South Africa 2014 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Stolen items; Theft; Financial Security; Fraud; Burglary; Rape/Sexual Violence; Carjacking; Information Security; Riots/Civil Unrest; Racial Violence/Xenophobia; Floods; Intellectual Property Rights Infringement; Counterfeiting; Drug Trafficking; Kidnapping; Bribery; Disease Outbreak
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Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security rates Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban as Critical crime threat posts. Crime continues to be a key strategic concern for the government and for U.S. government employees and visitors. In general, crimes range from petty muggings to ATM scams to armed residential home invasions. These crimes occur with frequency and in all neighborhoods. U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted but are frequently victims of crime.
Violent, confrontational crime -- home invasion robberies, rape, burglaries, carjackings, street muggings, smash-and-grabs, organized attacks on commercial and retail centers (shopping malls and outlets), ATM bombings, and attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles/personnel (i.e., armored car/personnel) -- is a major concern.
Of particular concern are home invasion robberies. These crimes are often violent in nature and can occur at any time. In many cases, criminals prefer to attack when the occupant is home or arriving/leaving because the residential alarm is off and the occupant can identify where valuables are kept. Recently released South African Police Service (SAPS) 2012-13 crime statistics indicate that the number of home invasions remains alarmingly high, with a total of 6,598 reported in Gauteng Province (which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria) alone. However, more than 60 percent of these invasions occur in disadvantaged areas or “townships” and not in more upscale neighborhoods frequented by expatriates or corporate personnel.
South Africa also has the highest rape rate in the world – estimated at seven times higher than the rate in the U.S. While not specifically targeted, foreigners are victims. This crime occurs everywhere and against all age groups, including infants and grandmothers. An identified trend is the use of Gamma Hydroxybutyric (GHB), the “date rape drug,” by criminals to facilitate overpowering their victims. Many rape victims are killed or severely wounded either in the initial attack or afterward. Brutal mutilations and immolation of live victims is a disturbing, recent trend.
Pickpocketing is common. Regardless of the type of crime being committed, what distinguishes crime in South Africa is: 1) the level of violence associated with personal and property crimes, as criminals do not hesitate to use lethal weapons, and 2) that crimes occur across all metropolitan areas regardless of socio-economic status.
Financial and identity theft crimes are prevalent. These include ATM, credit card, and the “lonely hearts” and “419” scams. ATM fraud includes the placement of a skimming device on the ATM itself or the ruse of a “helpful citizen” who offers to assist. Credit card scams are also prevalent. Most businesses, including gas stations and restaurants, have portable credit card machines that are brought to the customer to allow them to swipe personally. Despite these safeguards, credit cards are still frequently cloned, resulting in exorbitant fraudulent charges. There are continuing reports of “lonely hearts” and “419” scams originating in South Africa. “Lonely hearts” scams are a growing problem with fake romantic relations or “engagements” online to lure victims into sending money to support education, health, or job problems. A “419” scam is an advance fee fraud scheme in which the victim is requested to wire money (typically through MoneyGram or Western Union) to advance fees/pay up-front costs associated with receiving a substantial monetary windfall. This unsolicited Internet scam is often initiated under the guise of a seemingly legitimate business proposition. Bogus websites are set up to give the appearance of legitimacy in order to dupe the victim. Based on the information contained in the unsolicited email or on the bogus website, the victim contacts the scammer to either send money or agree to travel to South Africa in order to negotiate a business deal. If travel is involved, the unwary victim can be kidnapped for ransom or bilked out of funds. When individuals fall victim to a “419” scam, SAPS will not pursue the case to prosecution unless the victim is willing to file a formal complaint and testify in a South African court. Victims have lost large sums of money to these scams. For more information on these types of scams, please see the SAPS website at: www.saps.gov.za and search “419 Scams.”
