CT tour guides: Township tours are safe

Cape Town - South African tour operators on Monday said the hijacking of a British couple and the woman's murder in a Cape Town township over the weekend comes as a massive shock, as there have been almost no incidents in the townships tours they have conducted.

An employee for Zipping Zebra Tours described the murder of 28-year-old Anni Dewani as “just shocking”, particularly as her company has had “no incidents” in the 16 years that it has been taking tourists into townships.

Dewani was on a honeymoon trip with her husband of two weeks, Shrien, 30.

The couple were driving back from Somerset West in a shuttle car at 23:00 when they apparently decided to drive into Gugulethu, where they were hijacked. The hijackers forced the driver out of the shuttle vehicle and drove off with the couple.

At about midnight, they dropped off the husband in Khayelitsha. The vehicle was later found with his wife’s body inside.

City of Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato expressed outrage at the murder and said it was “a blow to all Capetonians and South Africans”.
 
"An incident such as this tarnishes our city’s reputation as a tourist destination and it will have a negative ripple effect which we will all feel. The perpetrators of this act have let us all down, because the immense warmth we have to offer visitors has been overshadowed by their selfish act," Plato said.
 
"We are appealing to the tourism industry and the public to be vigilant around tourism safety, and to caution visitors not to enter unfamiliar areas, especially at night," Cape Town mayoral committee member for economic development and tourism, Felicity Purchase, said in a statement issued by Cape Town Tourism.

CTT CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold also urged the public to warn visitors to the city about the dangers of walking the streets after dark.

Tour guides essential

Alvin Kushner, the chairperson of the Tour Operators’ Association of Cape Town and director of Cape Rainbow Tours told News24 on Monday that the township tours are a topic that “I feel emotional” about.

“People should always travel with tour guides,” said Kushner.

“It’s unlikely this would have happened with a guide. They wouldn’t have gone at that time of night.” 

He said that he now expects to get phone calls from fearful tourists worried about their safety. He has township tours planned for the next few days and says he will make “tactful” calls to clients asking if their bookings will remain.

Kushner insisted that tourists get a guide who knows the area and is also known in the area.

“Our guide, who has been doing this for 20 years, is known in the townships and our vehicles are known in the townships.”

Thabo Mbilatshwa from the Direct Action Centre for Peace and Memory said that community members know that it’s “not good to harm tourists”.

Mbilatshwa said that while his guides “command great respect” in the township communities, they know which areas to avoid.

He also warned that certain places must be avoided after 22:00 over weekends.

“We’ve been doing township tours for 18 years and have never had an incident,” Shelley Adams of Daytrippers tours said.

She said that the worst thing to have happened was a bicycle being stolen - at Cape Point Nature Reserve.

“This was a single unfortunate incident. Just an unfortunate random incident,” said another operator.

“Crime can happen anywhere.”
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