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  • South Africa has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world.

    South Africa has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 November 2018

Local reports said that the two victims were in the court's public gallery when the shooter tried to talk to them before opening fire.

An off-duty policeman opened fire inside a divorce court in South Africa on Monday, killing his estranged wife and her brother during a tea break in legal proceedings.

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The incident in South Africa's southeastern port city of Durban occurred on the eighth floor of the regional magistrate court building as the court heard the annulment case between the couple.

"At around 11:00 am... the suspect shot at the wife and her brother and both died at the scene," police spokeswoman Colonel Thembeka Mbele told AFP, adding that the hearing had been about to resume after the break.

The two victims suffered several gunshot wounds, she said.

The suspect, 32, turned the gun on himself but survived.

"He tried to commit suicide and has been taken to hospital where he is in a critical condition," she said.

Mbele confirmed the suspect was an off-duty police officer.

South Africa's TimesLive online paper said visibly shaken court staff, including clerks and interpreters, were escorted from the building.

Security is usually tight at South African courts where visitors and workers pass through metal detectors and bags are X-rayed.

Police officers are allowed to go in with their firearms if they are on duty.

According to Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa in an interview last year, South Africa has the highest femicide rate in the world: "One that is five times higher than the average global rate. That means that a woman is killed every eight hours, and at least half of these murders are at the hands of an intimate partner."

At least half of women die in the hands of their partners, according to the official estimate —close to the global rate across the world of 58 percent according to a recent United Nations report. This figure means that six women are killed every hour by people they know, either a partner or a family member.

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