Additional 2012-13 crime statistics are available at: http://www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2013/crime_stats.htm
Large, well-organized criminal syndicates operate freely. These gangs are known to target businesses and retail stores in coordinated, armed attacks.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Road Safety and Road Conditions
While the highway system and toll roads are generally in good condition, automobile accidents are the single biggest risk to drivers and pedestrians due to poor quality of driving, alcohol abuse, unroadworthy vehicles, as well as the condition of the road surfaces and the frequent presence of pedestrians and animals in the road outside of large cities. Toll roads have emergency call boxes similar to those in the U.S., but they are often inoperable due to poor maintenance. Secondary roads are often in poorer condition and frequently marked by pot holes.
Unlike in the U.S., traffic moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle. Highway signage can be inconsistent, particularly on secondary and tertiary roads. Vehicles may pass on all sides, travel at inconsistent speeds (some very fast, others very slow) in all lanes, and it is not uncommon to see older and poorly maintained vehicles on the road often breaking down and creating road hazards. Drivers must always be hyper-vigilant when driving on the highway, particularly at night.
Motorists should always use caution when driving, particularly because 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 directions. Highway lighting is mostly non-existent outside major cities and towns. South Africa has a high rate of fatal traffic accidents; there were 1,800 road fatalities during December 2013 alone. Unsafe driving, vehicles in disrepair, excessive speeding, unlicensed drivers and drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs cause many of the traffic accidents.
Motorists should always travel with a fully-charged cell phone and a mobile charger. Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device is a violation of the law and can result in heavy fines and/or the impoundment of your cell phone. Motorists should travel with a South African road atlas and preferably a GPS navigation system as well. However, some GPSs may route motorists through dangerous neighborhoods and townships and/or on remote and unsafe rural roads. 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. Roadside assistance companies can provide armed response units that will wait with motorists until the vehicle is repaired or towed to a service center. South Africa's AA website link is: http://www.aa.co.za/.
Roadway policing mainly consists of speed traps and checkpoints where officers check for mechanical malfunctions, operator compliance with license restrictions, and alcohol consumption. When stopped at a checkpoint, individuals may be required to provide a valid driver's license and a passport with a current visa or visitor's permit. If stopped by the police without valid identification or a current visa, individuals of any nationality can be subject to arrest, detention, and deportation.
A growing trend involves fake police officers (especially in the vicinity of OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and the connecting freeway to Pretoria) pulling over vehicles to rob them at gun point. These are referred to as “Blue Light” robberies. Many victims reported that they just withdrew large sums of money from ATMs or exchanged money at a foreign exchange booth inside the airport terminal. There are observers inside the terminals watching for such transactions. They call their accomplices informing them of the victim’s vehicle’s departure and make, model, and license plate number. If the vehicle stops for these imposters, the occupants are robbed at gun point of their money and valuables, sometimes including their car and cell phones. This trend is increasing and not limited to the OR Tambo International Airport area, as there have been reports throughout South Africa. These fake police officers have used unmarked vehicles with a police light in the dash board and flash what appears to be a badge. More disturbing, these fake police officers more often use modified fake, but high quality “marked police vehicles” and wear a police uniform. If you are unsure of the situation, turn on your emergency blinkers to acknowledge them, slow down, and drive to a safe congested area to pull over.
Other common road-related crimes include “smash-and-grab” robberies. This type of robbery occurs when a motorist is stopped in traffic, usually at a stop light or congestion, and someone passing by smashes a side window to grab what is easily accessible. Once the item is snatched, the robber flees (often times into nearby townships that are dangerous to pursue). While these crimes can occur anywhere, most occur at major intersections and highway off-ramps.
Criminals have also been known to target vehicles on the highways. Gangs will place debris in the road and wait for a vehicle to stop after hitting the object, at which point the passengers are robbed. Other tactics include dropping rocks or paint from bridges onto vehicles. In another scenario, an individual (or several working together) may be pulled over on the side of the road with an apparent mechanical problem, attempting to flag down passing traffic for help. When a passerby stops to assist, the driver is robbed of valuables, sometimes their car is stolen or s/he is assaulted.
