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The 20 Worst Places to Live in South Africa


South Africa may be beautiful, but it's also one of the most troubled countries in the world. Its poverty rate of 26.6 percent is the highest in the world. It has the biggest wealth inequality gap in the world, with almost 20 percent of the country's wealth residing in the hands of the top 1 percent. Crime is rife and increasing by the year. Despite having a highly developed economy and a GDP of over $350 billion, many of its citizens lack the basic essentials of clean running water, electricity, and sound dwellings. Of course, nowhere's all bad, and there's plenty of incredible places to live if you look...just make sure to avoid these 20 worst places to live in South Africa.


20. Khayelitsha

Khayelitsha is poor, downtrodden, and these days, increasingly dangerous. The violent crime rate has soared in recent years, to the end that it now has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. If you're looking for a safe, relaxed hometown, keep looking.


19. Dundee

Dundee is a coal mining town in a valley of the Biggarsberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa that's rich in coal deposits and very little else. 89.2 percent of people in the town earn less than R1600 per month, making it one of the very poorest areas in South Africa. Unless if you want to live with no money, no prospects, and very little hope, it's best avoided.

Rustenburg City

18. Rustenburg City

If safety and security rank highly on your 'must have' list, stay well away from Rustenburg City. This is a place where political tensions frequently boil over, where kidnapping and hijackings are everyday occurrences, where assaults, rapes, and homicides are commonplace. Regardless of how safety-minded you are, and regardless of how much common sense you apply, this is no place for anyone who likes to sleep soundly in their beds at night.


17. Johannesburg

Johannesburg might have a lot of upsides (excellent job opportunities, superb amenities, and a vast range of things to see and do) but there's no getting around the fact that South Africa's largest city is also one of the most dangerous places to live in the entire country. As writes, the high incidence of rape there has earned the city the title of the “World’s Rape Capital”. It also has an unedifying number of xenophobic attacks against foreigners, robberies, assaults, and homicides. If you can avoid the crime, it's a great place to live. Unfortunately, it's nigh on impossible to do.


16. Inanda

Courtesy of Matador Network, a few rather uncomfortable truths about South Africa for you. A woman is raped in South Africa every four minutes. In a survey completed by the Medical Research Council, more than 75% of men admitted to committing other acts of violence against women. Almost half of those men admitted to committing rape more than once. 73% also said they committed their first rape before the age of 20. Clearly, South Africa has a big, big problem, and nowhere is that problem more evident than in Inanda, a city that, last year alone, reported 297 rape cases - the highest number in the entire country.


15. Pietermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg is big, busy, and increasingly, out of control. Historically dubbed ‘sleepy hollow,’ the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal has one of the highest crime indexes and the lowest safety indexes in the country. Corruption and crime are everywhere, with robberies, homicides, car thefts, rapes, and xenophobic attacks a daily occurrence. Ranked by as one of the most dangerous places in South Africa to live, it's best avoided unless you plan on becoming yet another statistic.


14. Durban

Living in Durban comes with a lot of perks. It's big, it's bustling, the weather is glorious, and you'll never be short of anything to do. As the biggest commodity port in Sub-Saharan Africa, it's also got a lot of wealth floating around. Unfortunately, most of that wealth is concentrated in just a few people's hands, resulting in an economic inequality that spells bad things for the crime rate, bad things for the community, and bad things for anyone thinking of moving in. Crime and corruption is rife - if you can find someone who hasn't been affected by a robbery, a car jacking, an assault, or something worse, consider it a miracle. If you know what's good for you, lock your doors, close your windows, and keep on driving.


13. Soweto

Over the last decade or so, Soweto has undergone a radical transformation. As Reuters writes, former sinkholes have been transformed into trendy precincts with upscale apartments and hip markets. With coffee shops and cupcake stores on every corner, apartments can now command asking prices of $250-$365 a month. The problem? No one can afford to live in them. Wages haven't risen in line with the prices - or rather, the wages of the majority haven't, while the wages of the few have risen so high, it's pushed everyone else out of the market. Half of all households in the area earn just $228 a month. 31 percent earn less than $115. As a result, families are increasingly facing displacement and being forced to live in shelters and temporary housing. Unless you're able to turn a blind eye to deprivation and inequality, it's best avoided.

East London

12. East London

For some people, East London is a great place to live. It's by the sea, it's big enough to have lots going on, it's relatively affordable, and it has one of the best natural history museums in the world. All good stuff, and all worth mentioning. What's also worth mentioning is that 89.5 percent of people living in the city earn less than R1,600 per month. When most people are struggling to put bread on the table, it doesn't matter how many great bars, how many first-rate restaurants, how many cute cafes, and how many fascinating museums a place has. Economic inequality is one of South Africa's biggest problems: in East London, the reasons why are clear.

