JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's already high murder rate has increased by about 7 percent, prompting the police minister to compare the situation to a "war zone."

Police on Tuesday 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.

The police minister, Bheki Cele, says the high murder rate "borders close to the war zone — while there is peace and there is no war."

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

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 hotspots.

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