Aussie travel advisory bashes South Africa
Murder‚ rape‚ car hijackings‚ civil unrest‚ water shortages‚ spiked drinks‚ drunk drivers and terrorism.
These are just a few of the horrors that could be encountered by people heading to South Africa‚ according to travel advice by the Australian government’s department of foreign affairs and trade.
Travel advisory website smartraveller.gov.au urges visitors to exercise a “high degree of caution” in South Africa and offers an extensive list of dangers under the heading “safety and security”.
“Crime‚ including violent crime‚ is a serious issue in South Africa. Most types of crime are increasing. Be alert. Don't expect the same level of service from South African police as you would in Australia‚” warns the website.
This comes fast on the back of thorny comments from Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton‚ who stirred up a hornet’s nest by offering to fast track visa applications for “persecuted” white farmers‚ which his own government then rejected. Protestors took to the streets in Australia to draw attention to “farm murders” in South Africa.
While the US and UK warn travellers about violent crime in South Africa‚ the advisory to Australians is extensive. It includes warning about criminals operating out of the country’s airports‚ robberies and shopping centres and aboard trains running near Johannesburg‚ Pretoria and Cape Town - and of thefts at hotel guest rooms.
“Hikers have been attacked on tracks on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town and the Drakensberg Mountains in Royal National Park‚ KwaZulu-Natal Province‚” it warns. “Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent… Spontaneous incidents of mob violence have been difficult for local authorities to control.”
It goes on to warn about the possibility of indiscriminate terror attacks and potentially violent tensions between metered taxi or Uber drivers.
“You should be particularly cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition‚ drivers are often unlicenced and almost invariably uninsured‚ drive erratically‚ and disputes between rival drivers may become violent‚” says the advisory.
It also warns of “excessive speed and poor driving skills” on otherwise generally good roads frequented by drunk drivers at night.
SA Tourism Chief Executive Officer Sisa Ntshona said the organisation was concerned about the advisory‚ saying it had the potential to harm tourism to the country.
“Across the world‚ destination marketing organisations like South African Tourism rely on the travel trade to package and sell South Africa as the ideal leisure and business events destination. It’s not ideal for us when travel advisories are issued which create the perception that the country is an unsafe travel destination‚” he said.
Ntshona added the organisation worked closely with all our stakeholders “to ensure that we create a safe environment for our tourists and visitors to enjoy our beautiful country”.
* An earlier version of this story quoted SA Tourism spokeswoman Thandiwe Mathibela. The quote is now attributed to SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona.