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Botswana 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Botswana > Gaborone

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The biggest crime threat to Americans in Botswana is petty theft. Recent crime statistics from the Botswana Police Service indicate a rise in robbery and petty crimes taking place in populated regions, particularly in Gaborone. Illegal drug arrests and theft of motor vehicles are also reportedly on the rise. Additionally, RSO contacts indicate increasing rates of serious crime, noting a shift from primarily non-violent residential burglaries to more violent home invasions. Criminals are generally armed, and increasingly, they resort to violence to subdue their victims or to elicit information regarding valuables. Home invasions can occur at any time of the day or night. However, current trends show that criminals prefer to target a house when an occupant is at home, forcing the resident or house staff to provide details on high value items, safe combinations, and credit/debit account numbers. 

Botswana has strict gun-control laws, however, criminal elements have been able to smuggle firearms from neighboring countries, where they are cheap and readily available. These criminals have used firearms without provocation in order to attain their goals. If confronted, armed robbers often show no fear and have no regard for the safety of innocent bystanders. 2012 police statistics showed a continued increase in armed robbery in Gaborone. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

All major roads are tarred and are in good to excellent condition. Most secondary roads are either graveled or hard packed earth. Traffic circulates on the left. Vegetation can grow up to and over the edges of roads, particularly during the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility at bends and concealing hazards at the side of the road. Driving can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. A few examples of likely hazards are: inexperienced and irresponsible (often drunk) drivers, wandering livestock and wild animals, long distances, high temperatures, and intense rain. Cows, donkeys, and goats are often found feeding along, crossing, or standing in the road. Young animal breeds represent a particular danger as they are skittish in nature and may rush suddenly into the road.

There are a high number of traffic accidents often owing to poor driving habits; long, tedious stretches of two-lane highways (often without shoulders); excessive speeds; poor or nonexistent street lighting; drunk drivers; and animals on the roads.

Alcohol and excessive speed are significant contributing factors in most accidents, particularly in the evenings, on weekends, and at month’s end (payday). Driving defensively is highly recommended. Some vehicles are not completely roadworthy, and not all drivers are properly trained or experienced. The maximum speed limit outside of cities and towns is 120km/hr, but people consistently drive far above or below the limit, causing accidents. 

It is recommended that you use a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system outfitted with the appropriate software to check your route, particularly the locations of police stations, hospitals, shops and petrol stations. Plan your trip so that you leave and arrive in daylight; driving at night is extremely dangerous due to wandering animals and badly lit roads. Dusk and dawn are also hazardous due to low sun and the contrast between a dark road/landscape and a bright sky. Donkeys are particularly hard to spot at these times of day.

If you do not have roaming on your cell phone, it is worth unblocking your phone so that you can buy a local SIM card. They are inexpensive, and network coverage is good on the major routes and in most towns. It is recommended that you use a local number because the rates are cheaper and your number will be displayed on the cell phone of the person you are calling, allowing them to call you back in the event of an emergency. Satellite phones are useful when visiting remote areas beyond the range of normal cell phones. It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving. 

Smash-and-grabs at isolated intersections and vehicular break-ins in parking areas remain common.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Botswana is a multi-party, constitutional democracy and since independence in 1966 has had enjoyed one of the fastest rates of growth in per capita income in the world. 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Indigenous terrorism is not an issue, and the threat of political violence is rated “Low.” The threat from transnational terrorism is rated “Medium.” The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas.

Police Response

The police are well intentioned and active in their efforts to prevent and combat crime. Personnel and resource shortages limit the police’s operational effectiveness. Vehicle and foot patrols in residential and commercial areas are infrequent, and the police mobile response capability is limited. In response to these shortfalls, the police have initiated “community policing” programs in many neighborhoods. These have been effective at deterring criminal elements when they have the active support of private citizens. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +267-395-3982 (Business Hours)
U.S. Embassy Marine Post One: +267-395-7111 (After Hours)
U.S. Duty Officer: +267-71-754-585 (24/7)

