Almost three people were murdered every hour in South Africa during the first three months of the year, according to police statistics released Tuesday.
Police recorded 6,289 people killed in the country -- which has one of the world’s highest murder rates -- between January and March, up 3.4 percent from the period last year.
But Police Minister Bheki Cele, who has long been under fire over the rampant crime, said the overall picture was improving.
“We are gradually gaining back the ground from criminals,” Cele told a press conference, saying for example that child murders were down 20 percent.
The number of rapes also declined slightly by 2.8 percent, though more than 10,500 cases were still reported in the first quarter of this year.
But there was a “stubborn increase” in cash-in-transit robberies of more than 20 percent, with 64 cases reported, Cele said.
Common robberies, assaults and attempted murders were also increasing,
The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), reiterated its calls for Cele to be dismissed, saying that crimes was “spiraling out of control.”
The new figures “paint a bloody picture of violence tearing away at our social fabric while our citizens cower in fear in their own homes”, the party said in a statement.