Criminals cripple tourism sector

Slightly over a decade ago, I wrote an article for a Cape Town daily newspaper about a fire at a crèche in Gugulethu.

It was a story about the devastation caused by the fire, meaning the young ones no longer had a place for their early childhood development. On the day the story was published, I received a call through the news desk, that some Swedish tourists had read my article and
wanted to help. I put them in contact with the crèche’s manager and we arranged to visit the scorched place.

They set out to the township in their hired minibus while I drove the company car. When they arrived, they were accosted by gun-toting gunmen who robbed them of their gadgets, wallets and passports. To say I was gutted would be an understatement.

I know Cape Town tourism thrives, but the townships struggle to get a piece of the pie because tour guides warn tourists against visiting the crime-ridden areas.

As a journalist, I could not ignore the story of the attack on unarmed tourists even as it would set township tourism back.

Needless to say, the good Samaritans from the Nordic country committed themselves to rebuilding the crèche with fireproof material, and even bought the school a stove and other amenities.

The killing of a German tourist by armed thugs en route to Kruger National Park this week brought flashbacks of my Cape Town experience.

The story will no doubt reverberate around the world, and our tourism industry will take a knock as overseas visitors give our country a miss.

This, at a time when the industry is just recovering from the pandemic, shows that some people do not understand how vital the tourism industry is to economic growth and job creation.

A few years ago, tourists used to be accosted from the OR Tambo International Airport by criminals following them to their hotels, where they would be robbed.

Something is indeed rotten in our country and crime against any individual is particularly traumatising.

Last week, my daughter, Azania, and her friend were accosted by criminals in Thabong, Welkom, and robbed of their gadgets, IDs, bank cards and even schoolbooks. I nearly lost my mind when I learnt of the incident.

I hope the authorities keep their promise to patrol and keep a close eye on the road to Kruger National Park. The industry and our country’s economic recovery depends on it. I’m relieved my daughter and her friend were unharmed but she spent a whole week sleeping as she tried to cope with the trauma.

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