This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Offices at the U.S. Embassy in
Pretoria and Consulates in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. OSAC encourages
travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in South
Africa. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s South Africa-specific
page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses South Africa at
Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime,
civil unrest, and drought. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Department of State has assessed Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban
as being CRITICAL-threat locations for crime directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests.
Violent crime remains an ever-present threat in South Africa;
however, criminals do not single out U.S. citizens for criminal activity, as
most crimes are opportunistic in nature. Common crimes include murder, rape,
armed robbery, carjacking, home invasion, property theft, smash and grab, and
ATM robbery. Armed robbery is the most prevalent major crime in South Africa,
most often involving organized gangs armed with handguns and/or knives. The
South African Police Service (SAPS) recently released April 2018 – March 2019
crime statistics for all major crimes.
In December 2018, U.S. Embassy employees reported criminals
had pepper sprayed a group of people departing the Global Citizen concert in
Johannesburg in an attempt to partially incapacitate victims and steal phones
and other valuable personal property.
Of concern are home
invasion robbery and carjacking. These crimes are often violent and can occur
at any time of day. In many cases, criminals prefer to attack when the
occupants are home or arriving/leaving the premises, because the residential
alarm is inactive and the occupants can identify the location of valuables. In
August 2019, someone attempted to gain forcible entry to the home of an Embassy
employee through a pedestrian gate. Embassy security personnel responded to the
residence, inspected the gate, and noticed significant pry marks on the steel
frame of the gate near the lock. Although the pry tool slightly damaged the gate
frame, the suspects were unable to gain access to the property.
In September 2019, an Embassy
employee reported a burglary of the attached garage of their residence. It
appears that the suspects reached the electric fence using rubber tubing to
prevent activating the alarm and forced the garage door open by unknown means.
Most carjackings occur
when the victim arrives at home and pulls into the driveway or entrance gate;
the carjackers pull up behind the victim to block an escape path. Carjackers
may kill or seriously injure victims who resist or fail to comply with demands.
In many scenarios, robbers force the victim into the house, rob them of their
valuables, and take the vehicle.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in
the world. While rapists do not specifically taret foreigners, foreigners have
Financial and identity
theft crimes, including debit/credit card and advance-fee scams, are common.
Most businesses have portable credit card machines they bring to the customer
to allow them to swipe their card themselves. Despite these safeguards,
scammers frequently clone cards, resulting in fraudulent charges. ATM fraud
includes the placement of a skimming device on the ATM itself or the ruse of a
“helpful citizen” who offers to assist. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Review OSAC’s reports,
All That You Should
Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs, and Considerations for
South Africa has seen a significant rise in cybercrime,
and SAPS lacks the resources and technical capability to combat the crimes effectively.
Organizations with the financial resources continue to invest heavily in
cybersecurity to protect their assets. Much of the country, to include critical
infrastructure, remains vulnerable to cyberattack.
Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots, as it is
difficult to ascertain if the connection is secure. If you must connect to a
public Wi-Fi hotspot, use a virtual private network (VPN).
Identity theft remains
a significant concern due to several contributing factors: SIM swap fraud, a
strong infrastructure of money wiring services, readily available internet,
prepaid cell phones, high levels of corruption in many companies and government
agencies, and a lack of police resources/expertise to combat this type of
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Other Areas of Concern
Avoid township neighborhoods and Central Business Districts
(CBDs), particularly after dark, unless traveling with an organized tour group
or someone who knows the area. (Soweto, for example, is a known and heavily
visited township enjoyable during the day or when traveling with a tour group.)
Increase awareness in CBD areas during daylight, due to high crime rates and
spontaneous protests often involving roadblocks and demonstrators burning
tires/throwing rocks and other projectiles.
