Thursday, September 24, 2009

Crime Up: Attend SA 2010 at Your Own Risk

We can't sugarcoat this.

Any fan planning to attend the 2010 World Cup in South Africa should realize ... the country isn't safe.

It isn't safe by even the violent standards of, say, the United States. Or Russia. Or of a bunch of other countries known for violent crime. South Africa is way out there.

The Johannesburg Sunday Times this week wrote about national officials announcing South African crime statistics, and nearly every sort of violent crime is up -- often dramatically -- from the previous year (ending in February), with the exception of murder. Which is down, we are happy to note, 3.4 percent from a year ago.

Still, there were 18,148 murders in South Africa over the past year. Which works out to about 50 murders in the country ... every day of the year.

How does that compare to the rest of the world?


South Africa not only is No. 2 in the world for most murders per capita, according to this Web site we just linked to (and those numbers indicate one out of every 2,000 citizens in South Africa was murdered in the previous year) ... South Africa is No. 4 in the world in total homicides (click on the "Total" stat on the site).

In murders per capita, South Africa ranks behind only Colombia, a state still in thrall to narco-terrorists ... and in sheer number of homicides, South Africa trails only India, Russia and Colombia. But India has 23 times South Africa's population of 50 million, and Russia has three times South Africa's population.

Anyway, look at those other stats, from the Joburg Sunday Times story. Business robberies, home invasions, carjackings ... all up. And steeply, in most cases. The country is going through an epidemic of mall robberies and attacks on armored cars and, deeper in the story, a business group suggests the government is undercounting some crimes.

What is behind those numbers? Generic lawlessness, clearly. But also poverty. Bad government. Social pressures. Gangsterism. Tribalism.

The Joburg Sunday Times was so agitated by all this that it wrote an angry/exasperated editorial about how Something Must Be Done. And the newspaper is right, if a little hazy on the details of how this something will be done, aside from more police in the streets.

Anyway, consider this: The United States is (fairly) regarded as a violent and dangerous country. But a person in South Afria is 12 times more likely to be murdered in South Africa as he or she is in the U.S. And compared to orderly and peaceful countries such as Switzerland and Japan ... South Africa is the Wild Wild West times about 100.

A couple of more disturbing stats:

1. If 50 people are murdered in South Africa every day, that means some 1,550 will be murdered during the 31 days of South Africa 2010;

2. The most dangerous province of them all? Gauteng, which happens to be where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located, and those two cities are the sites of three of the 10 stadiums that will play host to World Cup matches. And Johannesburg is the main air entre pot to the rest of the world. That is, a large proportion of fans and tourists will arrive in South Africa via Joburg.

So, as we have written here before, anyone planning to drop in for the 2010 World Cup, should go to South Africa knowing it is the most dangerous place in the world that isn't Colombia. That is, don't show up thinking you're in some sort of threat-free World Cup bubble. Because there aren't enough police in the country to safeguard tourists once they are away from the venues.

I'm not saying "don't go." In fact, given the chance to go, I will.

Just saying, "be aware." Go in with your eyes open and your guard up.

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