(eTN) – Crime is a harsh reality in South Africa, for tourists and residents alike. During the World Cup Games in this country nearly 1,000 crimes (i.e., thefts and muggings) were reported in and around the sports stadiums. On an average South African day 50 people are murdered. Between 2009/2010 a total of 2,121,887 (approximately 2.1 million) serious crimes were registered. Of these cases, roughly a third (31.9%) were contact crimes, 26.1% were property-related crimes, 25.5% were other serious crimes and 10.0% and 6.5% were crimes detected as a result of police action and contact-related crimes respectively.
Information released after the games makes it appear that World Cup visitors did not find security an issue although Frans Cronje, the CEO of the SA Institute of Race Relations finds that, “South Africa remains a very violent society despite the progress made by the police and private security. It is true that the murder rate has been reduced by 50 percent over the past 15 years; however, the murder rate in South Africa continues to be is eight times higher than the USA and 20 times higher than many western countries. In addition, members of South African law enforcement are regularly exposed to brutal and gratuitous violence that is higher than their counterparts in other parts of the world.”
The Broken Blue Line
A significantly important aspect of crime in South Africa is the fact that members of law enforcement are the perpetrators of the crimes, according to research by Ndeble, Lebone and Cronje (2011). Police connected crimes are not simply isolated incidents but follow a general pattern of allegations throughout the country. The SA Institute report, the Broken Blue Line (2011) determined that some of the members of the police department are not only corrupt, but active participants in the criminal activities that include ATM bombings and house robberies. Although the police contend that the criminals are posing as official law enforcement (i.e. wearing a police uniform), the report refutes this claim by documenting the perpetrators as driving state vehicles and using personal service weapons.
According to Ndebele, Lebone, & Cronje (2011) it becomes very difficult to solve crimes when the violence is perpetrated by colleagues, creating “…a breeding group for complicity…” Not only does this situation encourage a low conviction rate, it discourages victims to come forward to report incidents for fear of retribution.
A Very Hard Job
The Institute report acknowledges that SA police face a significant amount of job stress that results in suicides. The study also finds that the multiple levels of discipline, low-levels of agency command and control combined with a lack of respect for the chain of command increases the pressures on law enforcement personnel. To make the job even tougher, the trade unions associated with police work may undermine the disciplinary powers of senior officers. The outcome of the complex nature of SA law enforcement may explain, “…why poor communities often settle for vigilantism while wealthier communities are…protected by phalanxes of armed guards” (Ndebele, T., Lebone, K., Cronje, F., 2011).
Department of State Suggests Heads-Up
The US State Department Advisory for travelers to South Africa are cautioned to be aware of criminal activities. Acknowledging improvements in local law enforcement, it is still important to know that violent crimes such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, smash-and-grab attacks on vehicles, and other incidents are common and do affect visitors and resident U.S. citizens. A special note of caution is presented to visitors heading to the US Embassy in Pretoria and Consulates General in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg as muggings have occurred near US diplomatic facilities.
While mall shopping and the use of other public spaces can be fun, visitors should be vigilant and aware that organized crime gangs target individuals in these locales. Once a person has been identified as a target he/she is followed back to their accommodations and robbed (often at gunpoint). Several foreign visitors have been raped and the US State Department encourages victims to immediately seek medical assistance, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS and to get in touch with nearest the US Embassy or Consulate. The State Department also suggests that credit cards never be “out of sight” even when dining at a restaurant where credit card machines can be brought to the table. Although profiling is discouraged, many victims appear to be affluent, drive expensive cars, and make high-value purchases.
Criminal activities proliferate near ATMs, hotels, airports, bus and train terminals where passports and other valuables are the items of choice; however thefts also take place in hotel rooms, at restaurants, and during visits to popular attractions (i.e., Table Mountain).
Return to Sender
Visitors to South Africa must have at least one full blank page (and sometimes two) in their passport when they enter the country. If the pages are not available the traveler may be refused entry, fined and returned to their point of origin (at their own expense). South African authorities have denied diplomatic missions to assist in these cases!
South Africa is a democratic country and offers excellent cuisine, world-class wines, a sophisticated hotel experience and a variety of game parks that will enthrall the most jaded traveler. Tourists can drink the water, find excellent medical services, and have their pharmaceutical prescriptions filled without fuss. The financial capital is Johannesburg and the largest city, while Durbin features a very busy port and a major tourist destination for South Africans.
The major tourism attractions in 2008 included: 1) Victoria and Albert Waterfront (20 million visitors), 2) Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (731,739 visitors), 3) Good Hope Section of Table Mountain National Park (823, 386 visitors) and 4) Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (610,000 visitors).
In 2010 South Africa experienced a 15 percent increase in tourism (over 8 million visitors), outperforming the global tourism market by 8 percent. New source countries for tourism include Brazil, China, India and Nigeria, while the UK, USA, Germany, the Netherlands and France continue to be the main suppliers. The Minister of Tourism, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk claims that, “From a tourism perspective, we stand to gain tremendously from our recent inclusion in the BRIC partnership, and we are aligning our planning and strategies accordingly.”
South Africa continues to be a destination that is attractive to travelers seeking adventure in a gloriously beautiful environment. The deal is to let wisdom dictate the difference between excitement and folly. When hotels offer personal security and a hotel taxi the wise guest accepts the offer; when cautioned not to hail a cab on the street or at the mall, a savvy tourist accepts the advice without question. When advisories suggest that the Prada’s and Gucci’s be left at home the smart tourist will pack the Target’s and Wal-Mart’s, leaving the designer frocks for other destinations. There are many reasons to visit South Africa, as long as good sense is packed along with the passport.
For additional information: http://www.southafrica.net