Occasionally, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South
Africa may declare specific locations off-limits to employees because of risk
of violence or other physical danger. When these same dangers apply to private
citizens, the Mission will alert the public to the fact. Check the Mission
website to review Security
The U.S. Consulate General in Cape Town requires all
employees use fully armored vehicles for official travel into townships in the
Cape Peninsula and other areas prone to high levels of crime. Townships are
less developed but heavily populated areas, generally located on but not
limited to the edges of urban centers.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Traffic moves on the left, and
steering wheels are on the right side of the vehicle. Vehicles pass on either
side or travel at varying speeds (some very fast, others very slow) in all
lanes. It is common to see older, poorly maintained vehicles breaking down and
creating road hazards. Be vigilant when driving on the highway, particularly at
night. The Mission prohibits employees traveling after dark outside of most major
Texting/talking on a cell phone without a hands-free
device while driving is a violation of the law and can result in heavy fines,
the impoundment of your cell phone, or the solicitation of a bribe by an errant
While the highway system and toll roads are generally
in good condition, automobile accidents are the highest single risk to drivers
and pedestrians. This is due to dangerous driving practices, speeding, alcohol use,
slow and un-roadworthy vehicles, the condition of the road surfaces, and the
frequent presence of pedestrians/animals in the road outside of large cities.
South Africa has a high rate of fatal traffic accidents, according to the Road
Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
Toll roads have emergency call boxes similar to those
in the U.S. Secondary roads are often in poor condition and frequently marked
by potholes. Highway signage can be inconsistent; this is more evident when
driving on secondary and tertiary roads. Highway lighting is limited outside
major cities and towns. Road construction is often poorly marked. Many
construction zones outside metropolitan areas use a “stop-and-go” approach
where one lane completely closes and the adjacent lane becomes one-way, alternating
mainly consists of speed traps and checkpoints where officers check for
mechanical malfunctions, operator compliance with license restrictions, and
alcohol consumption. The legal blood alcohol limit is .05% and is strictly
enforced. When stopped at a checkpoint, police may be require to see a valid
driver's license. Police have stopped some foreign drivers and informed that
their foreign driver’s license is not valid in South Africa, in an attempt to
secure a bribe. Foreign driver’s licenses, in English or with an attached
translation, are normally valid for three months. International driver’s
licenses are valid and accepted for the duration of the license.
Other common road-related crimes include smash-and-grab
robberies, where a robber smashes a vehicle window to grab what is easily
accessible (e.g. purse, briefcase) when a motorist is stopped in traffic or at
a stop light. After snatching the item, the robber flees (often into nearby
townships where it is dangerous to pursue). These crimes can occur anywhere,
but most are at major intersections and at highway off-ramps.
Criminals may target
vehicles on the highways, but seldom do so during daylight hours. Gangs will
place debris in the road and wait for a vehicle to stop after hitting the
object. In another frequent scenario, an individual (or several working
together) may park a vehicle on the side of the road feigning a mechanical
problem in an attempt to flag down passing traffic for help. When a passerby stops
to assist or to inspect damage, the criminal robs the driver of valuables and
sometimes steals the car and/or assaults them. If a vehicle is on the side of
the road, do not stop to render assistance. Instead, call 10-111 (nationwide emergency police number) to report the
vehicle’s location so authorities can respond.
Motorists should be aware of their general geographic
location and travel with a South African road atlas or a GPS navigation system.
Some GPS systems may route motorists through dangerous neighborhoods/townships
and/or on remote/unsafe rural roads. Always travel with a fully charged cell
phone and a mobile charger. Save emergency telephone numbers for the South African Automobile Association (AA), which recognizes American Automobile Association (AAA)
membership, or other roadside assistance companies. AA and other roadside
assistance companies can provide armed response units that will wait with
motorists until the vehicle can be repaired or towed to a service center.
