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Michael Paskevicius


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Don’t be scared, just be careful
Crime and safety in Johannesburg

In a few days I will travel to Johannesburg for business. I will spend most of my time in Pretoria, the former administrative capital during the days of Apartheid. On Friday of next week I will visit the University of Johannesburg in the city centre. At all times I will have a secure driver taking me around. The campus itself is completely secure from the city.

I am looking forward to this trip. A journey into an amazing and possibly misunderstood city awaits. More details on the trip in the coming days.

Below find a recent article from The Economist about the current state of Jozi:

Although the crime rate is dropping, there’s no denying that South Africa is a violent country: the murder rate, though lower than a decade ago, is still roughly nine times that in America. But since most tourists and business travellers do not venture into the roughest areas, they are unlikely to fall victim. When gang bosses fight turf wars, they rarely do so in your hotel lobby. Don’t be scared—just be careful.

If business travelers are attacked, the assailants are usually professionals. They want your money, not your life. They know that if they kill you, they are much more likely to be caught. The popular myth that carjackers often take the car and shoot the owner is just that, a myth. If you don’t resist, you are extremely unlikely to be shot (and carjacking is declining in any case).

So, in the unlikely event that someone pulls a gun on you, stay calm, make no sudden moves, do exactly what he says, and you will be OK.

Hillbrow is best avoided at all times, although driving through is usually no problem; neighboring Yeoville is getting better and making a comeback. Both have high concentrations of immigrants from other parts of the continent. Downtown is fine by day, and is relatively okay after dark, though it isn’t lively at night. Townships (such as Soweto) are best visited with a local guide, but you should expect a warm welcome. Some tour guides offer trips at night to shebeens (bars) in the townships. This is safe, but go with an informed and trustworthy guide. Newtown is much safer and more popular than it used to be, thanks to better surveillance cameras, more policing, better lighting and a crackdown on casual traders. Because police downtown typically respond to any crime within 60 seconds, the crooks are moving elsewhere.

Take the same sensible precautions as you would in any city with big inequality and a reputation for opportunistic and violent crime. Lock your car door when driving; don’t leave valuables in view; don’t walk in ill-lit areas, or in neighborhoods you don’t know very well; carry a mobile phone when you go out and heed local advice. That said, don’t let fear of crime (and an obsession with talking about it) force you to cower in your hotel room. Source

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