Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Mission South Africa does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual, service or location as “approved” and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. 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.
Please review OSAC’s South Africa-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Despite inequality in income and educational opportunity, persistent poverty, a severe HIV/AIDS pandemic and violent crime, South Africa remains a successful multi-party democratic society; it boasts a robust civil society.
Violent crime remains an ever-present threat in South Africa; however U.S. citizens are not singled out for criminal activity, as most crimes are opportunistic. Common crimes include: murder, rape, armed robbery, carjacking, home invasion, property theft, smash-and-grabs, and ATM robberies. Victims who resist or fail to comply with demands may be killed or seriously injured. The South African Police Service (SAPS) released April 2015 – March 2016 crime statistics for all major crimes.
Armed robbery is the most prevalent major crime in South Africa, most often committed by organized gangs that are armed with handguns/knives. Of particular concern are home invasion robberies. These crimes are often violent and can occur at any time. In many cases, criminals prefer to attack when the occupants are home or arriving/leaving because the alarm system is off and the occupants can identify where valuables are kept. The majority of 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. In many scenarios, robbers force the victim into the house; rob the home, and carjack the vehicle.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. While not specifically targeted, foreigners are victims.
In January 2017, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development announced that the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity bill would soon be tabled in Parliament. The aim of the bill is to provide “a coherent and integrated cybersecurity legislative framework to address various shortcomings which exist in dealing with cybercrime and cybersecurity in South Africa.” In October 2015, the government launched the National Cybersecurity Hub to combat cybercrime by collaborating with the private sector and civil society. The National Cyber Security Hub at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) reported that in October 2015 alone, 6,000 attempted cyberattacks against South African critical infrastructure, Internet service providers, and businesses were detected, with 2,000 of tem against critical infrastructure sites. Of the 6,000 attacks, over half were related to phishing incidents. According to the South African Minister of Telecommunications, in 2013 “South Africa was number three in the world in phishing incidents.”
Financial and identity theft crimes, including debit/credit card and advance-fee scams, are common. Most businesses (gas stations, restaurants) have portable credit card machines that are brought to the customer to allow them to swipe their card. Despite these safeguards, cards are frequently cloned, 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.
Identity theft remains a significant concern due to: a strong infrastructure of money wire services, readily available Internet, prepaid cell phones, high levels of corruption in many companies and government agencies, and lack of police resources/expertise to combat this type of crime. The U.S. Mission has worked with U.S. citizens who reported their mail was opened, re-routed, or tampered with at the local post office and later learned the perpetrators assumed their identity. Others have reported that their U.S. passport biographical page was photocopied at hotels during their travels in Africa (standard operating procedure), was altered (photo shopped), and used in romance or tax scams against South African and U.S. citizens.
- Romance scams are a growing problem with fake romantic relationships or engagements via the Internet to lure victims into sending money to support supposed education, health, immigration, or job-related problems.
- An advanced-fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money in anticipation of receiving something of greater value (a loan, contract, investment, inheritance, gift) and then receives little/nothing in return. Victims have lost large sums of money to these scams. Upon receipt of a suspected advanced-fee scheme solicitation, please visit the FBI common fraud schemes website before providing any personal/financial details or making a financial commitment. Additional financial scam information is available at the Department of State international financial scams website.
Other Areas of Concern
Visitors are advised to avoid township neighborhoods (less developed but heavily populated areas, generally located on but not limited to the edges of urban centers) and central business districts (CBDs), particularly after dark unless traveling with an organized tour group or someone who knows the area. Visitors should increase their level of awareness in these areas during daylight, due to high crime rates and spontaneous protests often involving road blocks and demonstrators burning tires/throwing rocks/projectiles.
Specific locations may be declared off-limits to employees of the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa because of risk of violence or other physical danger. If these same dangers apply to private U.S. citizens, the Mission will issue a Security Message to U.S. Citizens to alert them to the fact that a location has been declared off-limits to Mission personnel. You should check the Mission's website to review Security Messages to U.S. citizens. Questions/concerns regarding a specific area can be directed to the Regional Security Offices in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban.