As a pedestrian or cyclist, take extreme care when
crossing streets or traveling on South African roads. Collisions involving
vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists are common. Drivers are often aggressive
toward pedestrians and cyclists and fail to yield the right-of-way, even in
Lock doors, leave no
valuables in plain view, and roll up windows. Remain a safe distance behind the
vehicle ahead of you to allow space for avoidance maneuvers. Wait inside your
vehicle on the street until the vehicle gate is open before pulling into a
residence; this will provide you an escape route if confronted. Stay on main
roads and keep to well-illuminated public areas. If you think someone is
following you, drive to the nearest safe area (any area that is populated or
normally covered by security cameras). Use caution when traveling and be
prepared with a full tank of fuel, spare tire, cell phone, water, and other
supplies when traveling in rural areas.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. Mission personnel
do not use minibus taxis, hail taxis from the street, or hire taxis from taxi
stands. Public transportation accidents involving trains, buses, minibus taxis,
and private cars are a regular occurrence. Minibus taxi drivers are often
unlicensed and may drive erratically. In addition, criminals have targeted minibus
taxis and buses for hijacking and robbery. Often, the safety and security
standards on public transportation systems, especially in urban areas and
townships, are not on par with U.S. standards. Use individual metered taxis
dispatched from established taxi companies or hotels. Rideshare is a good
alternative to taxis as you can pre-confirm price, vehicle, and driver. When using
Uber or other rideshare companies, use only those with a dispatch application
that provides vehicle description, license plate number, and the driver’s name,
picture, user rating, and the ability to share trip information. Verify the
information provided, such as the vehicle make/model, license plate number, and
driver’s name/picture, prior to entering the vehicle. Taxi drivers may confront
rideshare drivers that pick up passengers near taxi stands. Find an alternate, well-lighted
public location to meet rideshare vehicles. Do not use rideshare to travel
outside major metropolitan areas or to previously disadvantaged areas.
U.S. Mission personnel do not use Metrorail
service. Despite a 2004 Constitutional Court order stating that Metrorail has
an obligation to ensure reasonable measures for the security of rail commuters,
violent crime, accidents, and disgruntled passengers acting out are not
uncommon. Shosholoza Meyl long-distance rail service; Gautrain suburban rapid rail service; and luxury rail services, such
Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train and
are generally safe and reliable, though mechanical problems and criminal
incidents do sometimes occur.
Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Pilferage of luggage at OR Tambo
International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg occurs, particularly at the
passenger pick-up area outside the arrivals terminal, where criminals may pose
as Good Samaritans offering to assist with luggage. Do not place valuables in checked
Criminal syndicates have
followed passengers from JNB and robbed them at their destination (hotel or
residence) or while en route to their destination. SAPS has seen the following
methods used to commit follow-from-airport robberies:
Robbery upon arrival at a residence or hotel;
Assailants pretend to be police, using fake badges and blue
Assailants using two vehicles block in a victim at a traffic
Assailants will slightly bump a victim’s vehicle to create an
In May 2019, an unmarked vehicle
containing four individuals claiming to be police officers stopped a commercial
contractor truck transporting packages from JNB to the U.S. Embassy on the R21
motorway. The fake police officers armed with AK-47 rifles forced the
contractors from the vehicle before driving away with the truck.
There have been numerous incidents
in which fake police officers pull over vehicles to rob passengers at gunpoint –
so-called “Blue Light” robberies. Many victims report they had just withdrawn
large sums of money from ATMs or exchanged money at a foreign exchange booth.
If the vehicle stops for these police imposters, the criminals rob occupants at
gunpoint of their valuables. These fake police officers often use unmarked
vehicles with a police light in the dashboard and flash what appears to be a “badge”
to pull over vehicles. In some incidents, the criminals have used modified
fake, “marked police vehicles” and wear a police uniform. If a police vehicle
(marked or unmarked) wants you to pull over by, turn on your emergency blinkers
and drive slowly to a secure, well-illuminated area.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, as being MEDIUM-threat locations for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Traditionally, South Africa’s
nexus to international terrorism has been through recruiting, funding, and as a
safe haven for international terrorists. There has been increased activity by
ISIS sympathizers and supporters locally.
