Thursday, 16 July 2009
The myth of South Africa being a dangerous place to travel : revisited
Above is probably the most dangerous thing you will encounter as a tourist in South Africa. But , if you're unlucky enough to innocently be sitting within earshot of a certain kind of South African (Racist and revisionist) you would be forgiven for getting the impression that it's a terribly dangerous place to visit. Scratch at the surface and everything seems to back up this notion. The murder rate is high so surely that filters it's way through to the tourists ?
Well that's the quirky thing and I forgive you for your misconceptions. It certainly doesn't.
If tourists suffered the same murder rate as everyday poor South Africans (38 per 100 000) we would find the following.
If the murder rate that affected poor south Africans was applied to tourists then 3420 tourist would be murdered a year.
(38 * 10 = 380 per million * 9 = 3420 per 9 million )
In reality however tourist murders are freakishly rare with some years going by without a single one. For evidence of this scratch around search engines and see how many tourist murders you can find in South Africa. Then for comparison have a look at places such as Thailand, the Caribbean, Mexico, Australia etc. Consider than South Africa gets more tourists than most of these places.
The plain raw truth is that far from South Africa being MORE dangerous for seemingly "easy targets" like tourists , it's in fact much, much safer. The odds of being murdered as a tourist in South Africa are anywhere as low as 1-3 in 9 million. Let me explain why.
While some people strive to present violent crime in South Africa as a black on white phenomenon, this is seldom the case. The gross majority of people getting murdered are poor, black and living in squalor. In fact conservatively 32 out or 33 people murdered are black or coloured. These are not murders for gain or money, despite perceptions hijackings, house robbery and armed robbery make up only 500 murders in South Africa a year. Rather these are more than often the result of interpersonal disputes fuelled by alcohol. Certainly the few murders I've been told about by fit this description perfectly...drunken knife fighting between know acquaintances fuelled by some dispute. So far from being more in danger because you're wealthier than the average person , in fact the opposite is true.
The point is that crime in South Africa is not as random an chaotic as people will have you believe. It's not lurking around every corner with your fate attached to some roulette wheel. It's quite systematic and predictable. For the gross majority of violent crime it's confined to certain areas, risks groups (black or coloured males) and follows simple unsophisticated patterns. To put this another way : It's very easy to avoid it.
And the fact that we have an extremely low rate of tourists murders proves that.
Consider that as a tourist you're never ever likely to go anywhere near the violent hubs of the country. Unless you really try hard and put your mind to it , as a tourist you will never even go to a township. Most middle classed South Africans live their whole lives without ever spending a single day in a township, not because they're scared...they just don't need to. Personally I have spent a lot of time in townships driving around alone door to door in a middle of the road sedan and never found cause to worry.
We have perfectly nice, modern , developed cities for you to hang around in between trips to game parks, wine farms, beaches and cultural trips. And I assure you there is little to no danger in the places I have just described.
The white murder rate in South Africa .
Crime in South Africa is in a very real way mostly the burden of the chronically poor. While white South African's compared to many countries suffer a slightly inflated murder rate of 12 per 100 000, this does not translate to tourists for various reasons.
Firstly white South Africans , especially one might argue Afrikaners, are quite an aggressive and violent bunch. Add to that a hard drinking culture that is always on edge and almost all armed, A night out in certain circles of white South Africa will routinely end up in a fight. What I'm hinting at is that even if you took poor black people out of the occasion , white South Africans would still have an escalated murder rate compared to our western counter parts.
Also consider of women murdered in South Africa, 50% are murdered by their spouse/boyfriend. But that's not to say South African men are more violent. To put things in context women do only make up in 1 in 11 murders (the murder rate for South African white women is around 1 per 100 000 ..less than the murder rate for the UK). The point is that I'm just trying to dismiss some of the perception that crimes South Africa face are solely related to being in proximity of poor black people.
To conclude. South Africa is a tried and tested , proven safe destination for tourists. Beyond that there is so much to see and do at a very affordable price. A great plethora of fauna, flora, cultures, climates. All the luxury of Europe, with all the wild of Africa served up with a warmth and a smile that humbles most.
I apologise if this is a bit dry and sober this morning. I'll get back to kicking up riots soon.
Posted by The Rooster at 11:27