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

Police: 999
Fire: 998
Ambulance: 992

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities in Gaborone are adequate and staffed by trained physicians, but services are rudimentary in other areas of the country. Gaborone has a number of large pharmacies that carry many prescription medications. 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Bokamoso Private Hospital, Gaborone: +267-369-4000
Gaborone Private Hospital, Gaborone: +267-368-5600
Princess Marina Hospital, Gaborone: +267-362-1400
Maun Hospital, Maun: +267-687-9000
Nyangabwe Hospital, Francistown: +267-241-1000

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Medical evacuation to South Africa, which is expensive, is often the only option for serious medical emergencies. Professional private emergency rescue services operate air and ground ambulances throughout the country, but care is rendered only after a patient's ability to pay is established.

Medical Rescue International (MRI): 992 or +267-390-1601
Rescue One: 993 or +267-392-3249
Emergency: 991 or +267-74-692-400

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Approximately one-quarter of the population is infected with HIV. Visitors are advised to exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity or if they are exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purposes. 

Tuberculosis is also endemic. Individuals who plan to reside or stay in Botswana for extended periods are advised to obtain a tuberculosis skin test prior to arrival and again upon departure from Botswana.

Malaria is prevalent in the north, particularly around the Chobe and Okavango National Parks.

For additional health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/botswana.htm.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

Exercise caution near the Gaborone Dam and Kgale Hill areas in Gaborone, especially at dusk or after dark, due to a number of criminal incidents that have taken place there over the years. 

Visitors are urged to take personal responsibility for their own security by being vigilant and taking common sense precautions. Always remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Women should keep purses zipped and in front of them at all times. Keep money, credit cards, wallets, and other valuables in your front pockets. Wear the shoulder straps of bags across your chest. Cell phone, laptop computer, and iPod thefts are common. Keep cell phones and iPods out of sight and only use them in safe locations. Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth and keep a low profile at all times. If you are the victim of robbery, do not resist. Give up your valuables and do not make any sudden or unexpected movements. Visitors are encouraged to walk with someone during the day and not to walk outside at night whether alone or with someone.

When driving, keep your doors locked and your windows up at all times. Thieves can and do snatch valuables through car windows. Do not leave any valuables visible in the passenger compartment. If you do carry valuables, keep them locked in the trunk. Be aware of your surroundings when leaving or entering your residence and when stopped at traffic lights and stop signs. Always leave enough space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to create an escape route, especially while at traffic lights and stop signs. Do not get out of or into your car if there are suspicious looking persons nearby; simply leave the area. Be suspicious of anyone who tries to get your attention while you are in or near your car. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Wear seat belts. Carry a cell phone with you and have emergency numbers handy, but take note that talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal. Due to road conditions and poor visibility, visitors are strongly encouraged not to drive after dark outside of the major cities.

Persons living in Botswana, especially in the major cities, are strongly encouraged to upgrade security at their residences to reduce their vulnerability to home invasions. Intrusion alarms, electric fences, perimeter lighting, a telephone/camera intercom system, and window and door grilles are key components of a comprehensive and robust residential security program. 

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

Embassy Drive, Government Enclave, Gaborone, Botswana

American Citizen Services Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 09:30 to 12:30; Tuesday and Thursday 13:30 to 16:30

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Regional Security Office: +267-373-2256/8/9
Embassy Operator: +267-395-3982
Medical Unit: +267-373-2013 or 71-754-578
Consular Affairs: +267-373-2320/1/4
Political/Economic Section: +267-373-2366

MSG Post One: +267-395-7111 or 71-609-955 (cellular)
U.S. Embassy Duty Officer: +267-71-754-585
Consular Section Website: http://travel.state.gov
U.S. Embassy Gaborone Website: http://botswana.usembassy.gov
U.S. Embassy Gaborone Facebook: www.facebook.com/U.S.EmbassyGaborone

OSAC Country Council Information

Post has an active Country Council chapter. 

RSO William D. McCarthy: T: +267-373-2259; E: McCarthyWD@state.gov  
ARSO Clifton Jeffrey: T:+267-373-2258; E:JeffreyCW@state.gov
OMS LeShawn Mapp: T: +267-373-2256; E: MappLT@state.gov