- U.S. Consulate General Durban prohibits employees from going to the Japanese Gardens at Durban North due to high crime.
- U.S. Consulate General Cape Town requires that all employees use fully armored vehicles for official travel into townships in the Cape Peninsula or areas prone to high levels of crime.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Traffic moves on the left side, and steering wheels are on the right side. There are also different rules of the road. 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. Drivers must be vigilant when driving on the highway, particularly at night. The Embassy and Consulates prohibit employees from traveling after dark outside of major metropolitan areas.
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 abuse, slow and un-roadworthy vehicles, the condition of the road surfaces, and the frequent presence of pedestrians/animals. South Africa has a high rate of fatal traffic accidents; according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), there were 10,613 fatal crashes in 2015. During the 2016/2017 holiday season (December-January) alone, there were 1,714 road fatalities in South Africa.
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 marked crosswalks.
Common road-related crimes include smash-and-grab robberies. A robber smashes a side vehicle window to grab what is easily accessible (purse, brief case) when a motorist is stopped in traffic or at a stop light. Once the item is snatched, 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. Doors should be locked, no valuables should be left in plain view, and windows should be kept up.
Criminals may target vehicles on the highways, but seldom 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 have a vehicle on the side of the road with an apparent mechanical problem attempting to flag down passing traffic for help. When a passerby stops, the driver is robbed of valuables and sometimes his/her car is stolen or s/he is assaulted. If a vehicle is on the side of the road, do not stop to render assistance. Call 10-111 (nationwide emergency police number) to report the vehicle’s location so that the authorities can respond.
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/towns. Road construction is often poorly marked. Many construction zones outside metropolitan areas use a “Stop-and-Go” approach where one lane is completely closed and the adjacent lane is used as a one-way, alternating between directions.
Roadway policing 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 0.05% and is strictly enforced. When stopped at a checkpoint, individuals may be required to provide a valid driver's license. Some foreign drivers have been stopped by police 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. On occasion, motorists have been informed they can pay a fine directly to the officer after being caught 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 the fine will be paid at a police station.
Texting/talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving is a violation of law and can result in heavy fines, the impoundment of your cell phone, or the solicitation of a bribe by an errant police officer.
Motorists should be aware of their general geographic location and travel with a South African road atlas and a GPS navigation system. Some GPS systems may route motorists through dangerous neighborhoods/townships and/or on remote/unsafe rural roads. Motorists should always travel with a fully charged cell phone and a mobile charger. Be prepared with a full tank of fuel, spare tire, cell phone, water, and other supplies when traveling in rural areas. Motorists should have emergency telephone numbers for the South African Automobile Association (AA), which recognizes the American Automobile Associations (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 is repaired or towed to a service center.
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 you are being followed, drive to the nearest safe area (any area that is populated or normally covered by security cameras).
For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices or Road Safety in Africa.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. Mission personnel are advised not to use minibus taxis, to hail taxis from the street, or to hire taxis at a taxi stand. 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, minibus taxis and buses have been targeted by criminal elements 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.
U.S. Mission personnel are also advised not to use Metrorail service. Despite a 2004 Constitutional Court order stating that Metrorail has an obligation to ensure that reasonable measures are taken to provide for the security of rail commuters, violent crime, accidents, and disgruntled passengers acting out are not uncommon.
The long-distance rail service Shosholoza Meyl; the suburban rapid rail service Gautrain; luxury rail services, such as Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train and Rovos Rail are generally safe and reliable, though mechanical problems and criminal incidents do sometimes occur.
The use of individual metered taxis dispatched from established taxi companies, hotel taxis, and tour buses is recommended.
When transportation network companies (TNCs) are used, 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, are recommended. The user should verify the information provided by the company (vehicle make/model, license plate number, driver’s name/picture) prior to entering the vehicle. TNCs should not be used to travel outside major metropolitan areas or disadvantaged areas.
Pilferage of luggage at O.R. Tambo International Airport 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. Airline check-in staff remind travelers not to place valuables in their luggage.
