South African Medical Journal

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Homicide trends in Mthatha area of South Africa between 1993 and 2005

BL Meel


Background. Absolute poverty and gross income inequity can foment violence through various and multiple mechanisms. Poor people are highly prone to exploitation
and manipulation by those who are wealthy and more powerful. The poor are as susceptible to being victims as being perpetrators of crime.
Objective. To study the trends in homicides in the Mthatha area.
Method. A review of records of 5 583 medico-legal autopsies in Mthatha General Hospital of murder victims between 1993 and 2005.
Results. During the 13-year period, 12 063 autopsies were performed on people who died following trauma and other fatal injuries. Of this total, 5 583 (46%) were homicides.
The average annual homicide rate during this period was 108/100 000 population. The rate increased from 94/100 000 in 1993 to 133/100 000 in 2005. Firearm-related deaths
averaged 48/100 000, stab wounds 35/100 000, and blunt trauma (assault) 25/100 000 per year. Gunshot-related homicides increased from 27/100 000 in 1993 to a peak of 68/100 000 in 2001, decreasing to 42/100 000 in 2005. Stab-related homicides ranged from
42/100 000 in 1993 to a ‘low' of 26/100 000 in 1995, then rose to 53/100 000 in 2005; assault with blunt objects increased from 25/100 000 to 38/100 000 in the same period. Murdered males (82%) outnumbered females in the proportion of 5:1, although there was an increasing incidence of females. About half of these deaths were in the 21 - 40-year-old range.
Conclusion. There has been a progressive increase in homicides in the Mthatha area. To a certain extent, poverty has contributed to the causation of these deaths.

South African Medical Journal Vol. 98 (6) 2008 pp. 477-480

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