The Gautrain railway serves as a rapid rail link between OR Tambo International Airport and the commercial centers of Johannesburg and Pretoria. In 2012, the route was extended to provide service between the Johannesburg Central Business District and Pretoria. The Gautrain is a safe and efficient alternative to travel between the various locations. More information on the Gautrain can be obtained at: http://www.gautrain.co.za/.
Perhaps the most vulnerable chokepoint at any residence in South Africa is the driveway entrance gate. Criminals attack when victims are waiting for the vehicle gate to open/close. According to SAPS, the majority of carjackings occur when the victim arrives at home and pulls into the driveway with carjackers pulling up behind in order to block an escape path. Victims who resist or fail to comply with demands have been killed or seriously injured. In many scenarios, robbers force the victim into the house, rob the house of its valuables, and carjack the vehicle.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Celebrating 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 multi-party democratic society; it boasts a robust civil society and a dynamic free press. South Africa has a stable, democratic government, but political violence has increased in recent years.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
South Africa serves as an important transit and facilitation point for global extremists. Though there has been no indication that operational cells are present, a nexus for recruiting, funding, and safe haven for international terrorists does exist. The last significant domestic terror campaign occurred in the Western Cape. The Western Cape-based group PAGAD (People against Gangsters and Drugs) conducted an urban terror campaign of bombings, assassinations, and vigilante murders from 1997 to November 2001. These activities targeted government facilities and personnel, moderate Muslims identified as threats to the radical Islamic movement, and Western-themed businesses (Planet Hollywood, Hooters, and Hard Rock Cafe) seen by PAGAD as symbols of the anti-Islamic West. The successful investigation and subsequent prosecution of PAGAD members by the government has been credited with the suspension of further violence. No significant anti-Western attacks have occurred since 2001.
Labor strikes occur frequently and can be violent and disruptive. Gauteng Province (home to Johannesburg and Pretoria) remains the political and economic capital of the country and typically experiences more labor unrest than other provinces. Labor unions carry substantial political clout and can mobilize thousands of people to a protest or demonstration. Typical protest activities have included blocking major thoroughfares between Johannesburg and Pretoria (termed a “go slow”) with vehicles or grid-locking Johannesburg’s Central Business District with sheer numbers of protestors. Sectors most often affected by labor unrest include: mining, farming, retail, civil service, public transportation, private trucking, and manufacturing.
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 utilities are not received for a period. These protests often result in burning tires, stoning vehicles, and blocking roads. Service delivery protests hit an all-time high in 2013; SAPS counted 12,399 total protests, an average of 34 per day. Of those protests, 10,517 were peaceful, but 1,822 turned violent, and 693 people were arrested. SAPS noted that the elevated number of protests forced them to divert resources from other police activities.
While protests are generally peaceful, they can involve some level of violence, which SAPS have generally met with non-lethal crowd control measures but have responded to with violence. However, unlicensed protests can get out of hand and have lead to property destruction and some assaults. Protests by the military, police, private security industry, truckers, and the minibus/taxi industry have the most potential for violence. Unannounced, large-scale wildcat strikes in the mining sector in the northern provinces and fruit farms in the Western Cape have occurred recently. These wildcat strikes involve thousands and have led to numerous deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage.
In addition to being a premier tourist destination, Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa, where Parliament and many government offices are located. While protests are permitted and tolerated, the police are generally quick to deter demonstrations that do not have appropriate municipal approval. Like all major cities, the security resources of SAPS and the various Metropolitan Police Departments in Cape Town are adequate to maintain order during authorized demonstrations.
An increasing trend of politically-motivated killings has plagued KwaZulu-Natal since 2011. Local media reported that 56 members of the ANC, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and National Freedom Party (NFP) have been killed in politically-linked violence since 2011. Although a fluctuating level of violence is not new in the KwaZulu-Natal Province and usually occurs in the run up to elections, the killings result primarily from intra-party conflict. The only recent inter-party violence has been between the IFP and its NFP offshoot. Competition for power and economic gain is at the root cause of political violence in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. The violence is not targeted toward U.S. citizens but is more against local politicians, usually in townships and in greater Durban.
