"Black-maned lions framed against Kalahari dunes; powdery beaches lapped by two oceans; star-studded desert skies; jagged, lush mountains — this truly is a country of astounding diversity. It's where natural meets shine."

This is how Lonely Planet describes South Africa, a gem that's high up on the bucket lists of travellers around the world.

But unfortunately, it has a big problem that is spiralling out of control. The nation's already high murder rate has increased by 7 per cent, with its police minister likening the situation to a "war zone".

In this photo taken last month, police search suspects for guns and drugs during a raid on known drug houses in Manenburg in Cape Town. Photo / AP
In this photo taken last month, police search suspects for guns and drugs during a raid on known drug houses in Manenburg in Cape Town. Photo / AP

Police have released crime statistics showing 20,336 people were murdered in South Africa between April 2017 and March, compared to 19,016 in the previous year.

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That's an unfathomable 55 slaughters a day.

Police minister Bheki Cele said the high murder rate "borders close to the war zone — while there is peace and there is no war".

Mmusi Maimane, the opposition Democratic Alliance leader, agreed.

"This is indeed war-zone levels," he said. "Our police need better training, equipment and resources. We need a better criminal justice system so that murderers are locked up and keys thrown away."

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Many murders were linked to gang violence in Western Cape province, whose capital is Cape Town.

Colourful changerooms at St James beach along Cape Town's False Bay waterfront along the route to Cape Point. Photo / Getty Images
Colourful changerooms at St James beach along Cape Town's False Bay waterfront along the route to Cape Point. Photo / Getty Images
Aerial views of Cape Town Stadium looking towards Table Mountain during construction in 2009. Photo / Getty Images
Aerial views of Cape Town Stadium looking towards Table Mountain during construction in 2009. Photo / Getty Images

A parliamentary committee says police efforts to deal with the problem have been ineffective and that commanders should strengthen the law enforcement presence in crime hot spots.

Despite the bloodshed, South Africa is in the midst of a huge tourism push, announcing earlier this year that it will speed up visa processes and lure major conferences in a bid to boost tourism numbers by a whopping 40 per cent by 2021.

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That's an extra five million travellers — four million of those international tourists.

KIWI TOURISTS CAUTIONED

Currently, the Government's Safetravel.govt.nz site advises Kiwi travellers to "exercise increased caution in South Africa due to violent crime and the threat of terrorism".

"There is a high level of violent crime in South Africa, which includes murder, sexual assault, carjacking and armed robbery," the site advises.

"New Zealanders are advised to be conscious of personal safety at all times. We recommend you avoid travel after dark and to isolated areas and avoid displaying or wearing items that appear valuable, such as mobile devices and jewellery. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery, mugging or carjacking as this could lead to an escalation in violence."

The site also warns of terrorism, scams and civil unrest.

- with news.com.au and AP