SA crime figures used as 'propaganda' to chase away tourists and investors: Bheki Cele

30 July 2021 - 20:46
By paul ash AND Paul Ash
Police minister Bheki Cele says the country's crime figures are used by
Image: Jackie Clausen Police minister Bheki Cele says the country's crime figures are used by "economic syndicates" to scare tourists and investors from SA. File photo.

SA's crime statistics are being used as “propaganda” to chase investors and tourists away from the country, says police minister Bheki Cele.

Cele, along with national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole and other top cops were grilled by parliament's police portfolio committee on Thursday on issues ranging from the gutting of the SAPS budget to the force's bloated command structure.

Responding to questions by ANC MP Asnath Molekwa about potential investors being scared away from SA because of the country's high crime figures, Cele said statistics had been used globally as an “economic blockade” to persuade tourists to favour certain countries at the expense of others.

“It is used as propaganda especially when it comes to tourism and investment,” he said.

Cele pointed to Rio de Janeiro as a city whose attractions hid another reality.

“They talk about beautiful women, beautiful beaches, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Visitors were told by officials, however, not to take cameras into Rio's notorious favelas (slums) because of an agreement they have with the druglords not to take pictures, he claimed.

“You don't have a situation where you'll have an agreement between the SA Police Service and the druglords,” he said. “There you can't go [into favelas] as a member of the police force because you need to get permission from the druglords.

“You never hear about these things,” he added.

Molekwa noted in her questions that SA was ranked as the third-most dangerous country in the world, according to Numbeo's 2021 crime index.

Pretoria was rated the world's second-most dangerous city after Caracas, Venezuela, while Durban and Johannesburg took fourth and fifth places respectively, according to Numbeo data.

The Numbeo Crime Index surveyed more than 94,000 people worldwide on their fears of violent crime, with respondents scoring crime levels between -2 for bad and +2 for good. 

“If the crime rate is out of control in the country, no-one will take the risk of investing in SA,” said Molekwa.

Cele said he would like “further debate” on SA making it to the world's number three spot for crime.

He said SA had successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup without serious incidents despite worldwide concerns then about SA's crime rate.

A few years ago I went to London and asked to be driven to Brixton and the driver refused. He said 'you'll never come back from Brixton'.
Bheki Cele

“Everybody, all the teams, the tourists, the visitors were going to be butchered in SA,” he said. “And that never happened.”

International tourist arrivals took off in the wake of the tournament and they had continued to visit until the Covid-19 pandemic began, he added.

Cele said SA should not be used by “economic syndicates” to say it was the worst country in terms of crime.

“A few years ago I went to London and asked to be driven to Brixton and the driver refused. He said 'you'll never come back from Brixton'.

“I'm not saying there is no crime, that it's not serious, but we should guard against being run over by these syndicates for investment and tourism,” he added.

Molekwa urged the SAPS to give the committee a plan with time frames on how the force would deal with the problem.

While Sitole agreed that the crime index was a threat to investor confidence, he said it was not necessarily a true reflection of the country.

“They derive it from the safer city index,” he said. “Investors are also doing their own research.”

The SAPS had introduced its own approach to the safer city strategy, he said, adding that a committee had been set up with the private sector and other stakeholders to work on a national safer city index. 

The index would also contain SA's crime index based on the country's verified crime statistics, said Sitole.