KwaZulu-Natal is home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest container port (Durban) and commodity port (Richards Bay), making the province one of the prime commercial centers on the continent. It is also home to President Jacob Zuma and a quarter of the nation’s African National Congress (ANC) members, making it a frequent host to ANC political rallies and large gatherings that sometimes disrupt the city. Most protests, marches, and rallies pass in front of the building housing the U.S. Consulate General and end across the street in front of Durban’s City Hall, preventing Consulate staff and visitors from accessing or departing from the building.
Violent demonstrations are rare, although strikes have turned violent. There were over 25 demonstrations in 2013 that ended up in front of City Hall in Durban. SAPS are usually called in to control traffic and demonstrators.
Religious or Ethnic Violence
South Africa has a large and diverse mix of religions, and some communities are sensitive to the U.S. government involvement in the Middle East. There have been recent small, peaceful demonstrations in Gauteng protesting these policies.
So-called “service delivery protests” frequently spiral into looting of small, foreign-owned shops. Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are perceived to be competing for jobs with South Africans are the primary targets of these attacks. Human rights groups note a strong ethnic and religious undertone to the attacks. Somalis, conspicuously Muslim in a majority Christian country, are frequently targeted. These attacks were increasingly violent and mainly occurred in South Africa’s largest townships. The government attributes the attacks to high unemployment; the official rate is 24 percent, but experts believe it is closer to 40 percent. Local law enforcement has shown hesitance in preventing looting and have been captured on video standing idly as shops are looted. As a result, foreigners working and living in urban areas feel helpless and are prone to resolve matters on their own, leading to further conflict and violence. For example, in May 2013, a mob beat a Somali shop owner to death in Port Elizabeth. The act was caught on camera and posted to YouTube, showing the helpless man in the street as he was pelted with rocks. Eleven arrests were made, but not one was prosecuted successfully.
Although the infrastructure in South Africa is relatively stable, consumer demands, insufficient power generation, and the theft of electrical wire and other equipment interfere with the government-owned utilities’ ability to deliver an uninterrupted power supply.
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.
Telephone landlines are 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 landlines installed, replaced, and even to get new numbers.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Transportation accidents involving mini-buses, which are used for mass transit, occur on a daily basis. Multiple vehicle accidents on major highways are common. Due to poor vehicle maintenance and overloading, there are frequent accidents caused by trucks, semi-tractor trailers and long-haul vehicles. These vehicles do not always use proper hazard identification markers when they breakdown (many times in the middle of the road), which can cause chain-reaction accidents, especially at night.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts
The government, at both the local and national levels, remains committed to combating the production and importation of counterfeit products and to enforcing intellectual property rights as per World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. However, the demand for name brand items at all socio-economic levels sustains the demand for counterfeit products including music, clothing, and accessories. South Africa has made the most progress on 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 products 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. Embassy and Consulates are in close contact with South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) in combating counterfeiting and protecting intellectual property rights.
Counterfeit medication is a major problem throughout Africa. So far, it 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 the next challenge. These illicit practices affect all levels of society, with the poor as primary targets. To avoid being a victim of this scam, it is recommended to be familiar with the physical characteristics -- the color, shape, printing, and form of medication and packaging, and the color, shape, and texture of the actual medication -- of the medications one takes. If in doubt, return the medication immediately and/or report to SAPS or local authorities.
Identity theft remains a concern due to several contributing factors: a strong infrastructure of money wire services, readily available Internet, prepaid cell phones, high levels of corruption in many companies, and lack of police resources/expertise to combat this type of crime. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates have worked with U.S. citizens who reported their mail was opened, re-routed, or tampered with at the local post office, later to learn 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 (photoshopped), and used in a romance, standard traveler, or tax scam against South African and U.S. citizens.
