SA 'took strong exception' to Australian travel advisory

2018-04-18 15:43
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu. (File photo: GCIS)

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu. (File photo: GCIS)

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South Africa "took strong exception" to a recent travel advisory issued by the Australian government.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu said in a statement on Wednesday that the advisory contained "misleading information about South Africa in general and, in particular, about the experiences of foreign tourists visiting South Africa".

Sisulu will raise the South African government's concerns with her Australian counterpart, Minister Julie Bishop. 

According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), "the travel advisory has the potential, not only to deter Australians from visiting South Africa, but also to tarnish our country's image". 

Previously, Dirco officials unsuccessfully requested that the advisory be amended to reflect the situation in South Africa as it relates to the true experiences of foreign tourists. 

Dirco therefore decided to escalate the matter and show the seriousness with which the South African government values the contribution the tourism sector makes to the economy.

"South Africa remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and tourists in most instances have pleasant experiences of our country," said Sisulu.

'Exercise a high degree of caution'

The advisory warned visitors to South Africa to "exercise a high degree of caution".

"This level means that there are more or bigger risks in this location than what you would typically find in a large Australian city. The level may reflect a weak law and order system (where violent crime is prevalent) or deficiencies in public services (such as less responsive law enforcement agencies).

"In some cases, the level may reflect underlying volatility where the security environment could change with little warning. It may also be used temporarily to reflect a passing event, such as a cyclone, political unrest or a short-term increase in a country's domestic terrorism level," the Australian governmental website indicated.

The following reasons for the advisory were provided:

  • "Because of the high level of serious crime."
  • "There is a threat of terrorism in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners, such as shopping centres."
  • "The Western Cape, including the city of Cape Town, is experiencing severe drought conditions and strict water restrictions are in place."
  • "The frequency of most types of crime is increasing. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times."
  • "Be cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition, drivers, often unlicensed and almost invariably uninsured, drive erratically, and disputes between rival drivers may become violent."
  • "Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent."
  • "The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. Exercise precautions with activities exposing you to risk of infection. Victims of violent crime, including rape, should seek immediate medical assistance."

While South Africa hasn't experienced a recent terrorist attack, Australia's own government says Australia's national terrorism threat level remains probable. 

"Credible intelligence, assessed by our security agencies, indicates that individuals or groups continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia," reads the terrorist advisory on Australia's National Security website.

This follows remarks by Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last month after MPs in South Africa's National Assembly voted in favour of a motion to investigate the viability of amending the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation. 

Dutton said white South African farmers "deserve special attention" and added that Australia would consider fast-tracking their visa applications. 

In response, Sisulu issued a diplomatic demarche, or course of action, to Australian High Commissioner in South Africa Adam McCarthy, to demand that Dutton retract his comments.

Read more on:    lindiwe sisulu  |  australia  |  tourism

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