Are South Africans bent on hearing bad news about their country?
Researchers may well think so after a study shows that murder rates in the country have declined by 30% since 1994/95.
But the improvement has not registered in perceptions of crime levels, with 57% of South Africans in 2007 believing that crime levels have increased.
However, new research by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) shows that levels of murder are decreasing -- particularly when the increased population is taken into account. In 1994/95 there were 25 965 people murdered in South Africa, and in 2008/09 there were 18 148, accounting for the 30% decrease in numbers.
Proportionally, however, there has been a decrease of 44%, from 70 per 100 000 South Africans in 1994/95 to 37 per 100 000 in 2008/09
But with an average of 50 people killed per day in the past year, South Africa's murder rates are still a very serious business.
And South Africans aren't too wrong about crime increasing -- with overall crime on the up, particularly aggravated house robberies, which have increased by 43% since 1994/95. (I suggest this has a lot to do with their being that much more middle classed housing...5 million more people have upgraded to the middle classes in this time. 10's of millions more to RDP housing.)
Another explanation for the lack of awareness of decreasing murder rates is small short-term change, according to the SAIRR. For instance, in 2008/09 the number of murders only decreased by 1,8% from 2007/08.
Kerwin Lebone, a researcher at the SAIRR, said the general feeling that the murder rate is getting worse is due to the fact that these crimes have remained so high for an extended time.