Anti-U.S./Anti-Western sentiment has
not changed since 2017. In a Pew
Research Center study released in June 2017, 53% of South African respondents
had a favorable view of the U.S. Occasionally anti-capitalism groups remark that
the U.S. is to blame for unemployment and other inequalities.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, as being MEDIUM-threat locations for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
After more than 20 years of
democratic rule since the end of apartheid, the government maintains a vibrant
free society and a market-based economy. Despite inequality in income and
educational opportunity, persistent poverty, a severe HIV/AIDS pandemic and
violent crime, South Africa remains a successful multiparty democratic society
and boasts a robust civil society.
a coastal South African province, suffers from a long history of political
violence. The province has been plagued with politically motivated killings of
ANC, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and National Freedom Party (NFP) members in
contest for power and economic gain. In recent years, intra-party killings
have risen significantly, with ANC members reportedly ordering the killings of
rival party members, either in run up to elections, or in connection to a
potential tender award or other economic benefit. The violence targets local
politicians, not U.S. citizens.
Labor strikes and protests occur frequently and can be
violent and disruptive; avoid them, given the frequency at which they turn
violent. Gauteng Province hosts the political and economic capitals (Pretoria
[Tshwane] and Johannesburg, respectively) and typically experiences more labor
unrest than other provinces. Labor unions carry substantial political influence,
and can mobilize thousands of people. Typical protest activities include
blocking major thoroughfares between Johannesburg and Pretoria (termed “go
slow”) by vehicles, or gridlocking Johannesburg’s Central Business District
(CBD) with large numbers of protestors. Labor unrest affects mining, farming,
retail, civil service, public transportation, private trucking, and
Unlicensed protests have led to property destruction
and assaults. Unannounced large-scale wildcat strikes have occurred in the
mining sector and in agricultural areas in the Western Cape in recent years.
These wildcat strikes involved thousands of workers and led to numerous deaths,
injuries, and extensive property damage.
Although not connected to industrial action, another
form of protest is “service delivery protests,” which often flare up in
neighborhoods when water, electricity, or other public utilities are cut off.
These protests often result in burning tires, stoning vehicles, and blocking
Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers
from other African countries perceived to be competing for jobs with South
Africans are sometimes the target of attacks. These attacks are often violent
and mainly occur in the largest townships and in CBDs. The government
attributes the attacks to high unemployment (the official unemployment rate is
26.7%), and has challenges in addressing the root causes. Bystanders have captured
local law enforcement officers on video standing idly as vandals loot shops. As
a result, those living in urban areas are prone to resolve matters on their
own, leading to further conflict and violence. In recent years, several
well-publicized fatal incidents have involved mob attacks on citizens of other
African and South Asian countries. Authorities seldom prosecute perpetrators successfully.
in 2015, South Africa has been in the midst of its worst drought since 1982,
with water shortages across the country. Although the severity of the drought is
episodic, many areas of South Africa are still experiencing severe drought and
tight water restrictions. Funding for long-term water projects is limited due
mainly to a lagging economy, inefficient management of water infrastructure,
and non-payment for services rendered.
March 2017, the city of Cape Town declared a state of disaster due to drought,
and the Western Cape government declared a state of disaster throughout the
province in May 2017. The Government has implemented restrictions on water
usage and urges all residents and visitors to minimize their consumption of
water. Restrictions and rationing of water may become more stringent as the
available supply dwindles. The City of Cape Town website
contains current information on reservoir levels and water restrictions
During the rainy season, thunderstorms, lightning
strikes, or water damage often disrupt power to alarm systems, traffic lights,
and other electronic equipment. Use adequate surge protectors to protect
computers and other electric equipment.
