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S.Africa 'close to war zone' with 57 murders a day: minister

© AFP/File | South African police often come under fire for failing to tackle rising crime levels but they say they need at least 62,000 more officers

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - 

South Africa's murder rate rose again last year, official statistics showed Tuesday, with over 20,000 killed across the country -- about 57 a day -- as police admitted they were struggling to keep control.

A total of 20,336 people were killed in the 12 months to March this year, up from 19,016 the previous year.

The numbers reflect a 6.9 percent year-on-year increase, one of the highest per capita since the end of apartheid 24 years ago.

"Fifty-seven a day, that's how South Africans are murdered. It borders close to the war zone while there is a peace, there is no war in South Africa," Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters.

"The figures that always scare me are murder figures," he said.

"South Africans must not take it as a norm that they can be hijacked, robbed and killed every day. We have to pick up the ball and change the situation for the better."

Francois Beukman, who heads the police oversight committee in parliament, described the numbers as "alarming and totally unacceptable".

Presenting the figures to parliament, Norman Sekhukhune, the police official responsible for crime research and statistics, said murder rate had increased for the past six consecutive years.

South African police often come under fire for failing to bring down crime levels, while police chiefs saying they need at least 62,000 more officers.

© 2018 AFP