FEDHASA says it is “shaken to the core” by the tragic loss of a German tourist’s life near the Kruger National Park yesterday, during an attempted hijacking; and has called on the government to implement a “nationwide intervention to address the root cause of crime in our country”.
The 67-year-old male tourist was driving from the airport in Johannesburg, on his way to enjoy a safari at a community-owned lodge in the Kruger with his wife and two friends, when three gunmen in a VW caddy swerved in front of their Hyundai and carried out the attack, which ended with the driver being shot and killed at point blank range.
On Tuesday, Rosemary Anderson, National Chair of SA’s trade and hospitality organisation, FEDHASA, said:
“We simply cannot allow this to happen again, and as FEDHASA we trust, that in addition to the rapid mobilisation we have seen from SAPS and other stakeholders on the ground to find and bring the perpetrators to justice, that there will be real commitment in dealing with the root cause so that no family need ever endure this loss again. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We need a deep, sustainable and catalytic nationwide intervention to address the root cause of crime in our country. If Covid necessitated a state of emergency, then surely the pandemic of crime does too.
“We all know what is wrong. We now need dramatic on-the-ground intervention involving all sectors of Government, Labour, Society, NGOs and religious leaders to put an end to the human suffering and job losses that crime causes, particularly the latter in our tourism and hospitality sector.”
The devastating incident took place at around 4.30pm on the R538 in Mpumalanga yesterday, the same province where British celebrity Katie Price recently revealed she was the victim of a horrific car-jacking in which she was raped.
The armed gunmen allegedly demanded “open the doors, open the doors”. The victim refused, apparently locked the doors and started to reverse… when a gunman opened fire through a car window. The out-of-control car then careered backwards 100 metres and slammed into a school wall in the farming village of White Water.
Paramedics and police raced to the scene, but it is believed that the driver had died almost instantly.
South African Police have launched a massive manhunt for the three strong gang who fled empty handed.
Tragically, the tourists were just 45 minutes from the safety of the Numbi Gate into the Kruger National Park, and a further 5 minutes from their tented Mdluli Lodge destination.
A first responder said: ”It was a really bad gunshot wound and due to the amount of blood we could not tell initially how many shots it was but he was beyond help.
“The guy’s wife and the other couple were, as you can imagine, hysterical. One minute they were nearly into the Kruger on a dream holiday and the next minute this,” he said.
Environment Minister Barbara Creecy condemned the killing, and appealed to the “Mpumalanga police to work tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to book.”
The killing of a foreign tourist to South Africa is detrimental to the country’s attempts to recover from the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, said the minister’s department. Already, reports in international media are including some of SA’s shocking crime statistics, including 67 people being murdered on average per day.
SANParks working to make Kruger area safer
SANParks said Numbi road has been identified as a crime hot spot by the Tourism Sector and efforts are ongoing to counter the criminality in the area and on the road with increased security patrols and vehicle recognition cameras.
“SANParks is involved in those deliberations and working with the responsible authorities to try and ensure the safety of tourists on ALL roads leading to the KNP and other tourist destinations in the area,” the organisation said in a statement today.
“Tourists are advised to plan their trips carefully, only make stops at designated areas such as garages and service stations, try to travel in convoys, and where possible use alternative gates. Paul Kruger and Phabeni Gates are fully operational and signposted and can be used as a gateway to other lodges around the KNP.”
KNP Spokesperson Ike Phaahla said on Tuesday:
“Our thoughts are with the family as they process this senseless and tragic loss. We are deeply saddened by the escalation of crime and violence to this terrible end, which not only threatens the lives of our visitors, but also the livelihoods of the people living around our Parks. This is a huge setback for the tourism sector, and the country.
“We have been working with the Lowveld Business chamber and the National Department of Tourism to promote and market tourism products to our overseas customers and this latest criminal act undermines our efforts to restore the sector to pre-covid days.
“Tourism is a huge employer in a region with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We are confident that the law enforcement agencies will apprehend these heinous criminals and bring them to book.”
Safari lodge employs community members
The safari lodge which the four tourists had been headed to, Mdluli Lodge, opened its doors to the public shortly before the international travel ban to stem the spread of the pandemic. It employs 200 local community members comprising 95% of the staff complement. These men and women are also part of a skills development programme.
“The murder of the tourist will undermine our programme to put tourism and job creation back on track as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Minister Creecy.
The German tourists had booked into two £289-each-per-night luxury tents in the exclusive community-owned accommodation that overlooks the Kruger National Park for exceptional game viewing.
Each day 4 x 4 safari jeeps take out guests to enjoy the wildlife including the Big 5 of elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino in South Africa’s biggest nature reserve.
Police spokesman Brigadier Selvy Mohala confirmed yesterday: ”Four German tourists were stopped by three armed suspects who ordered them to open the doors on the way to the Kruger. The driver reportedly locked all the doors and one of the suspects shot him in the upper body through the window as the driver reversed, and sadly the shot was fatal.
“The vehicle reversed about 100 metres and crashed into a school wall and the suspects sped off in their car without taking anything from them; and we will track them down”.
Mpumalanga Police Provincial Commander Lieutenant General Semakeleng Manamela condemned the cowardly attack which will rock the slowly recovering tourist industry.
She said: ”This attack on a group of tourists was cruel and uncalled for especially given the economic challenges which our country now faces. When one has tourists then it is the tourist sector that is benefitting in a way which gives a boost to our struggling economy which it needs.”
Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism are offering a reward of R50,000 for information that will lead to the successful prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime.
South Africa regarded as “one of the most dangerous places”
Reports in international media cite South Africa as being one of the most dangerous places in the world with 67 murders a day and 115 reported rapes, but tourist murders are rare.
For Germans though, it was only two years ago when German restauranteur Eduard Neumeister, 67, was brutally killed at his eatery, the Bratwurst Sausage Restaurant in Balgowan, an hour from Durban.
Last month British celebrity model Katie Price, 44, recalled how her convoy of two 4 x 4s were ambushed by six armed gunment in 2018 when they were driving from Joburg to eSwatini.
Katie revealed that despite being in the vehicle with her two terrified children, she was dragged out and raped while their vehicles were being robbed by the gang.
The mother of seven was with a film crew and was travelling from South Africa to former Swaziland whilst making a fly-on-the-wall documentary on her “crazy” celebrity lifestyle.
The former glamour model said she feared for her life in the attack, just outside Ermelo after her convoy stopped in a remote layby because one of her children needed to go to the toilet. After the gang had robbed them of jewellery, cash, phones and computers they threw both sets of car keys into the undergrowth and fled into the dark of night in a getaway car.
Police closed the case several months later without finding the gang, and it was only in September this year that Katire revealed for the first time – for a yet-to-be-aired TV documentary – that she was raped.
If you saw or know anything, please call the Crime Stop number at 08600 10111 or send information via MYSAPSAPP. All received information will be treated as confidential and callers may opt to remain anonymous.
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