The 2011/12 crime statistics released by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday have been broadly welcomed, but also evoked concern.
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said the figures reflected a significant decline in various serious crimes, clearly demonstrating government's crime-fighting efforts continue to bear fruit.
The regular year-on-year decline in serious crimes, such as murder, cash-in-transit heists, car hijackings, and bank robberies, showed that the crime-fighting achievements recorded during the 2010 Soccer World Cup were intensifying.
"We are confident that government will indeed continue to deepen its progressive crime-fighting strategies in this regard, to ensure that South Africans are not only safe, but also feel safe," he said.
Dianne Kohler-Barnard of the Democratic Alliance disagreed, stating the "minuscule" decrease in crime was no indication that government was doing everything it could to keep South Africans safe.
"These incremental changes are cold comfort to law-abiding citizens who live in fear of criminals. South Africans will certainly not feel any safer as a result of these crime statistics," she said.
Freedom Front Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said the latest crime statistics showed South Africa remained a "violent" country.
However, the FF Plus welcomed a decline in most violent crimes, such as murder (by 3.1 percent), sexual crimes (by 3.7 percent), and robberies (by 1.9 percent).
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believed the figures did not reflect the actual security threats facing citizens.
"Of course we welcome the ongoing reductions in most violent crime categories," said ISS crime and justice programme head Gareth Newham.
"However, these statistics do not reflect some serious endemic and emerging security threats facing South Africans."
These included corruption, public violence, group murders, political assassinations, and domestic violence.
Newham urged Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to allow the police to provide more regular and detailed information on these crimes.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said the statistics did not assist in the fight against corruption and did not provide the information necessary to beef up the battle against corruption.
It appeared that the crime statistics categorised much of the reporting of corruption as common fraud.
"However, it is essential to isolate those reports of white collar crime which are, in fact, corruption."
Whenever a case of fraud involved the abuse of public resources it should be logged as a case of corruption.
"Hopefully, this will ultimately lead to an increase in prosecutions under the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Activities Act (PRECCA) which generally carries significantly more severe penalties than do most common law white collar crimes," he said.
Business Against Crime SA (Bacsa) and its associated partners applauded the overall reduction in crime levels.
"Despite the increased level of reporting of crimes over the financial period in question, crime levels generally declined," Bacsa CEO Simi Pillay-van Graan said.
This success could be attributed to the commitment of dedicated police officials and leadership within the safety and security environment, as well as the structured partnerships between government and the business sector, as acknowledged by Mthethwa at the release of the statistics.
Bacsa saluted the thousands of dedicated police officers, who worked long, tireless hours to protect the country from crime, especially those who had been injured or lost their lives over the past year while serving the country.
The figures released by Mthethwa showed that the actual murder rate dropped marginally, with 331 fewer people killed this year compared to last year.
An analysis done by SAPS research task team head Mzwandile
Mthethwa told journalists over 18 000 people were murdered in the 2004/5 reporting period.
"This translates to a 27.6 percent reduction in murder over an eight-year period," he said.
The minister said an analysis showed almost two-thirds of murders were committed as a result of arguments, fuelled by heavy drinking and drug abuse.
On the decrease in sexual offences, Mthethwa said this was not necessarily a good sign and could point to a trend of under-reporting crimes, such as rape.
"It is influenced by reporting behaviour; if victims trust the police, then you will get more reporting."
He conceded there were difficulties in policing rape and related offences.
"... as government, we still remain concerned about the conviction rate of criminals who commit such crimes," he said.
Reinstating the family violence, child protection, and sexual offences (FCS) units two years ago was helping to ensure more perpetrators were jailed.
"In cases where it involved children under the age of 18, the unit has secured convictions that resulted in a total of 10 345 years [in jail] for those criminals."
For sexual offences against people over 18 131 life sentences were secured, Mthethwa said.