Cape Town

11. Cape Town

There can't be many cities in the world that occupy quite such a stunning location as Cape Town. Ringed by mountains on one side, the ocean on the other, and intersected by a spine of hills running down its center, it's little short of spectacular. But while the opportunities for sun bathing, hiking, diving, and surfing are legendary, this is a city with a dark underbelly. Here, pirates aren't found on the pages of children's books: they're the face at the window and the shadows crawling over your fence. Crime is everywhere - leave your car, your handbag, or your phone unsecured and unattended for more than a few seconds, and they'll be gone by the time you get back. Add extreme levels of economic inequality and corruption on top of all that, and you can see why Cape Town's reputation has taken a nosedive.

OR Tambo

10. OR Tambo

According to, OR Tambo ranks as one of the poorest regions in South Africa. Looking at the stats, it's not hard to see what's bought them to the conclusion. The poverty rate is a giant 77.5 percent, with most people (88.6 percent, in fact) earning less than R1600 per month. Only 19.4 percent of residents have tap water inside their house or yard. Just 18.3 percent have a flush/chemical toilet. It's poor, depressing, and best avoided.

Port Elizabeth

9. Port Elizabeth

Some people know Port Elizabeth by the nickname the 'Friendly City.' Those people clearly haven't been there, or if they have, they never left their chauffeur-driven, bullet-proofed windowed limos the entire time. Sure, a lot of the people there are probably perfectly nice, perfectly friendly, and perfectly law-abiding. But judging by the crime stats, an awful lot aren't. As one of South Africa's most crime-riddled spots, this is a place that's best avoided by anyone who values safety and security.


8. Plessislaer

According to, South Africa has a new murder capital - Plessislaer. The town, which is located just a short distance from Pietermaritzburg, has experienced a massive spike in homicides in the past 12 months, jumping from 43 in Q4 of 2019/20 to 73 this year. Since 2018, the number of murder cases has almost trebled. Assaults and rapes are also commonplace, putting it firmly off the table for anyone who cares about sleeping safe in their bed at night.


7. Nqutu

Nqutu is a small, rural village in South Africa where kids start their day at 4 am in the morning. After fetching water, letting the family's cows out to graze, and helping feed and cloth their younger siblings, they start preparing for the trek to school. And it really is a trek. 10 miles there, 10 miles back, and with the constant threat of robberies, rape, animal attacks, and hazardous river crossings on both sides. As Harvard Law Today writes, because of the many hours lost traveling to and from school, the children have to fit a full 24 hour day into something much less. As a result, many have to sacrifice school work, sleep, and health, with long-term consequences on their ability to reach their full potential. Despite various initiatives that have attempted to ease the problem, it's still a grim situation and an even grimmer place to live.


6. Munsieville

In fairness, Munsieville itself isn't that bad. What is bad is the giant squatter camp located right on its doorstep. Built on a former dumping ground, the camp is home to around 300 people, a quarter of whom are children. The average monthly income is 700 rand. Basic sanitation is non-existent, as is running water, secure housing, electricity, and more often than not, food. Residents are considered outcasts, rebuffed by potential employers and refused health care. In short, it's a tragedy.


5. Umlazi

If you're a woman, you might want to think twice about moving to Umlazi. According to, the city has one of the worst rape records in the country, reporting 293 incidents in 2019/2020 alone. Its also poor, corrupt, and best avoided by anyone who has the option to do so.


4. Mthatwa

South Africa ranks among the worst countries in the world for economic equality. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. It's the same everywhere, but in the East Cape, the situation is particularly bleak. The region's main city, Mthatwa, has an airport, a river, a pretty name that comes from the Sneezewood trees, and very little else. Poverty is rife, with 88.7 percent of people struggling to get by on less than R1600 per month. As so often happens, crime has risen in line with the poverty - in 2019, the city was revealed by as the sixth most dangerous city in SA where you are most likely to be murdered. 2 years later, very little has changed.


3. Muyexe

In 2009, the national Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) named Muyexe as one of the poorest villages in South Africa. Basic essentials like water, electricity, roads, and adequate housing were all noticeable by their absence. The CRDP promised their assistance. The Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform promised to visit the village regularly to make sure the work was moving in the right direction. By 2013, the residents still didn't have a permanent water supply. President Jacob Zuma promised to organize a pipeline from the Nsami dam to bring water into the village. 8 years later, they're still waiting.

Mount Ayliff

2. Mount Ayliff

If basic comforts like a flush toilet, running water, and electricity float your boat, do yourself a favor and avoid Mount Ayliff. As one of the poorest villages in the poorest regions of South Africa, Mount Ayliff is a grim, depressing place that seems to be going nowhere fast. Only 16 percent of people have piped water inside their yard or dwelling, the unemployment rate is over 50 percent, and 90.2 percent of people are struggling to get by on less than R1600 per month. It might not have the crime and the corruption of some of South Africa's bigger cities, but that's scant cancellation to the residents struggling to get through the day.


1. Pretoria

Pretoria has universities, research centers, jobs, housing, entertainment options, gardens, parks, libraries, museums... everything, in fact, you'd expect of a decent city. Does that mean it is one? Everything is subject to opinion, but if you place any kind of value on safety, probably not. According to, Pretoria ranks as the third most dangerous city in the entire world, trailing only Caracas in Venezuela and Port Moresby in New Guinea in terms of the crime rate. No amount of universities, jobs, and shops can make up for that.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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