55 murders a day in paradise
"BLACK-MANED lions framed against Kalahari dunes; powdery beaches lapped by two oceans; star-studded desert skies; jagged, lush mountains - this truly is a country of astounding diversity. It's where natural meets shine."
This is how Lonely Planet describes South Africa, a gem that's high up on the bucket lists of travellers around the world.
But unfortunately, it has a big problem that is spiralling out of control. The nation's already high murder rate has increased by 7 per cent, with its police minister likening the situation to a "war zone".
Police have released crime statistics showing 20,336 people were murdered in South Africa between April 2017 and March, compared to 19,016 in the previous year.
That's an unfathomable 55 slaughters a day.
Police minister Bheki Cele said the high murder rate "borders close to the war zone - while there is peace and there is no war".
Mmusi Maimane, the opposition Democratic Alliance leader, agreed.
"This is indeed war-zone levels," he said. "Our police need better training, equipment and resources. We need a better criminal justice system so that murderers are locked up and keys thrown away."
South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Many murders were linked to gang violence in Western Cape province, whose capital is Cape Town.
A parliamentary committee says police efforts to deal with the problem have been ineffective and that commanders should strengthen the law enforcement presence in crime hot spots.
Despite the bloodshed, South Africa is in the midst of a huge tourism push, announcing earlier this year that it will speed up visa processes and lure major conferences in a bid to boost tourism numbers by a whopping 40 per cent by 2021.
That's an extra five million travellers - four million of those international tourists.
AUSTRALIAN TOURISTS CAUTIONED
Currently, the Government's Smartraveller site advises Australian travellers in South Africa to "exercise a high degree of caution because of the high level of serious crime".
"Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor media and other sources of information about possible new security risks.
" … Crime, including violent crime, is a serious issue in South Africa. Most types of crime are increasing."
It cites a range of crimes that occur in South Africa, including:
• Murders, rape, muggings, robbery and other forms of theft, often involving weapons and violence;
• Carjackings and 'smash and grab' thefts from vehicles are common, particularly on major routes and intersections after dark;
• Robberies at shopping centres have been on the rise, including with violence. Be alert at all times;
• Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and on commuter trains in Cape Town;
• Assaults and robberies of travellers after their food or drinks were spiked;
• Theft from hotel rooms and guest homes, including within game parks. Don't leave luggage and valuables unattended. Place in safekeeping facilities.
Crime rates are significantly higher after dark in major city centres and township areas. Avoid travelling to: Central Business District (CBD) particularly after dark, townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company, isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas.
- With AP