While visiting game
parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave your vehicle or be on foot, even
in the presence of a guide. Observe all local/park regulations and exercise
appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings. Wild animals have seriously
injured and killed visitors. Even in the most serene settings, wild animals
present a threat to life and safety. Be mindful of the possible presence of
sharks when swimming or engaging in water sports. Accidents can occur when swimming in
the ocean or walking/climbing on shore areas not designated as lifeguard-patrolled
beaches. Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas and do not dive into unknown
bodies of water, as hidden rocks, fast-moving currents, or shallow depths can
cause serious injury or death. Rip tides are common and unpredictable. On public
and private beaches alike, be sure to swim in marked and guarded areas.
Although the infrastructure is relatively stable, it
is not without challenges. Consumer demands, insufficient power generation, and
the theft of electrical wire and other equipment often interfere with the
government-owned utilities’ ability to supply power. South Africa’s primary
electricity supplier, Eskom, periodically conducts load shedding (rolling
blackouts) to safeguard the electrical grid. Electricity outages have increased
even though Eskom has brought new generation capacity online. Eskom continues
to address overdue maintenance issues and upgrades infrastructure, but these
fixes have not eased load shedding.
Landline telephones are
becoming more unreliable and difficult to maintain or replace. Copper wire is a
target of theft and, therefore, is scarce. Telephone systems are saturated,
making it increasingly difficult to get new phone numbers and to have landlines
installed or replaced.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft
National, provincial, and local governments remain
committed to combating the production and importation of counterfeit products
and to enforcing intellectual property rights per World Trade Organization
(WTO) commitments. However, the demand for name brand items at all
socio-economic levels sustains the demand for counterfeit products (e.g. music,
clothing, accessories). South Africa has made progress against counterfeit
digital media through close cooperation between authorities and industry.
manufactured counterfeit products has been more difficult to stem. One
manufacturer of a U.S. clothing brand in Durban is working with local
authorities to remove Chinese-made imitations from the streets and to halt
importation of these items. The inability to find the source of the counterfeit
products has hampered local investigations. The U.S. Mission is in close
contact with the South Africa Companies and Intellectual Property Commission
(CIPC) in combating counterfeiting and protecting intellectual property rights.
Personal Identity Concerns
South Africa is one of the most
progressive countries in the world in the protection of LGBTI rights, but it
still faces several challenges. The Constitution outlaws discrimination based
on sexual orientation and same-sex marriage has been legal since 2006. Although
the legal system protects LGBTI individuals, public attitudes are divergent.
Human rights groups report that the local LGBTI community, particularly in the
townships, is subject to hate crimes, gender violence, and targeted killings.
There have been no reports of violence against U.S. citizens or tourists because
of their sexual orientation. LGBTI travelers outside of major cities should
exercise caution when visiting traditional communities, as they may be less
accepting of public displays of affection or LGBTI culture than in major cities
and tourist destinations. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for
travelers and female
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
South Africa law mandates access
to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced.
However, many tourist attractions, and restaurants near tourist attractions, have
with ramps and other options to facilitate access. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for travelers
South Africa is the largest market
for illicit drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, and serves as a transshipment point
for cocaine and heroin primarily destined for Europe. South American cocaine
enters South Africa primarily via air to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International
Airport. A portion diverts for local consumption and the remainder continues
internationally, often in the hands of Nigerian criminal organizations. Heroin,
primarily of Afghan origin, typically arrives in ports in Tanzania, Kenya, and
Mozambique from southwest Asia before being subsequently smuggled overland into
South Africa, often transiting Zambia and Botswana. Heroin not consumed within
South Africa then continues via air to Europe, although a small percentage ships
to the United States. Drug producers synthesize methamphetamine (known
locally as “tik”), methcathinone (“cat”), and methaqualone in South Africa from
precursor chemicals imported primarily from India and China.
Cannabis is legal in South Africa.
