German tourist’s murder: International headlines a setback for SA tourism

South Africa's tourism sector stole the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons as Jörg Schnarr was killed near the Kruger National Park.

The murder of German tourist Jörg Schnarr near the KNP’s Numbi gate has sent shock waves through Mpumalanga, and has also grabbed international headlines.

Schnarr was fatally shot in the chest while on holiday with his wife, Vera, and their friends, Reiner and Andrea Nichter, while en route to Mdluli Safari Lodge near the national park.

The Federal Republic of Germany’s ambassador to South Africa, Andreas Peschke, said: “This tragic incident has hit headlines across major German news portals and comes at an unfortunate time when tourism to South Africa is bouncing back after the Covid-19 pandemic. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, but the crucial issue now is to work together with South African authorities to ensure that whoever comes to visit South Africa, can do so in a safe environment.”

The economic powerhouse that is Germany, is South Africa’s third biggest tourism market.

National and regional tourism authorities and NGOs are demanding rapid solutions to the hijacking of the province’s tourism industry.

South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu condemned the murder in the strongest possible terms, while Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy appealed to the Mpumalanga police to work tirelessly to bring the perpetrators to book.

“The murder of Schnarr will undermine our programme to put tourism and job creation back on track after the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

Numbi Gate road where the murder took place.

Amid numerous calls to heighten tourist security, the Mpumalanga MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Prince Mkhatshwa, denounced the brutal attack. “We call on law enforcement agencies to track and arrest the criminals so they can receive the harshest possible punishment. In fact, they must rot in jail.”

Bolstering calls for increased security and rapid police action, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority’s spokesperson and tourism ambassador, Lindiwe Mthombeni, responsible for Mpumalanga’s tourism safety, added: “We need to close the security gaps across the Panorama Route, all along the N4 and the broader KNP region.”

Having experienced an attempted hijacking herself, Mthombeni said: “We are calling on the private sector to work with government and NGOs to heighten security measures. We need cameras and effective policing and to continue to support our three regional tourism organisations.”

The COO of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT), Linda Grimbeek, added: “This tragedy is going to have a disastrous effect on tourism, and we are engaging a high-level delegation to urgently address the safety and security of all travellers to Mpumalanga.

“We need an immediate response by law enforcement agencies. We must do everything possible to catch the hijackers.

“The KLCBT has asked the taxi associations’ broad network to distribute information about the chamber’s R50 000 reward for information that will lead to the successful prosecution of the perpetrators,” Grimbeek said.

Mthombeni has further called for a conference involving the Department of Tourism, SA Tourism (the government’s official marketing agency), local traditional leadership, taxi associations and the private sector to work with the MTPA and KLCBT in order to upscale tourist security.

“We are encouraging chiefs right across the Numbi area and beyond, as well as the taxi associations, SAPS, the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, and all other stakeholders such as RTOs and NGOs to join hands so that incidents like this are prevented,” she said.

Calming the potentially disastrous effect on tourism, Dr Christopher P Schmidt, the first secretary and spokesperson for ambassador Peschke, said in a statement: “While incidents like this are bound to unsettle some tourists, German travellers in general are aware of the safety advice the German Foreign Office provides.”

The fatal hijacking occurred on Germany Unity Day, which celebrates the reunification of Germany in 1990.

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