The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel warning on South Africa, citing the “high level of crime” particularly “violent crimes” that “target tourists”.

This comes just a week after a group of tourists, including a teenager from Israel, were brutally attacked and robbed at their rented accommodation in Phalaborwa, near the Kruger National Park on Boxing Day. The 16-year-old was allegedly raped during the attack.

In September, another Israeli woman – holidaying in Mpumalanga – was gang raped by four robbers, and her two companions were assaulted, at a Graskop lodge.

At the time the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism President Oupa Pilane told the Lowvelder he was “distraught” about the attacks on tourists and said these crimes should be prioritised as the number of foreign visitors was dwindling daily… which impacts South African businesses.

Yesterday – Wednesday 1 January 2020 – Israel issued a Travel Warning on South Africa. According to the Jerusalem Post,  the Foreign Ministry said in statement that: “In South Africa, there is a high level of crime.

“Violent crimes are also common and target tourists. The majority of criminal episodes are concentrated in townships and homeless areas, including commercial areas, especially in the evenings and after dark.”

The Israel travel ministry included tips and advice for its citizens who visit South Africa, recommending that they:

  • avoid public transport
  • don’t carry too much money or valuables
  • leave nature reserves and other tourists areas before it gets dark
  • hide valuables under seats when driving

The Ministry also advised that women not walk alone.

South African police launched a manhunt following the Phalaborwa attack in which nine visitors (from Australia, Israel and Johannesburg) were attacked and robbed on Boxing Day.

According to local newspaper, the Far North Bulletin, the 16-year-old teen was visiting her mother from Israel, where it’s believed she lives with her dad. She and her mom were sitting on the verandah when an armed gang attacked, tying up the nine tourists and robbing them… and taking the young girl to another room to rape her.

The Far North Bulletin said a source told them that after the Israeli tourist was raped “it is alleged that the assailants took her to one of the bathrooms where they forced her to take a shower. Our source said that the girl showed the police all the surfaces in the bathroom where the suspects touched in order to assist with fingerprinting.”

The source told the paper that the girl and her mom were escorted to the local police station by police and a paramedic where she was given a rape kit and sent to Maphuta Malatji hospital for the rape test. Her mother was apparently reluctant to open a case of rape at the police station.

Getaway’s editor Justin Fox recently penned an urgent letter to President Ramaphosa, admitting that while it’s usually his “privilege to celebrate South Africa”, at the moment his advice to foreign tourists is that “if you’re not certain about security arrangements, rethink your plans. If you’re a young woman travelling alone, don’t even consider visiting. In fact, South Africa has been rated the most dangerous country in the world for lone female tourists. If you’re a black African from elsewhere on the continent, the risks are probably higher.”

He said “Violence in South Africa is at levels most countries consider to be war” and that “one in three South African women will be raped during their lifetimes”.

He implored Cyril Ramaphosa: “Where are you in all this, Mr President? You seem to be missing in action. South Africa is paralysed by ANC infighting and policy indecision. But we don’t have any more time for consultation and consensus. Rome is burning!”

After New Year’s Eve shootings in Melville (which left three dead) and Mary Fitzgerald Square which left 11 injured, many social media users from South Africa and abroad revealed that they are thinking twice about either visiting SA or recommending it as a holiday destination to their overseas friends and family.

As Justin Fox said – it is time for the President of South Africa to ensure positive action is taken to protect South African citizens and their guests. While it is devastating for SA Tourism when foreign countries issue warnings about travelling to SA, we can only hope that it provides the kind of urgent pressure that the government needs to truly address crime and safety in South Africa for all who live in it so that it truly can be a better, safer SA for all.