The US State Department has upgraded its warnings to potential tourists seeking to come to South Africa following the crime stats released earlier this week.
South Africa is now at level 2, meaning that tourists are urged to exercise increased caution.
The warning takes particular note of South Africa’s crime problem, noting that even embassy staff have been robbed.
“South Africa has a very high level of crime. Violent crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles affect visitors and residents alike. Crime can occur anywhere, and U.S. government staff and visitors have been robbed in the immediate vicinity of our diplomatic facilities. You should exercise particular caution in the central business districts (CBDs) of major cities, especially after dark. Crime victims have also been targeted in the arrivals hall of OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, followed, and then robbed once they reach their home or hotel.”
Crime wasn’t the only issue raised however, as the state department warned that strikes and demonstrations can develop quickly and violently. They warned that this can include burning tyres, vehicles, and buildings.
They also warned of thrown rocks and other objects, as well as physical attacks.
The threat of xenophobic attacks was also mentioned.
In terms of terrorism, the recent murders of two British botanists by ISIS sympathisers in KwaZulu Natal was part of their report.
The UK Foreign Office has also recently updated its travel advisory for South Africa to include warnings about the recent spate of incendiary devices in KwaZulu Natal.
They also warn of violent protests, tourists being robbed at gunpoint around OR Tambo airport, and claim that terrorist attacks are likely.
Stats SA in March stated that tourism accounted for 2,9% of South Africa’s gross domestic product in 2016, and contributed “40 000 net new jobs to the economy over the five-year period from 2012 to 2016″.
The Citizen approached communication strategist Sarah Britten, who stated that using social media could be the solution.
“If this were up to me, I’d challenge South African tourism outfits – B&Bs, lodges, tour guides – and overseas visitors who have actually been here and had a good time to remind potential tourists that most visitors have a great experience,” Britten said.
Here’s the thing, social media isn’t going to work that well. When it comes to crime and violent protests, what the UK Foreign Office and US State Department are saying is true.
And the thing is, if we set up a hashtag to try and deflect the issue – chances are that people who have fallen victim to crime in South Africa will use it themselves to highlight that fact.
We cannot gloss over this. If we want to change how our country is perceived, we’ve got to change our country.
And the thing is that is doable. Most of what is wrong in South Africa is down to governmental neglect, an almost acceptance that this is just the way things are, but they don’t have to be.
If we hold our government to account, if we set aside loyalties and hatreds and just judge on policy and performance over time things will get better, and we won’t have this travel advisories telling people our country is a mess, because it won’t be.
The status quo is not destiny, it is not the curses of our ancestors or the whim of some unknowable God, nor is it Karma, it is what we as individuals are willing to put up with.
But one thing that defines us as human beings is our capacity for change. We can fix our country – the question is, are we willing to do so? Are we willing to set aside our hatreds, our resentments and our anger to do what needs to be done, or will we continue as we have been doing?