Criminals have been known to conduct surveillance against potential targets--particularly foreigners—at O.R. Tambo International Airport while they extract cash from the airport money exchange counters or arrange for an airport transfer car. Criminals then follow, attack, and rob the victim upon arrival at their destination. A residence’s or hotel’s most vulnerable chokepoint is the driveway or entrance gate, as criminals attack when victims are waiting for the vehicle gate to open/close.
Other Travel Conditions
There have been numerous incidents in which fake police officers pull over vehicles to rob passengers at gunpoint. These are referred to as Blue Light robberies. Many victims report they had just withdrawn large sums of money from ATMs or exchanged money at a foreign exchange booth. 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 forced to pull over by a police vehicle (marked or unmarked), turn on your emergency blinkers and drive slowly to a secure, well-illuminated area.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRETORIA, JOHANNESBURG, CAPE TOWN, AND DURBAN AS BEING MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATIONS FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
South Africa’s nexus to international terrorism has been through recruiting, funding, and as safe haven for international terrorists. In 2016, there was an increase in terrorist threats in South Africa that resulted in the U.S. Department of State raising the threat level at all South African U.S. Mission locations to Medium.
- On July 9, 2016, two South African brothers were arrested for allegedly plotting to attack the U.S. Consulate General and Jewish interests in Johannesburg.
- On June 4, 2016, Mission South Africa issued a Security Message to U.S. Citizens regarding a terrorist threat against places where U.S. citizens congregate in South Africa (upscale shopping areas, malls) in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
- On September 8, 2015, Mission South Africa issued a Security Message to U.S. Citizens regarding a terrorist threat to U.S. interests in South Africa.
In a Pew Research Center study released in June 2015, 74% of South African respondents had a favorable view of the U.S., but there are occasionally remarks made by anti-capitalism groups 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, JOHANNESBURG, CAPE TOWN, AND DURBAN 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.
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) suffered 20 politically-motivated killings of ANC, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and National Freedom Party (NFP) members in the run-up to the 2016 municipal elections. Political violence is not new to KZN and often occurs in the run-up to elections, reflecting competition for power and economic gain. The violence is targeted at local politicians, usually in townships and in greater Durban.
Labor strikes and protests occur frequently and can be violent and disruptive. 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 clout and can mobilize thousands of people. Typical protest activities include blocking major thoroughfares between Johannesburg and Pretoria (called go slow) by vehicles or gridlocking Johannesburg’s Central Business District (CBD) with sheer numbers of protestors. Labor unrest affects mining, farming, retail, civil service, public transportation, private trucking, and manufacturing sectors.
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. These wildcat strikes involved thousands 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 roads.
According to the 2014-15 SAPS report, there were 12,451 peaceful protests, and an additional 2,289 illegal, violent demonstrations.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid strikes and protests, given frequency at which these turn violent. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; stay alert; be aware of your surroundings at all times, and stay abreast of ongoing events through local media outlets and social media.
Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from other African countries who are perceived to be competing for jobs with South Africans are sometimes the target of attacks. These attacks are increasingly violent and mainly occur in the largest townships and in central business districts. The government attributes the attacks to high unemployment (the official unemployment rate is 27%). The government has challenges in addressing the root causes. Local law enforcement has been captured on video standing idly as shops are looted. As a result, foreigners in urban areas feel helpless and are prone to resolve matters on their own, leading to further conflict and violence. There have been several well-publicized, fatal incidents involving mob attacks on citizens of African countries.
- In January 2015, the shooting of a young boy by a foreign-born shop owner led to several days of rioting in Soweto and other parts of Gauteng. There were isolated incidents of violence near Durban and in Cape Town at the same time. The SAPS, with the support of the South African National Defense Forces, got the violence under control, in most cases within two days, but at least seven people were killed and more than 5,000 foreigners were displaced.
Since October 2015, South Africa has been feeling the impact of its worst drought since 1982, with severe water shortages across the country. The South African government declared a drought disaster in eight of its nine provinces. Municipalities across the country imposed water restrictions, in attempt to protect its already severely depleted reservoirs and dams. In January 2015, government officials considered one in 10 municipal water systems to be “totally dysfunctional,” and of those working one in four had regular service disruptions of two or more days. Funding for long-term needed water projects is limited due mainly to a lagging economy. The IMF is projecting 0.8% economic growth for 2017. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “El Niño’s Impact in Southern Africa.”
