WATCH: Dutch Tourists Leave South Africa After “Hostage-Like” Robbery

JOHANNESBURG – A group of Dutch tourists has cut short their holiday in South Africa to return home to the Netherlands, after being robbed in a frightening incident soon after arriving in SA.

The 36 tourists were robbed by a group of six men which included one masquerading as a policeman, wearing a South African Police Services (SAPS) uniform. The holidaymakers were travelling on a megabus – with their tour guide and bus driver – on their way from OR Tambo International Airport to accommodation in Fourways when they were stopped by a SAPS-marked vehicle.

SA Police Minister Fikile Mbalula condemned the robbery in the “strongest terms” and called for “harsh punishment” for the criminals. He said: “It was a dramatic experience and as much as they wanted to stay longer, what they came across on Sunday was almost like a hostage situation by criminals who undermined the authority of the state.”

He said one tourist was injured and taken to hospital afterwards. Others, with minor injuries, were treated at the lodge.

The tourists (who were of a range of ages, contrary to earlier reports which said they were all over 70) had just arrived in the country. All their luggage and personal belongings were stolen.

Mbalula met with the group, and the Netherlands Ambassador Marisa Gerards, at their lodge on Tuesday before they left. Gerards said nothing like this had happened before.

The police minister vowed that the criminals will be caught and expressed relief that nobody had been killed. He also called on South Africans to not purchase the stolen goods.

He expressed his “heartfelt embarrassment” and said “we are deeply sorry about what happened… but nonetheless our country is a great destination… and I hope that you find it in your hearts to come back one day.” He pledged to make South Africa an even better destination where “criminals do not have the space to continue to embarrass the country like they just did”.

Mbalula spoke of ubuntu and humanity and said what had happened to the injured was the opposite and made the government even more determined to fight unemployment and criminality and make the economy work.

Not great for tourism to South Africa…

Mbalula said a lot of work has been done at OR Tambo Airport to improve safety, and that robberies in and around the airport are being investigated. He said it’s important not only that tourists feel safe, but that they are safe.

He acknowledged that tourism is a vital economic driver in SA, and creator of jobs for the youth, and condemned the robbery as an “attack to the tourism industry and the economy“.

Just yesterday Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said the South African tourism sector had contributed greatly toward moving the country out of a recession, sustaining 700,000 direct jobs and performing stronger than the other growth sectors.

Earlier this month Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said the economy grew by 2.5% quarter on quarter in the second quarter, meaning that the country has exited a technical recession.

Minister Xasa said tourism was one of the biggest foreign exchange earners in the South African economy.

Sustainability of the industry rests on a strong domestic tourism consumption as it addresses challenges such as seasonality and geographic spread.”

Xasa said South Africa received over 10 million international tourists in 2016, which was an increase of about 13% compared to 2015.

World Tourism Day is celebrated today – 27 September – throughout the world.

According to Mbalula, some of the Dutch tourists have said they will return to South Africa for a holiday in a year’s time.

“We are very sad that you are going back home,” he told the departing tourists. “Please accept our sincerest apologies for this embarrassment from the people of South Africa… thank you very much… till we meet again.”

Hopefully local South Africans will benefit by crime being taken even more seriously, with the government’s realisation of how important it is to keep the country safe to lure money-spending tourists to our shores!

Speaking from the Netherlands, one regular Dutch tourist to South Africa said on the SANParks page that she was sad the tourists didn’t stay and get to visit the Kruger National Park, “surely the best destination on the planet”.

Watch Dutch tourists on their way to OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa