TB and other diseases – and not crime, the leading cause of death in the Eastern Cape


According to the latest Mortality Report 2014 from Stats SA, Eastern Cape residents overwhelmingly die from largely preventable diseases – and not from crime, as most people would believe.

The statistics were gathered from information on mortality and causes of death in South Africa for deaths that occurred in 2013 based on all death notification forms from the civil registration system maintained by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

That system showed that about 63 935 people died in the Eastern Cape in 2013 – representing about 13.9% of the national total of 458 933 - understandably, the Eastern Cape has one of the largest population sizes in the country. In the province, 57 065 people died of natural causes compared to 6 870 who died of non-natural causes.

The province was third behind Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal which had 21.3% and 18.3% of the total deaths respectively.

Infant deaths

On one hand, the Eastern Cape had the lowest percentage of children dying in infancy at 3.4%. District municipalities which had the lowest proportions of infant deaths were in the province and countrywide where Amathole at 2.7% and Buffalo City at 3.0%.

However, the OR Tambo district had the country’s highest proportion of deaths amongst those aged 15–44  at 38.6%.

Sex ratio

The district in the Eastern Cape where female deaths were more than male deaths (sex ratio of less than 100) is the Alfred Nzo with 98 male deaths per 100 female deaths. OR Tambo had a sex ratios above 100 ranged from 101 male deaths per 100 female deaths.

The natural killers in the Eastern Cape


Tuberculosis was the leading natural cause of death in all districts in Eastern Cape – it also ranked first in six provinces. The province had the third highest proportion of deaths due to tuberculosis at 9.8% after KwaZulu-Natal (11.9%) and Mpumalanga (10.6%). The proportion of deaths due to tuberculosis in all three of these provinces was higher than the national average of 8.8% in 2013.


2013 is the first year, since 1997, that HIV disease was ranked the leading cause of death in any province. It was the second leading cause of death in Eastern Cape accounting for 5.4% of total natural deaths. The only district where HIV disease was not among the ten leading underlying causes of death was Buffalo City.


While diabetes mellitus was the first leading cause of death in Western Cape (at 6.9% of total natural deaths), it was the fifth leading cause in Eastern Cape at 4.3%.

Below is the list of the top ten natural killers in the Eastern Cape;



Percentage of natural deaths








Other forms of heart disease



Cerebrovascular diseases



Diabetes mellitus



Chronic lower respiratory diseases



Hypertensive diseases



Influenza and pneumonia



Other viral diseases



Malignant neoplasms of digestive organs



Other natural causes killed a combined 44.9%.

Non-Natural causes of death

Although the number of deaths due to natural causes were higher than the number of deaths due to non-natural causes, the proportion of deaths due to non-natural cause have been on a slight increase in the recent years.

The Eastern Cape had the third highest proportion of deaths due to non-natural causes at 10.7% of the total deaths.

The most common causes of non-natural deaths in all provinces were other external causes of accidental injury – accounting for 52.1% of the total non-natural deaths in the Eastern Cape.

Event of undetermined intent was the second most common non-natural cause of death in the province at 16.8% of the total non-natural deaths.

15.7% of the deaths where as a result of assault while road accidents claimed 11.6% of the non-natural deaths.

2.7% of non-natural deaths were recorded in the province following Complications of medical and surgical care.

The stats also showed that more males died of non-natural causes compared to females.