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South Africa’s murder rate rose by 1.8 percent in the last year, with over 19,000 people killed across the country,

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s murder rate rose by 1.8 percent in the last year, with over 19,000 people killed across the country — 52 a day — official statistics released Tuesday showed.

The eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, which is hit by political violence, recorded the highest number of murders, followed by Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

“Over the past four financial years, murder has reflected an upward trend. We need a combative and decisive policing when we deal with such crimes,” said Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

A total of 19,016 were killed between April 2016 to March 2017, up from 18,673 the previous year.

“We must not see these statistics just as pure numbers,” Mbalula told lawmakers in parliament as he delivered the official statistics.

“Behind the numbers are real feelings, real lives, real hurt, real harm, real losses, deaths.”

In the Western Cape, which includes the gang-ridden city of Cape Town, gang-related killings accounted for 19.3 percent of all murders in the province.

A total of 39,828 rapes were reported in the past year — 109 a day — down from 41,503.

There were also 16,717 reported carjacking incidents, the highest number recorded in the last 10 years.

The opposition Democratic Alliance questioned whether crime was actually worse than the official figures due under-reporting in the country of 56 million people.

South African police often come under fire for failing to bring down crime levels, although officials insist that the numbers have been declining from before the end of apartheid in 1994.