South Africa is both 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 found in South Africa. Factors that attract legitimate businesses, such as a relatively stable regime and first-world infrastructure, also appeal to organized crime. 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) recently reported that South Africa was the world's third-leading country for cannabis seizures. While much of the cannabis is cultivated domestically, significant quantities are also grown in neighboring countries. Large seizures of compressed marijuana are frequently made at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and are generally destined for the U.K.
Cocaine, frequently originating from Brazil as well as other parts of South America, is seized regularly at the OR Tambo International Airport. Cocaine trafficking is mostly controlled by Nigerian syndicates that have recruiters placed in South Africa and facilitators throughout South America. 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.
Heroin is also abused in South Africa. There were several investigations where heroin was smuggled from Pakistan into South Africa and then onward into the U.S. According to a United Nations (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, such as methamphetamine (known locally as “tick”), largely for the domestic market. While there is limited knowledge of narcotics trafficking financing terrorist activities, the U.S. government has no corroborated intelligence to indicate widespread narco-terrorism in South Africa.
U.S. citizens are not targeted specifically for kidnapping. However, there have been a few reported cases of U.S. citizens seeking business opportunities who were abducted by criminals misrepresenting themselves as legitimate businessmen. Scam artists who purported to be engaged in legitimate business enterprises have lured unsuspecting victims with promises of lucrative business deals. In one instance, the victim met his "business contact" and was abducted and ransomed for safe return. These abductions are motivated purely by greed. U.S. citizens have not been the target of kidnap for political gain.
For residential and commercial properties in affluent neighborhoods, the use of private security companies has become the norm for first response to a crime in progress. These private companies generally have one to two armed officers in response vehicles and are seen patrolling the neighborhoods throughout the day.
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. 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.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
The national police emergency number is: 10-111.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained by SAPS or feel they are being harassed can contact American Citizen Services at:
U.S. Consulate General - Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive, Sandton, 2146
Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-1684
E mail: email@example.com
U.S. Consulate General - Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, Westlake 7945
Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-0391
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Consulate General - Durban
Old Mutual Building 31st floor
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street, Durban 4001
Afterhours emergency assistance: 079-111-1445
E mail: email@example.com
Various Police/Security Agencies
There are two police agencies in South Africa. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) deals with traffic control, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) deals with criminal investigations and regular law enforcement duties. The SAPS and MPD are well intentioned but have limited effectiveness due to a lack of equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies. In addition, law enforcement agencies have lost many experienced officers and personnel to attrition and to reorganization of command and administrative structures. Nevertheless, SAPS continues to address poor response time and officer indifference to improve their sector policing capabilities in many neighborhoods. While some affluent areas are covered by a roving security reaction unit with the responsibility of responding to violent crimes, communities have experienced little to no success in this effort. While SAPS attempts to respond to emergency residential calls and other potential developing crimes, real improvements in this effort are still forthcoming. Far down on their list of priorities is response to property crime after the fact; it is not uncommon for the police to arrive two to three days after a break-in to take a police report.
Community watch groups such as those found in the U.S. or Western Europe have taken hold slowly and have complimented SAPS’ efforts to detect and deter crime, as well as provided improved response to calls of a serious nature. Though there has been an improvement in community policing, the police are largely mistrusted and seen as corrupt. One in three South Africans reports to having paid a bribe to police officers (or police impersonators) once they engaged them for assistance.
The private health care sector ranks amongst the best in the world. 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 pay for medical services in advance with cash or a major credit card.
