Some 6,289 people were killed in the country - which has one of the world's highest murder rates - between January and March, up 3.4 percent on the same period last year.
Yet, Police Minister Bheki Cele, who has long been under fire over the rampant crime, said the overall picture was improving.
"We are gradually gaining back the ground from criminals," Cele told a press conference.
Child murders were down 20 percent, he pointed out as one example.
As for other violent crimes, rapes also saw a slight 2.8 percent decline, with a still staggering 10,500 cases reported in the first quarter of 2022.
Cash-in-transit robberies instead experienced a "stubborn increase" of more than 20 percent, with 64 cases reported, Cele said.
Common robberies, assaults and attempted murders were also on the up.
The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), reiterated calls for Cele to be fired.
Crime is "spiraling out of control," the party said in a statement.
The new figures "paint a bloody picture of violence tearing away at our social fabric while our citizens cower in fear in their own homes."