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Botswana 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Botswana; Africa > Botswana > Gaborone

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Gaborone does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED [CITY] AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Botswana-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Criminal incidents, particularly crimes of opportunity (purse snatching, smash-and-grabs from parked cars and in traffic, residential burglaries) can occur regardless of location. Cell phones, laptop computers, and iPod thefts are commonly reported.

Reporting indicates incidents of both non-violent residential burglaries and violent home invasions. Incidents affect the local population, expatriates, and visitors. Robberies and burglaries tend to spike during the holiday seasons, and extra vigilance should be taken during these periods.

Criminals can be confrontational. Criminals are often armed with knives or blunt objects (shovels, bats). Botswana has strict gun control laws; however, criminals reportedly smuggle firearms from neighboring countries where weapons are cheap and readily available. There is a public awareness campaign highlighting this issue and requesting citizens report illegal firearms to the police.

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

Cybersecurity Issues

Visitors should use caution when logging onto public wi-fi and avoid conducting personal or financial matters online using public servers.

Other Areas of Concern

Exercise caution near the Gaborone Dam and Kgale Hill areas during times when there are few hikers. A number of recent armed robberies targeted both individual hikers and hikers in pairs at midday and dusk. It is recommended to avoid Kgale Hill before sunrise and after sunset, as these are peak times for criminal activity.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Botswana is one of 13 left-side drive countries in Africa. Major roads are tarred and in good condition, but some lack substantial shoulders for emergency pull-offs. Most secondary roads are graveled or hard-packed earth. Vegetation can grow up to/over the edges of roads, particularly during the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility and concealing hazards at the side of the road.

Driving can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. There are a high number of traffic accidents often due to poor driving habits, long stretches of two-lane highways (often without shoulders), excessive speeds, poor/non-existent street lighting, non-functioning traffic lights, and animals. Cows, donkeys, and goats are often found feeding along, crossing, or standing in the road. On some stretches of highway, drivers may also encounter elephants and other wildlife. Calves, foals, and young goats present a particular danger, as they are skittish and may suddenly rush onto the road.

Alcohol and excessive speed are significant contributing factors in many accidents. The maximum speed limit outside of cities/towns is 120 kph (75 mph).

Drive defensively and keep your doors locked and windows up. Thieves have repeatedly snatched valuables, even cellphones in use, through car windows. Carry a cell phone and have emergency numbers handy, but talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal and dangerous. If you carry valuables in your car, keep them out of sight. Do not get out of your car if someone is trying to coax you out of your vehicle; leave the area. Be suspicious of anyone who tries to get your attention while you are in or near your car.  Always wear seat belts.

Due to road conditions and poor visibility, visitors are strongly encouraged not to drive after dark outside of major cities. Use a GPS navigation system outfitted with the appropriate software to check your route, particularly the locations of police stations, hospitals, shops, and gas stations. However, when traveling long distances or to remote locations, always have an area map. Plan a trip so that you leave and arrive during daylight hours. Dusk and dawn are hazardous due to a low-setting sun and the contrast between a dark road/landscape and a bright sky. Livestock are particularly hard to spot at these times of day.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Buses, mini-vans, and taxis are popular means of transportation, as they are relatively inexpensive and plentiful. However, as a visitor, one should take care if you board a bus or minivan (“combi”). Many combis are overloaded and may not be roadworthy. Incidents of pickpocketing of foreigners in taxis have been reported, as has overcharging by taxi drivers. Make sure you have appropriate change ahead of time. If there is no meter, negotiate the fare ahead of time. All combis and taxis should have a blue license plate.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Never place any high-value items or medicines in your checked baggage. Bring a small bag or backpack to transfer items if ground staff determines your carry-on suitcase is too large. There have been several incidents of items going missing after being gate-checked. Traditional suitcase locks can be easily defeated. If placing valuable items in checked baggage is unavoidable, it is advised to have luggage plastic-wrapped.