During the rainy season, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, or water damage often disrupt power to alarm systems, traffic lights, and other electronic equipment. Adequate surge protectors should be used to protect computers and other electrical equipment.
While visiting game parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave your vehicle or be on foot, even with a guide. Observe all local/park regulations. Visitors have been seriously injured/killed by wild animals. Even in the most serene settings, wild animals present a threat to life and safety.
If visiting the expansive coastline, be mindful of the possible presence of sharks. Accidents can occur when swimming in the ocean or walking/climbing on shore areas that are not designated 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/death. Rip tides are common but unpredictable. On both public and private beaches 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/equipment often interfere with the government-owned utilities’ ability to deliver an uninterrupted power supply.
- South Africa’s primary electricity supplier, Eskom, conducted 99 days of load-shedding (rolling blackouts) in 2015 to safeguard the electrical grid. Electricity outages have eased, as Eskom has broadened its capacity online to address overdue maintenance issues and upgrades to infrastructure.
- Telephone landlines are becoming more unreliable and difficult to maintain or replace. Copper wire is often stolen and is, therefore, scarce. Telephone systems are saturated, making it increasingly difficult to get new phone numbers and to have landlines installed or replaced.
The 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 (music, clothing, accessories). South Africa has made progress against counterfeit digital media through close cooperation between authorities and industry.
Importation of 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 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) rights, but it still faces a number of challenges. The Constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, and Parliament passed a law in 2006 allowing same-sex couples to marry. There have been no reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation. Public attitudes are divergent. In a Pew Research Center study released in 2013, 61% of respondents said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 32% said it should be accepted. Human rights groups reported the local LGBTI community, particularly in the townships, was subject to hate crimes, gender violence, and killings. There have been no reports of violence against U.S. citizens or tourists as a result 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 major cities and tourist destinations. For more detailed information about LGBTI rights, please review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and LGBTI Travel Information page.
South Africa is an importer and exporter of drugs. It is the origin, transit point, and/or destination of many drug trafficking routes. International drug trafficking organizations are present. Recent trends indicate that Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) from China and the Balkans have developed a significant presence in South Africa. In addition to importing narcotics directly into South Africa, DTOs ship drugs into Maputo, Mozambique, and then truck them into South Africa. There are pockets of corruption within the government, but as a policy, law enforcement frequently collaborates with U.S. counterparts to target drug trafficking.
- The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports South Africa as a leading country for cannabis seizures. While much cannabis is cultivated domestically, significant quantities are also grown in neighboring countries. Large seizures of compressed marijuana are frequently made at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and are generally destined for the UK.
- Cocaine, frequently from South America, is regularly seized at the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Cocaine trafficking is mostly controlled by Nigerian syndicates that have recruiters placed in South Africa and facilitators throughout South America.
- Heroin is also imported and used in South Africa. There were several investigations where heroin was smuggled from Pakistan into South Africa and onward into the U.S. According to a UN study, most of the heroin trafficked into South Africa is intended for domestic consumption.
SAPS reports an increase in the number of clandestine drug manufacturing laboratories. These labs produce synthetic drugs (methamphetamine, tick) largely for the domestic market.
There is limited knowledge of narcotics trafficking financing terrorist activities.
Kidnap-for-ransom is a low concern, as it occurs on very few occasions. U.S. citizens have not been the target of kidnap for political gain. There have been a few cases of U.S. citizens seeking business opportunities being abducted by criminals misrepresenting themselves as legitimate businesspersons.
South African Police Service (SAPS) continues to address poor response time and officer indifference with an effort to improve their sector policing capabilities in many neighborhoods. While SAPS attempts to respond to emergency residential calls and other developing crimes, real improvements are still forthcoming. Property crimes are a lower priority. Police response may take 2-3 days after a break-in to respond or take a report. Perpetrators are seldom successfully prosecuted.
