From contracting HIV/ Aids to hijackings, drinks being spiked and even terrorism, Australia, in another controversial stance, has issued a travel advisory warning to its citizens that South Africa isn’t really suitable to visit.
The notice which, among others, warns of the drought in Cape Town, “murders, rape, muggings, robbery, smash and grabs, and other forms of theft often involving weapons and violence”, has however not been taken lightly by South Africa’s government.
The ministry of international relations and cooperation has in turn issued a strongly worded statement objecting to the travel advisory, which it said it takes strong exception to.
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the advisory “contains misleading information about South Africa in general and, in particular, about the experiences of foreign tourists visiting South Africa”.
She will thus raise her government’s concerns with her Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop.
“The travel advisory has the potential not only to deter Australians from visiting South Africa, but also to tarnish our country’s image,” said the minister. “South Africa remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and tourists in most instances have pleasant experiences of our country.”
The advisory, dated January 30, appears on the website smartraveller.gov.au.
Officials in the ministry of international relations and cooperation have in the past requested, without success, that the advisory be amended to reflect South Africa’s situation as it relates to the true experiences of foreign tourists, Sisulu said in this regard.
“The decision to escalate the matter follows these unsuccessful attempts and indicates the seriousness with which the SA government values the contribution of the tourism sector to the economy.”
The travel advisory summarised:
- Exercise a high degree of caution because of the high level of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor media and other sources of information about possible new security risks.
- There is a threat of terrorism in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners, such as shopping centres.
- The Western Cape, including Cape Town, is experiencing severe drought conditions and strict water restrictions are in place. Follow the advice of local authorities, including complying with water restrictions.
- The frequency of most types of crime is increasing. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times.
- Be cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition, drivers often unlicenced and almost invariably uninsured, drive erratically, and disputes between rival drivers may become violent.
- Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent.
- Parents and guardians must carry, and produce on request, a full (unabridged) birth certificate as well as a valid travel document (such as passport) for children under the age of 18 years. There are additional conditions for minors travelling with only one parent or are unaccompanied.
- The rate of HIV/Aids infection in South Africa is very high. Exercise precautions with activities exposing you to risk of infection. Victims of violent crime, including rape, should seek immediate medical assistance.