Some of Dutch robbery victims had safety concerns before trip to SA

26 September 2017 - 19:07 By Nico Gous
The bus departs for the airport. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, as well Marisa Gerards, Dutch ambassador in South Africa, were present at a press conference, at a lodge in Fourways.
The bus departs for the airport. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, as well Marisa Gerards, Dutch ambassador in South Africa, were present at a press conference, at a lodge in Fourways.
Image: Alon Skuy

The Dutch ambassador to South Africa‚ Marisa Gerards‚ says some of the Dutch tourists who were robbed in Johannesburg on Sunday night booked an organised trip because of safety concerns.

"There were also some young people whose parents said‚ 'Why don't you look at [an] organised trip‚ because it is safer'‚" Gerards said.

"In that sense it was a bit cynical that those who were so concerned about their safety were so brutally robbed."

She was speaking on Tuesday at a media conference at the Zulu Nyala Country Manor in Fourways‚ Johannesburg‚ alongside Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa.

On Sunday night at about 11pm 36 Dutch tourists were robbed on their way from OR Tambo International Airport to their accommodation in Fourways.

Their bus was allegedly stopped by a police marked vehicle with one man dressed in a police uniform and five other men dressed in civilian clothing.

The hands and feet of the bus driver and the tour leader were tied up with cable ties. Five men boarded the bus and stole whatever they could.

Tourist Peter Bakker told the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf that after the robbers left‚ the passengers had freed themselves. The driver had a spare key in the cargo area‚ which he retrieved and drove the tourists to their hotel.

Bakker said the robbery was "hell".

Vonk said the group largely consisted of tourists aged 60 years or older‚ but there were a few women in their late 20s and early 30s.
Vonk said the group largely consisted of tourists aged 60 years or older‚ but there were a few women in their late 20s and early 30s.
Image: Alon Skuy

"We are safe now‚ but many people are in shock and want to return [home]."

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the bus was stopped close to Fourways. He could not confirm if the suspect who wore the police uniform is a police officer. No suspects have been arrested.

The Dutch tourists’ 22-day travel programme cost about R35‚000 (€2‚199). The tour programme included visiting Johannesburg‚ Pretoria‚ Cape Town‚ Swaziland‚ Lesotho‚ the Drakensberg‚ the Wild Coast‚ the Kruger National Park‚ Route 62 and the Garden Route.

Gerards said: "I am really shocked by it [the robbery]."

The Dutch travel company ANWB is not reconsidering their tours to South Africa. ANWB spokesperson Ad Vonk said on Tuesday a new group of Dutch tourists arrived in South Africa on Monday night.

Vonk said the group largely consisted of tourists aged 60 years or older‚ but there were a few women in their late 20s and early 30s. Some of the passengers were treated for their light injuries.

The passports of three passengers were stolen. They were issued with new passports before they were escorted to the airport on Tuesday afternoon by a police vehicle‚ just three days after they arrived.

Mbalula said this robbery undermines South Africa as a tourism destination.

He met with the Dutch tourists on Tuesday afternoon. He said some tourists said they would "not be deterred‚ because then criminals would have been victorious".

Mbalula said to Gerards: "We don't have words to express our embarrassment and our regret for what happened to the people of the Netherlands."

Gerards said the robbery had received media coverage in the Netherlands and other European countries.

The Southern Africa Tourism Association (Satsa) is concerned the attack will have a negative impact on the industry. "It is not good for our image‚" Satsa’s CEO‚ David Frost‚ said.

"Exactly what impact it will have [on tourism] we don’t know. It is clearly not going to have a positive impact.

"What was good is that there was a very coordinated response from South African Tourism‚ Satsa and many of the Satsa members to sort the issue out as quickly as we could.

"When an incident like this occurs‚ we have to sit down and use it as a learning opportunity. I’m very encouraged that the Minister of Police went to visit the tourists …

“The important thing is that we all need to sit down with the minister and his top team to actually sort out pre-emptive measures and operative procedures that will prevent these things from happening again‚” said Frost.

According to Statistics SA‚ the Netherlands ranked ninth on the list of top 10 countries in terms of tourists visiting South Africa in mid-2017. Statistics SA will release its new figures on Thursday. 

Additional reporting by Penwell Dlamini

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