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, police are mistrusted and seen as corrupt.
Unauthorized photography of certain sites (government buildings, similar locations) might result in fines/arrest. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
While corruption exists, complaints of street level shakedowns for money or similar forms of harassment are uncommon among the U.S. expatriate community. One in three South Africans report having paid a bribe to police officers (or impersonators) once they engaged them for assistance.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained by SAPS or feel they are being harassed can contact American Citizen Services at:
- Consulate General Johannesburg: Tel 011-290-3510, Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-1684 E-mail: ACSJohannesburg@state.gov
- Consulate General Cape Town: Tel: 021-702-7300, Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-0391 E-mail: ConsularCapeTown@state.gov
- Consulate General Durban: Tel: 031-305-7600, Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-1445 E-mail: ConsularDurban@state.gov
Crime Victim Assistance
National police emergency tel: 10-111 or 112 from a mobile phone
Ambulance: 10177 from any phone or 112 from a mobile phone
There are two police agencies:
- the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) deals with traffic control
- the South African Police Service (SAPS) deals with criminal investigations and regular law enforcement duties.
For 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 are protected by roving security reaction units with the responsibility of responding to violent crimes, these patrols have done little to decrease the prevalence of these crimes.
The private health care sector ranks among the best in the world. The lack of effective border controls, well-organized criminal syndicates controlling counterfeit 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. To avoid becoming a victim, be familiar with your medication’s physical characteristics (color, shape, printing, form of medication’s packaging; the color, shape, and texture of the actual medication). If in doubt, immediately return the medication and/or report to SAPS or local authorities. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.
NetCare ground ambulance 911: 082 911 (Private, nationwide)
ER 24: 084 124 (Private, nationwide)
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Three private health corporations, NetCare, Mediclinic, and Life Hospitals, dominate the private health care system in South Africa. Each corporation owns approximately 60 hospitals. Nearly every medium-sized city, including those near remote game parks, has a private hospital operated by at least one of these corporations. The more remote hospitals provide less specialized care, but all have abilities to stabilize very ill/injured patients until transferred to a larger medical center. The three corporation’s websites have excellent search tools to find a hospital, clinic, or doctor anywhere in South Africa.
JOHANNESBURG (larger private hospitals, multiple others available)
The Consulate maintains a list of local physicians.
Milpark Hospital – NetCare
9 Guild Rd, Partown West, Johannesburg 2193
Tel: +27 (11) 480-5600, Emergency: +27 (11) 480-5917
Cnr Rivonia and Hills Rd, Morningside, Johannesburg 2057
Tel: +27 (11) 282-5000, Emergency: +27 (11) 282-5126/5127
Cnr Main Rd and Peter Place, Bryanston, Johannesburg 2021
Tel: +29 (11) 709-2000, Emergency: +27 (11) 706-7710/7711
PRETORIA (larger private hospitals, multiple others available)
The Embassy maintains a list of local physicians.