The nationwide emergency number for an ambulance is: 10-177
The nationwide police emergency number is: 10-111
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
Three private health corporations -- Netcare, Mediclinic, and Life Hospitals -- dominate the private health care system in South Africa. Each corporation owns approximately 60 hospitals that are scattered throughout the country. Nearly every medium-sized city, including those near remote game parks, has a private hospital operated by at least one of these three corporations. The more remote hospitals provide less specialized care, but all have abilities to stabilize very ill or injured patients until they can be transferred to a larger medical center in the major cities. The three corporations’ websites have excellent search tools to find a hospital, clinic, or doctor anywhere you travel in South Africa:
Life Hospitals (http://www.lifehealthcare.co.za)
Milpark Hospital, 9 Guild Rd, Partown West, Johannesburg 2193
Tel: +27 (11) 480-5600, Emergency: +27 (11) 480-5917
Morningside Medi-Clinic, Cnr Rivonia and Hills Rd, Morningside, Johannesburg 2057
Tel: +27 (11) 282-5000, Emergency: +27 (11) 282-5126/5127
Sandton Medi-Clinic, Cnr Main Rd and Peter Place, Bryanston, Johannesburg 2021
Tel: +29 (11) 709-2000, Emergency: +27 (11) 706-7710/7711
Life Wilgers Hospital, Denneboom Rd, Wilgers Ext14, Pretoria 0040
Tel: +27 (12) 807-8100
Jakaranda Hospital, 213 Middleberg St, Muckleneuk, Pretoria 0002
Tel: +27 (12) 421-6700
Kloof Hospital, 511 Jochemus St, Erasmuskloof X3, Pretoria 0083
Tel: +27 (12) 367-4000, Emergency: +27 (12) 367-4076
Life Vincent Palloti Hospital, Alexandra Road, Pinelands, Cape Town 7405
Tel: +27 (21) 506-5111
Christiaan Barnard Memorial, Cnr Long Market and Loop Street, City Centre
Tel: +27 (21) 480-6111, +27 (21) 424-4228
Constantiaberg Hospital Burnham Road, off Gabriel and Amin Streets
Tel: +27 (21) 799-2911, +27 (21) 797-1107
Vincent Palotti Hospital, Alexandra Road, Pinelands
Tel: +27 (21) 506-5111, +27 (21) 506-4093
Claremont Hospital, Main Road, Claremont
Tel: +27 (21) 670-4300, +27 (21) 671-3315
St Augustine’s Hospital, 107 Chelmsford Rd, Berea, Durban 4001
Tel: +27 (31) 268-5000, Emergency: +27 (31) 268-5030
Umhlanga Rocks Hospital, 323 Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban 4320
Tel: +27 (31) 560-5500, Emergency: +27 (31) 560-5607/5612
Etanbeni Hospital, 148 South Ridge Rd, Berea, Durban 4000
Tel: +27 (31) 204-1300, Emergency: +27 (31) 204-1377
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
International SOS - +27 (11) 541-1100 or +27 (11) 541-1300
NetCare: +27 (11) 254-1127
MRI: +27 (11) 242-0112
Africa Assist: +27 (83) 300-3927
CDC Country-specific Health and Vaccination Guidance
HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns. Due to South Africa’s high HIV infection rate, the U.S. government advises all personnel and 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 their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination” record (commonly called a “yellow shot card”) as approved by the WHO or a statement of medical exemption (also located on the same “yellow shot card”). This requirement is imposed on travelers flying to South Africa via any yellow fever country, including low risk countries, even when transiting passengers are required to stay on board the plane or if the plane makes an unscheduled landing in a yellow fever country. South Africa treats Zambia and Tanzania as yellow fever countries. Further, immigration inspectors do not generally accept letters, scans, copies, or faxes regarding prior yellow fever vaccination. While this requirement may not be consistently applied, travelers who cannot present an original, valid “yellow shot card” risk being refused entry. Yellow fever vaccinations are not administered at South African ports of entry. Yellow fever vaccination must have been administered at least 10 days prior to a traveler’s arrival in accordance with WHO regulations. A yellow fever vaccination is valid for 10 years.
Malaria does exist 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.
