The statistic reveals the extent of the crime police are faced with, according to the police’s head of crime research and statistics, Major General Norman Sekhukhune.
He was speaking as the South African Police Service (SAPS) released the Crime Statistics for the 2017/18 financial year in Parliament on Tuesday.
Sekhukhune's remarks come after five officers were slain at the Engcobo Police Station in the Eastern Cape earlier this year.
While a total of 83 police members lost their lives last year, the figure had increased by 2.4% to 85 this year.
“Of the 85 police officers murdered during the 2017/18 financial year, 28 were fatally wounded while they were on duty and some of the police officials were killed while performing duties within the police station, of course keeping in mind that five of those police officers are those that were massacred [at] Engcobo Police Station. A further two members were found murdered in Koffiefontein Police Station and in both incidents, firearms were [taken] from the community service centre,” he said.
While 28 police officers lost their lives in the line of duty, 57 were killed while they were off duty.
“We also need to keep in mind that [the fact that] police officials are attacked in the line of duty serves as a vicious reminder of the encounters that the police officers are faced with on a daily bases in their quest to ensure that South Africans feel safe,” he said.
More gang-related crimes in the Western Cape
Sekhukhune said, meanwhile, police have been able to look at the motive behind several murders, including those being committed due to economic reasons.
“We also tried to look at the criminal behaviour and motives for the murder. The table indicates selected circumstances which we believe were a contribution to murder statistics, which could be classified either due to motive, activity or economic sector.
“From the remote data that is maintained by crime intelligence division, it could be established that 973 murders committed in the country were gang-related.
He said 237 cases related to taxi violence were recorded nationally, with a bulk of those, 110, coming from Gauteng.
Some 94 cases of illicit mining were recorded during the period under review, with 65 of these being captured in the Free State and the remaining 23 coming from Gauteng.
Sixty two farm murders were recorded overall, with 12 coming from Gauteng - Limpopo (9), North West (9), Mpumalanga (8), Free State (8), KwaZulu-Natal (7), and the rest of the provinces – Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, recording three murders each.
More people died as a result of people taking the law into their own hands, with 849 cases of mob justice being reported nationally.
Out of these, 264 came from Gauteng, 145 from KwaZulu-Natal, 173 from the Western Cape and 95 from Limpopo.
“The fifth category was the murder of police officers, with 85 murders and the highest province being 28 murders. However, one needs to take into consideration that in the 28, we have included 10 police officials who were killed who were based at head office.”
During the past financial year, cash heists increased by a staggering 56.6%, rising from 152 cases in 2016/17 to 238 in the last term.
In a media briefing on the stats, Police Minister Bheki Cele said, however, that police were now using improved crime intelligence, coupled with better coordination, to arrest the trend.
He said crime intelligence operatives had provided information that led to the arrest of over 50 cash heist suspects from 4 June to date.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole said SAPS is now formally introducing modus operandi analysis to curb cash heists.