Crime in South Africa

Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS)

It is well known and publicised that South Africa has a high rate of crime. However the general crime statistics need to be put into perspective, in relation to the likelihood of being a victim of crime in South Africa when visiting as a tourist.

Crime is so high in the country mainly due to the huge number of people who live in poverty, and the very high unemployment rate. Whilst things are improving slowly, this is a legacy of the apartheid system that is going to take generations to fix.

However the main thing for potential tourists to note is that the vast majority of this crime happens within the poorer areas, where the majority of impoverished people live. You may want to visit a township as part of a guided tour during your stay, but you would not want to go there on your own, and nor are you likely to suddenly find yourself in one of these areas by mistake whilst driving around on holiday. So for this reason alone, the chances of being affected by crime as a tourist is dramatically less than raw crime statistics suggest.

Another key point is that tourism is an extremely important facet of South Africa’s growing economy, and as such areas that tourists frequent generally have a high visible security presence.

Obviously you should take sensible precautions just as when visiting any other destination, such as not going out with very valuable items, and not leaving valuables on display in your car. Also if you are unsure about the way to get anywhere, or the safety of an area that you want to visit, check with staff at your hotel who will be happy to advise you. One specific thing to note about many of the larger cities in South Africa (with the exception of Cape Town) is that the city centres are often run down and not advisable for tourists to visit, especially at night.

So the bottom line is that what you hear about South African crime should not put you off from visiting. Just take sensible precautions as you would in any other destination, and your chances of being affected by crime in South Africa are so low that if should not put you off planning a holiday there.

Photo by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr used under a Creative Commons CC BY license.
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