Annual statistics on crime released on Thursday show sharp disparities in how different parts of the country fared in terms of serious crime.
Variations in crime statistics between provinces over time are dependent on everything from the effectiveness of regional police management to changes in demographics owing to urbanisation and migrant labour.
Even so, comparisons between provinces can be useful in identifying broad trends.
Murder and maiming
Reports on murder, attempted murder and assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) are among the most authoritative crime statistics available, because such incidents are reported at a higher rate than almost all other crimes. They are also mostly directed at a specific individual; random murder or serious assault stemming from property crime is relatively rare.
Rape and abuse
Police statistics do not specifically record rape, and the total sexual crimes category includes a wide range of offences. In addition, all evidence shows that the overwhelming majority of such crimes are never reported, and that the level of reporting can vary significantly depending on the level of trust in local police – and police willingness to record incidents.
Robbery and hijacking
Robbery with aggravating circumstances includes many of the crimes that most determine how safe people feel: car and truck hijacking and instances at homes or businesses where occupants are confronted by armed assailants. The category as a whole is a reasonable indicator of the threat presented by criminals with weapons.
Protest and mayhem
Public violence is almost always associated with protests, and in recent years protests have invariably been linked to unhappiness about service delivery or have taken place during wage strikes. Public violence also correlates with other opportunistic crime, as it draws police away from their regular duties and can create an atmosphere of lawlessness.