For more information on these topics, general health questions, other routine travel vaccinations, visit the CDC website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/south-africa.htm
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
The most prevalent scams are the “419” and ATM frauds. It is highly recommended that you thoroughly inspect any ATM for suspicious attachments or devices and ensure that the ATM is in a controlled area. Also, never allow anyone to provide assistance and never give out PIN codes. Residents and travelers should ensure that credit cards are not taken to a “back room” for processing. Always complete your credit card transaction(s) with the establishment’s employee in your presence. If you receive a “419” solicitation, please visit the FBI (www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/fraudschemes.htm) before providing any personal/financial details or making a financial commitment. Additional financial scam information is available at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/financial_scams/financial_scams_3155.html.
Areas to Avoid
There are no designated “off-limit” areas, but it is recommended that “township” neighborhoods and Central Business Districts be avoided, 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, burning tires, and demonstrators throwing rocks and other projectiles.
Best Security Practices
Be aware of your surroundings. Your vigilance may convince a would-be attacker to find an easier target. In urban areas, walk in “controlled areas” (shopping malls or other areas with a security presence). Do not travel to an area you are not familiar with. Travel in groups, whenever possible, and minimize your movements after dark. If you believe you are in danger, leave the area immediately and go to a well-lit and populated location to seek help. One should always use caution when traveling and be properly prepared with cell phones, water and other supplies when traveling in the “bush” country.
Maintain a low profile. Do not flash cash or wear expensive jewelry. Travelers should safeguard their passport, wallet, and other valuables and know where these possessions are all times. Should you be confronted by an armed individual, in most cases, it is recommended you DO NOT RESIST! Resistance or hesitation on the part of the victim can result in death or serious injury. Keep your hands visible and follow instructions carefully. Do not make any furtive movements that might startle your attacker. Surrender items requested – your things can be replaced, your safety and your life cannot.
If you need to use an ATM, do so from inside a controlled area. Avoid ATMs on the street since these are often targeted by criminals who will attempt to “assist” you during your transaction. Criminals also blow up ATMs on a regular basis although this usually only occurs during the early morning hours in remote locations. Credit card fraud is frequent. Only use credit cards in reputable establishments. In order to prevent “card skimming,” physically watch your card being swiped. Check your credit card account for any unauthorized purchases.
Pilferage of luggage at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is common, and the airline check-in staff reminds travelers not to place valuables in their luggage.
Travelers should use a safe and or reception desk lock boxes at hotels for all valuables. Keep photocopies of your passport and other identity documents on your person or separate from the originals.
If you are in a vehicle, doors should be locked, no valuables should be left in plain view (to avoid smash-and-grabs), and car windows should be kept up. When stopped at a red light, leave room between your car and the car in front in case you need to take evasive action. Stay on main roads and keep to well-lit public areas. If you think you are being followed, drive to the nearest safe area that is populated or normally covered by security cameras. If forced to pull over for any reason by a police vehicle (marked or unmarked), with your emergency blinkers on, drive at a slow pace to a secure and well-lit area. This is especially true near the OR Tambo International Airport due to heightened “Blue Light” robberies. If a vehicle is pulled over to 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 that the appropriate authorities can respond.
Public transportation should be avoided, as accidents involving multiple fatalities, both on urban and rural roadways, are common. Avoid use of unlicensed mini-bus "taxis." They are frequently in disrepair, and the drivers are often unlicensed and lack proper driving skills and etiquette. Rental cars are available or hire a private taxi through the hotel concierge. Taxi recommendations should be obtained from your hotel and reputable companies telephoned; they should never be hailed on the street. Taxi pick-up/drop-off at any airport should be through a reputable transfer/shuttle service. Avoid confrontations with local residents. Many are armed, especially taxi drivers who carry weapons to ward off criminals and to battle with rival taxi gang members.
Before entering an establishment, scan the area for any suspicious activity. This will reduce the chances of walking into a “robbery in progress.” Once inside the establishment, take note of the nearest fire exits or other avenues of escape.
It is recommended that armored cars (and their uniformed personnel) be avoided, especially when they are making deposits or picking up cash receipts. They are frequently targeted by well-armed gangs who are not afraid to open fire, even in crowded public areas. If you hear shots fired, get on the ground. Do not try to investigate or intervene.
