A prospective, hospital based sampling procedure conducted between June 8th, 1989 and August 24th, 1990 identified 1592 victims of interpersonal violence in six state and five private hospitals serving the Johannesburg magisterial district (which includes Soweto). For the 1282 victims resident in the area, this corresponded to crude annualised incidence rates per 100,000 population of 3821 for coloureds, 1527 for blacks, 467 for whites, 433 for asians and 1380 for all residents. Males, most of whom were aged 20-24 years, constituted 83.9% of all victims and were most often attacked on the streets. The majority of females were attacked at home by a spouse or lover, and most incidents occurred between dusk and midnight on weekends. Sharp violence was the most frequent type, involving 52.2% of the male and 51.4% of the female victims. Analysis by racial classification of the overall findings for mechanism of injury and relationship to aggressor showed dramatic differences. Limitations of the findings are discussed. After comparison with similar data for two United States cities and Copenhagen, Denmark, it is hypothesised that the racial differences in the present findings reflect the interplay of universal structural determinants and a specific colonial factor rooted in the sociology and psychology of oppression. Some implications of these findings and hypothesised determinants for violence prevention initiatives are mentioned.