Police members. File photo: Clinton Botha.
Amid reports of a travel warning issued by the Israeli government, cautioning its citizens on visit to South Africa about crime, the South African Police Service (SAPS) moved swiftly to reassure tourists that police would make the country a safe tourist destination.
Although the Israeli embassy in South Africa was yesterday not available to confirm reports that the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs has issued a travel warning on South Africa, citing high crime levels – particularly targeting tourists – SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said reference was being made to “isolated incidents”.
Reports made reference to an incident on Boxing Day involving a group of tourists, including an Israeli teenager, who were attacked and robbed at their rented accommodation in Phalaborwa, near the Kruger National Park. The 16-year-old was allegedly raped during the attack.
Reports also cited a September incident in which another Israeli woman on holiday in Mpumalanga, was raped by four robbers, with her two companions assaulted at a Graskop lodge.
Naidoo said: “The Boxing Day incident was an isolated one.”
He said a joint plan mooted at a recent meeting attended by national police Commissioner Khehla Sithole and Tourism director-general Victor Tharage to train tourist monitors to “eventually become fully-fledged police reservists” was under way.
Naidoo said: “They discussed measures to be put in place to safeguard the safety of tourists. Among these was the training of tourist monitors to graduate to a level of becoming police reservists.
“It is envisaged that in the long term, their capacity should be enhanced so that they become police reservists.
“Tourist operators are being trained in using My SAPS App to be able to alert police in times of danger.”
He implored tourists not to be discouraged “by isolated incidents” in visiting South Africa.
“These can be found elsewhere in the world. What is important is that something is being done to address crime,” Naidoo said.
The Jerusalem Post quoted the Israeli foreign ministry as saying South Africa had “a high level of crime”, with violent crimes being common and tourists popular targets.
“The majority of criminal episodes are concentrated in townships and homeless areas, including commercial areas, especially in the evenings and after dark,” read the ministry statement.
Included were tips and advice to Israeli citizens visiting South Africa. These included avoiding public transport and carrying “too much money or valuables”.
Naidoo was confident in the police manhunt to find those behind the Boxing Day attack in Phalaborwa.
International Relations and Cooperation Ministry spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said it was “normal for any country to send a warning to its citizens abroad if sensing any threat”.
“But if it was something threatening bilateral relations between the two countries, we would be worried. Hence, we have not received any communique from Israel on this,” said Ngqengelele.
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