Drink responsibly. The South African legal limit (BAL) is only .05 percent and is strictly enforced. Drinking alcohol in public is an offence, and if caught, you may be arrested and detained.
Measures to combat home invasions should include several layers of residential security, such as perimeter walls, electric fencing, loops on the electric fencing, alarms, motion detectors, and grills on windows and doors. Vehicle gates should also be equipped with anti-lift brackets, as criminals have been known to use crowbars and pneumatic jacks to lift gates off their tracks. It is also recommended that vehicles wait in the street until the vehicle gate is open, before pulling into the residence; this may afford you with an escape route.
Travelers should be careful to avoid areas where political influence is contested. It is strongly recommended that visitors pay attention to local media reports on the location(s) of proposed demonstrations. Protests and demonstrations are not spectator events, and they should be avoided at all costs.
Victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including anti-retroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS. Due to the extremely high rate of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, if anyone is a victim of rape or sexual assault, they should seek medical attention immediately to include including prophylaxis against HIV and other STDs, and report the crime to the police.
Residents may wish to consider purchasing backup generators.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy and Consulate General hours of operation are 0830 to 1600
U.S. Embassy Pretoria
Mailing: PO Box 9536, Pretoria 0001
Physical: 877 Pretorius St, Arcadia 0083, Pretoria
Tel: +27 (12) 431-4000
Fax: +27 (12) 342-2299
MSG Post 1: +27 (12) 431-4169 (After Hours)
Regional Security Office: +27 (12) 431-4099
U.S. Consulate General, Johannesburg
Mailing: P.O. Box 787197, Sandton, 2146
Physical: 1 Sandton Drive, Sandhurst (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Tel: +27 (11) 290-3000
Fax: +27 (11) 884-0396
MSG Post 1: +27 (11) 290-3020
Regional Security Office: +27 (11) 290-3426
U.S. Consulate General, Cape Town
Post Net Suite 50, Private Bag x26, Tokai 7966
2 Reddam Ave, Westlake 7945
Tel: +27 (21) 702-7300
Fax: +27 (21) 702-7493
MSG Post 1: +27 (21) 702-7411
Regional Security Office: +27 (21) 702-7438
U.S. Consulate General, Durban
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street
31st Floor, Old Mutual Center
Tel: (27) 31-305-7600
Fax: (27) 31-305-7691
Regional Security Office: +27 (31) 305-7600 ext. 3126
The Consular Information Sheet for South Africa (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1008.html) provides additional information. It is also recommended that any traveler register with the U.S. Department of State: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.
OSAC Country Council Information
South Africa’s OSAC Country Council is based in Johannesburg. The Regional Security Office in Pretoria and Johannesburg co-chair a vibrant and proactive OSAC Country Council with over 65 members to include major U.S. companies in a variety of industries. The OSAC Country Council meets monthly at various venues throughout Johannesburg. Both Regional Security Offices (Pretoria and Johannesburg) attend all meetings to engage in roundtable discussions. The OSAC Country Council takes an active role on all issues of crime and security in South Africa, to include outreach to public officials for speaking engagements and training seminars.
OSAC Johannesburg: firstname.lastname@example.org
OSAC Chair: Wayne Hendricks, Tel: +27 11 583 2309, email: email@example.com
OSAC Cape Town: The U.S. Consulate General Cape Town continues to develop and cultivate a nascent local Country Council, which includes 20 members of U.S. companies. Pleases contact the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General if you are interested in participating or need more information.
Regional Security Offices (RSO):
Pretoria: +27 (12) 431-4099 DS_RSO_Pretoria@state.gov
Johannesburg: +27 (11) 290-3426 DS_RSOJohannesburg@state.gov
Cape Town: +27 (21) 702-7438 RSOCapetown@state.gov
Durban: +27 (31) 305-7600 x 3126 DS_RSO_Durban@state.gov
American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM):+27 (11) 788-0265 www.amcham.co.za