Other Travel Conditions

Ensure you have appropriate travel documents, to include a driver’s license, if renting a car, and medical evacuation insurance and certified copies of unabridged birth certificates for children if traveling to or from South Africa. Additional certified forms are required if traveling with only one parent; failure to have required forms can cause long delays or even denial of transit.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED GABORONE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

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.  Indigenous terrorism is not an issue in Botswana. However, terrorist threats know no boundaries, and visitors should always remain alert and aware of their surroundings.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED GABORONE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The central and southern portions of Botswana are in a desert or semi-arid environment. Drought conditions have on occasion caused water and power outages.

Critical Infrastructure

If you do not have roaming capability 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 major routes and most towns. Use a local number, as 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.

Police Response

The police are well-intentioned and active in their efforts to prevent and combat crime. However, 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 shortfalls, the police have community policing programs in many neighborhoods. These have been effective at deterring criminal elements when they have the active support of private citizens.

All visitors are subject to local law, and U.S. citizens also remain subject to U.S. laws. All travelers are advised to keep some form of official identification on their person in the event they are stopped/questioned by law enforcement officials. Be respectful and courteous in your interaction.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If you are cited for a traffic violation, ensure you are provided an official government receipt.

Crime Victim Assistance

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +267-395-3982 (Business Hours)
U.S. Embassy Marine Post One: +267-373-2222; 267-395-7111 (After Hours) 71-609-955 (cellular)
U.S. Embassy Duty Officer: +267-71-754-585 (24/7)

Police/Security Agencies

Police: 999
Fire: 998
Ambulance: 992

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are adequate and staffed by trained physicians, but services are limited outside of Gaborone. Gaborone has a number of large pharmacies that carry prescription medications.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services:

Gaborone

  • Bokamoso Private Hospital: +267-369-4000
  • Gaborone Private Hospital: +267-368-5600
  • Princess Marina Hospital: +267-362-1400

 

Maun

  • Maun Hospital: +267-687-9000
  •  
  • Francistown
  • Nyangabwe Hospital: +267-241-1000

Available Air Ambulance Services

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 and they have joined Okavango Air Rescue (Maun-based). The yearly membership fee is $17.00 USD and can be applied for on their website. Tel: 995; +267 6861616

Medical Rescue International (MRI): 992; +267-390-1601

Rescue One: 993; +267-392-3249; 71-282-634

Emergency 991: 991 +267-74-692-400

Insurance Guidance

Medical evacuation to South Africa is expensive and is often the only option for serious medical emergencies.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

Tuberculosis is endemic. Individuals who plan to be in Botswana for extended periods are advised to obtain a tuberculosis skin test prior to arrival and upon departure.

Approximately one-quarter of the population is infected with HIV. Visitors are advised to exercise 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.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Botswana.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Gaborone. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Gaborone or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Embassy Drive, Government Enclave, Gaborone, Botswana

Hours of Operation: 0800-1700 Mon-Thurs; 0800-1330 Fri

Embassy Contact Numbers

Regional Security Office: +267-373-2256/8/9
Embassy Operator: +267-395-3982
Medical Unit: +267-373-2229; 2230
Consular Affairs: +267-373-2201
Political/Economic Section: +267-373-2272
MSG Post One: +267-395-7111 267-373-2222 or 71-609-955 (cellular)
U.S. Embassy Duty Officer: +267-71-754-585
Website: https://bw.usembassy.gov/
Embassy Facebook: www.facebook.com/U.S.EmbassyGaborone
Consular Information: http://botswana.usembassy.gov/acservices.html

Embassy Guidance

If you are a U.S. citizen, we strongly encourage you to register with the Embassy at Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Whether you will be in Botswana for a short holiday, living, or working in Botswana for an extended period, registration will help keep you "in the know." It only takes a few minutes to create an account, which can be updated whenever and wherever you travel. You may also register in person at the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section during routine U.S. Citizen Service hours: Mon & Fri: 9:00 AM-12:00 PM; Thurs: 1:30 PM-4:00 PM. The U.S. Embassy frequently provides security and general information to the U.S. Citizen community in Botswana through email messages based on the STEP registrations, which include a valid email address. The Embassy is also working toward including SMS messaging as an additional method of distribution. Be sure to update your STEP account with your departure date when you leave Botswana to automatically dis-enroll from our mailing list.

Additional Resources

Botswana Country Information Sheet