drug crimes were increasing in Southern Africa, with cocaine and heroin being highlighted.

South Africa ranks first in Southern African and third in Africa for cocaine trade. It ranks fourth in Southern Africa and fifth in Africa for heroin trade.

“The heroin trade generates billions of rand in annual revenue in South Africa, making it a significant commodity,” the report states.

South Africa has also become one of the largest heroin consumer markets in Africa. The market is controlled by gangs from South Africa, neighbouring countries and West Africa. It also has direct links to South Asian networks.

The report adds that South Africa is now a “critical node” in international heroin smuggling rings to Europe, Africa and Australia.

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Regarding the cocaine trade, South Africa has a growing domestic market as well as connections to Europe, Hong Kong and Australia.

The report says most of the cocaine arrives in the country in shipping containers from Brazil.

“The country’s high-level police corruption, excellent transport infrastructure and resource shortages in drug control facilitate the transit of the drug. South Africa also has the highest prevalence of cocaine consumption in Africa, with international, regional and domestic groups involved in its distribution.”

South Africa has also become a new trafficking route for methamphetamine to East Asia.

Extortion and racketeering

Extortion and protection racketeering have also increased in South Africa.

“These practices impact informal businesses, residents in poorer communities, mining companies and the transport industry.”

The report adds that some extortion networks in Gauteng act as security companies, but “often use violence and illegal methods to achieve their objectives”.

Extortion networks have also expanded in Cape Town, targeting restaurants and luxury apartments.

The ‘construction mafia’ in KwaZulu-Natal was also cited.

“Criminal syndicates have also found new ways to enrich themselves, such as through extortion rackets targeting small businesses and construction companies in Cape Town. Kidnapping for ransom and extortion has become an established and lucrative criminal practice in South Africa.”


The gun trade in South Africa is another factor for the country’s high crime levels.

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Millions of illegal firearms are in circulation in South Africa. Most of these guns are stolen from licensed civilian owners or ‘lost’ or stolen from government departments.

“The absence of effective control over police-issued firearms, as well as firearms in police evidence stores and armouries, has allowed organised criminals to obtain weapons from these governmental facilities.”

The report says this widespread arms trafficking has strengthened organised criminal groups and networks.

Read more on these topics

Crime drugs Editor’s Choice extortion South Africa

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