However, a dangerous mixture called “Nyaope” has emerged in poorer communities,
combining heroin and marijuana, often mixed with other toxic substances. Quantifying
domestic drug use is difficult. The stated goals of South Africa’s National
Drug Master Plan are to “reduce illicit drug supply, demand, and harm,” but
insufficient resources and limited capacity challenge implementation. An
ongoing nationwide anti-crime operation, Operation Fiela, focuses enforcement
efforts on geographic areas identified as havens of illegal drugs, weapons, and
other illegal activities. However, Operation Fiela has attracted controversy
for its alleged targeting of foreign nationals. The nationwide operation
involves police and military raids, and has resulted in the arrest of an estimated
10,000 suspects and the seizure of large quantities of weapons and drugs.
South Africa cooperates with
international counterparts to increase the impact of its efforts against
transnational drug trafficking and other forms of crime. U.S. law enforcement
agencies effectively coordinate with South African counterparts on
investigations and operations and provide training to build capacity.
Kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) has
occurred on few occasions, sometimes involving ISIS sympathizers. U.S. citizens
have not been the target of kidnap for political gain. There have been a few
cases of criminals misrepresenting themselves as legitimate businesspersons and
abducting U.S. citizens seeking business opportunities. In August 2019, a U.S. Embassy local-hire employee reported that he and
his family were the victims of an armed robbery and kidnapping while visiting
family graves at the Odi Cemetery in the Mabopane Township of North Pretoria. Three
male suspects, all armed with handguns, ordered the victims to lay on the
ground; they then proceeded to take the Embassy employee’s shoes, car keys,
wallet, work and personal cell phones, money, and a couple of personal items
from the car. The criminals secured the employee in the trunk of his own car and
relocated his wife and son into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. The
three suspects got inside employee’s car and drove for approximately five
kilometers from the scene before getting out of the car and throwing the car
keys in the bushes. All three suspects departed without further incident. Review
OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
SAPS has made a strong effort to decrease its response
time in recent years. While active crimes will take precedence over crimes that
have happened in the past, SAPS tries to respond to incidents within a
reasonable time. SAPS patrol vehicles will typically be the first responding unit
and can open a case docket and take statements at the scene, or can advise the
complainant to report the crime at the nearest police station. There are
effective detective programs at all SAPS stations, and a detective is on duty
24/7. Once the detective receives a case and they are ready to continue the
investigation, they will generally contact the complainant.
The formation and use of community watch groups is increasing
slowly. They complement SAPS efforts to detect/deter crime and provide improved
response to calls of a serious nature. Though there has been an improvement in
community policing, the public mistrusts police and sees them as corrupt. Corruption
does occur in South Africa. Complaints of street level shakedowns for money or
similar forms of harassment are not common among the U.S. expatriate community,
but can happen. According to the Ethics Institute’s 2017
South Africa Citizen’s Bribery Survey, 37% of
respondents knew someone who had been asked to pay a bribe in the past year. On
occasion, police officers have informed motorists that they can pay a fine
directly to the officer in a speed trap or at a road-worthy checkpoint. If this
occurs, the best course of action is to advise the officer to provide a
citation and that you will pay the fine at a police station.
The emergency line in South Africa is 10-111 from any phone or 112 from a mobile phone. Download the State Department’s
Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
SAPS has nationwide policing responsibilities broken
down into national, provincial and municipal levels. In addition to SAPS, there
are various traffic and metropolitan police departments throughout South
Africa. The National Traffic Police has authority to enforce traffic laws
throughout South Africa, especially on all major highways. In addition, there
are traffic police departments at the provincial level in each of South
Africa’s nine provinces. The metropolitan police departments enforce traffic
and criminal offensives in their areas of operation.
residential/commercial properties in affluent neighborhoods, the use of private
security companies is normal for first response to a crime in progress. These
private companies generally have 1-2 armed officers in response vehicles and
patrol neighborhoods throughout the day. While more affluent areas employ
roving security reaction units with the responsibility of responding to violent
crimes, these patrols have done little to decrease the prevalence of these
The private health care sector in South Africa ranks
among the best in the world. Counterfeit medication is not a significant
problem in South Africa, but the lack of effective border controls,
well-organized criminal syndicates controlling these illicit practices, and the
tremendous amount of proceeds they generate means counterfeit medications may
become a challenge. These illicit practices affect all levels of society,
although the poor are the primary targets. If you believe your medication might
be counterfeit, immediately return it and/or report to SAPS or local
Three private health corporations, NetCare, Mediclinic,
and Life Hospitals, dominate the private health care system in South Africa.