Unitas Hospital – Netcare
Clifton Avenue, Lyttelton, Centurion 0140
Tel: +27 (12) 677 8000
Pretoria East – NetCare
Corner of Garsfontein & Netcare Roads, Moreleta Park
Tel: + 27 (12) 422 2300
Life Wilgers Hospital
2017 OSAC Crime & Safety Report Template
Denneboom Rd, Wilgers Ext14, Pretoria 0040
Tel: +27 (12) 807-8100
Kloof Hospital Medi-Clinic
511 Jochemus St, Erasmuskloof X3, Pretoria 0083
Tel: +27 (12) 367-4000, Emergency: +27 (12) 367-4076
CAPE TOWN (larger private hospitals, multiple others available)
Life Vincent Palloti Hospital
Alexandra Road, Pinelands, Cape Town 7405
Tel: +27 (21) 506-5111
Christiaan Barnard Memorial- NetCare
Cnr Long Market and Loop Street, City Centre
Tel: +27 (21) 480-6111, +27 (21) 424-4228
Constantiaberg Mediclinic Hospital
Burnham Road off Gabriel and Amin Streets
Tel: +27 (21) 799-2911, +27 (21) 797-1107
Main Road, Claremont
Tel: +27 (21) 670-4300, +27 (21) 671-3315
DURBAN (larger private hospitals, multiple others available)
St Augustine’s Hospital – NetCare
107 Chelmsford Rd, Berea, Durban 4001
Tel: +27 (31) 268-5000, Emergency: +27 (31) 268-5030
Umhlanga Rocks Hospital – NetCare
323 Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban 4320
Tel: +27 (31) 560-5500, Emergency: +27 (31) 560-5607/5612
Entanbeni Hospital – Life Healthcare
148 South Ridge Rd, Berea, Durban 4000
Tel: +27 (31) 204-1300, Emergency: +27 (31) 204-1377
Available Air Ambulance Services
International SOS: Tel: +27 (11) 541-1100 or +27 (11) 541-1300
NetCare 911: Tel: 082 911 or +27 (10) 209 8392
U.S. government employees in Africa are often evacuated to South Africa for medical treatment. Travelers are encouraged to purchase traveler/medical evacuation insurance policies. U.S. health insurance is usually not accepted at any medical facility in South Africa. It is common that a foreigner without local health insurance may have to pay for medical services in advance with cash or a major credit card. Those unable to pay a deposit may be referred to the closest public health facility for treatment.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
HIV/AIDS remain major public health concerns. Due to South Africa’s high HIV infection rate, the U.S. government advises all personnel/visitors to seek immediate medical assistance in the event of a sexual assault, high-risk sexual encounter, or blood-borne injury.
Travelers entering South Africa from World Health Organization (WHO) yellow fever-designated countries are required to present a valid “International Certificate of Vaccination” record (yellow card) or a statement of medical exemption. Yellow fever vaccination must have been administered at least 10 days prior to a traveler’s arrival. Immigration inspectors do not generally accept letters, scans, copies, or faxes. This requirement is imposed on travelers flying to South Africa via any WHO-designated yellow fever country, even if the plane makes an unscheduled landing. Passengers in transit in Senegal and Ghana that do not leave the aircraft do not require a yellow fever certificate. While this requirement may not be consistently applied, travelers who cannot present an original, valid yellow card risk being refused entry. Yellow fever vaccinations are not administered at ports of entry. A yellow fever vaccination is valid for 10 years.
Malaria exists in the low elevations areas in the northeast, including Kruger National Park and the border with Mozambique. Individuals traveling to these areas are advised to consult their medical provider or a travel medicine clinic on prophylactic malaria medications and take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
South Africa has the world’s third highest rates of tuberculosis (TB), behind India and China, with WHO statistics of an estimated incidence of 500,000 cases of active TB in 2011. Therefore, about 1% of the population develops active TB each year. The incidence has increased by 400% over the past 15 years. TB continues to be the leading cause of death in South Africa. WHO gives a figure of 25,000 deaths from TB in South Africa in 2013, 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 Africa.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Johannesburg Country Council currently meets four times a year and has approximately 60 members. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions or to join.
U.S. EmbassyLocation and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
877 Pretorius St, Arcadia 0083, Pretoria
Hours of Operation: 0745-1700 (M-Th) and 0745-1245 (F)
Embassy Contact Numbers
Telephone: +27 (12) 431-4000
MSG Post 1: +27 (12) 431-4169 (After Hours)
Regional Security Office: +27 (12) 431-4099 Email: DS_RSO_Pretoria@state.gov
RSO Johannesburg: Tel: +27 (11) 290-3426, email: DS_RSOJohannesburg@state.gov
RSO Cape Town: Tel: +27 (21) 702-7438, email: DS_RSO_CapeTown@state.gov
Consulate General Cape Town: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/capetown/
Consulate General Durban: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/durban/
Consulate General Johannesburg: https://za.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/johannesburg/
It is recommended that any traveler register with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
The Consulates serve the following regions:
Consulate General Cape Town: Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape
Consulate General Durban: KwaZulu-Natal
Consulate General Johannesburg: Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North-West
South Africa Country Information Sheet