The Richmond local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal has the highest murder rate in the country, at 192 per 100 000 people, the SA Institute of Race Relations said on Thursday.
A survey conducted by SAIRR showed that Richmond's murder rate was six times that of the national rate of 31 murders per 100 000 people in the 2011/2012.
Two municipalities also had murder rates much higher than the national rate.
These were Sundays River Valley, in the Eastern Cape, with 178, and Victor Khanye local municipality, in Mpumalanga, with 177.
The SAIRR surveyed the murder rates of all 278 local municipalities in the year 2011/2012.
SAIRR researcher Kerwin Lebone said the three municipalities with the highest murder rates stood out in terms of limited access to police stations and courts of law, relative to the size of their areas.
"Richmond local municipality has one police station per 314 square kilometres (sqkm) and one court per 628sqkm.
"Sundays River Valley has one police station per 999sqkm and one court per 5994sqkm," he said.
In Victor Khanye local municipality, there was a police station for every 224sqkm and a court for every 784sqkm.
By contrast, Johannesburg's murder rate was 29, and it had a police station every 37sqkm and a court every 103sqkm. In Cape Town, the murder rate was 36, and it had a police station every 42sqkm and a court every 122sqkm.
Lebone said there was not a particularly strong correlation between crime and socio-economic problems such as unemployment and poverty in the areas with the highest murder rates.
SAPS research had shown that around 80 percent of murders occurred between people who know each other, said Lebone.
"The information presented by the institute suggests that some squabbles may be prevented from deteriorating into murders in areas with better access to justice.
"Easy access to police stations and law courts to resolve such disputes may prove to be important in preventing more serious crimes," he said.