Each corporation runs approximately 60 hospitals throughout the country. Nearly
every medium-sized city, including those near remote game parks, has at least
one private hospital operated by one of these corporations. The more remote
hospitals provide less specialized care; it is best to transfer to a
corporate hospital if you are significantly ill or injured. The three corporate websites have excellent search tools to
find a hospital, clinic, or doctor anywhere in South Africa. You may also find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S.
Consulate Johannesburg website.
U.S. government employees in Africa often evacuate to South Africa
for medical treatment. Travelers should purchase traveler/medical evacuation
insurance policies. Medical facilities in South Africa generally do not accept U.S.
health insurance. A foreigner without local health insurance may have to pay
for medical services in advance with cash or a major credit card. Hospitals may
refer those unable to pay a deposit to the closest public health facility for
treatment. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance
HIV/AIDS remains a major public health concern. Due to
South Africa’s high HIV infection rate, seek immediate medical assistance in
the event of a sexual assault, high-risk sexual encounter, or blood-borne
Travelers entering South Africa from World Health Organization
(WHO) yellow fever-designated countries must present their current and valid International
Certificate of Vaccination record (commonly called a “yellow card”) as approved
by the WHO or a statement of medical exemption (also located on the same
“yellow card”). Yellow fever vaccination must have been administered at least ten
days prior to arrival, in accordance with WHO regulations. Immigration
inspectors do not generally accept letters, scans, copies, or faxes regarding prior
yellow fever vaccination. Authorities enforce this requirement on travelers
flying to South Africa via any WHO-designated yellow fever country, even if the
plane makes an unscheduled landing in a yellow fever country; passengers in
transit from the United States through Senegal and Ghana, and who do not leave
the aircraft, do not require a yellow fever certificate. While authorities may
not apply this requirement consistently, those who cannot present an original,
valid yellow card risk refusal of entry. South Africa does not administer yellow
fever vaccination at ports of entry. According to the WHO, a yellow
fever vaccination is now valid for life and does not require renewal after a
period of time; however, not all countries honor this new guideline.
Malaria does exist in low-elevation areas in the
northeast, including Kruger National Park; the border with Mozambique; in Gauteng
province. Individuals traveling to these areas should consult their medical
provider or a travel medical clinic regarding prophylactic malaria medications,
and take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
South Africa has the
world’s third-highest rate of tuberculosis (TB), behind India and China, with statistics
estimating 322,000 cases of active TB in 2017. TB continues to be the leading
cause of death in South Africa. WHO gives a figure of 22,000 deaths from TB in
South Africa in 2017, but this excludes those people who had both TB and HIV
infection when they died.
The CDC offers
additional information on vaccines and health guidance for South
Water is potable from most city
taps, and food bought from grocery chains does not require decontamination.
Review OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Traveling
with Medication, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council Information
OSAC Country Councils are active in Johannesburg and
Cape Town. To reach OSAC’s Africa team,
U.S. Embassy Contact
Embassy Pretoria: https://za.usembassy.gov/
877 Pretorius St, Arcadia 0083, Pretoria
Hours of Operation 0745 to 1700 (Monday-Thursday); 0745 to 1245
+27 (12) 431-4000; After-hours emergency assistance: +27
American Citizen Services Section: +27 11 290 3000
Consulate General Johannesburg: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/johannesburg/
+27-11-290-3510; After-hours emergency assistance:
Consulate General Cape Town: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/capetown/
+27-21-702-7300; After-hours emergency assistance:
Consulate General Durban: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/durban/
+27-31-305-7600; After-hours emergency assistance:
State Department Emergency Line:
Before you travel, consider the
Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)