Wounded US tourists to sue Google after being guided into risky Nyanga

A police officer guided a family to safety after their vehicle was attacked by protesters in the Crossroads area in Nyanga last year. Picture: Armand Hough

A police officer guided a family to safety after their vehicle was attacked by protesters in the Crossroads area in Nyanga last year. Picture: Armand Hough

Published Apr 25, 2024


Cape Town - A US citizen who was shot in the mouth and robbed in Nyanga after Google Maps routed him through the notorious township said he was preparing to sue Google.

And he is not the only one, as news reports said Jason and Katharine Zoladz, from Los Angeles, were also suing the technology giant after they were attacked in the same area while en route to their Airbnb.

From Connecticut, Walter Fischel, 55, hired a car after landing in Cape Town and entered his Simon’s Town destination in Google Maps in November last year.

The navigation system in the car directed him through Nyanga, where he was then approached by assailants near the taxi rank.

Fischel was shot in the face and robbed of his personal belongings, documents and clothing.

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said on Thursday that no one had been arrested for the attempted murder case.

Fischel on Thursday told the Cape Argus that he planned to sue Google.

“I am filing a suit and it will be soon. I am still physically and mentally exhausted,” he said.

In October last year, the Zoladz used Google Maps to navigate from their Airbnb to Cape Town International Airport. When they stopped at a red light, a man shattered the driver’s side window with a brick, smashing Jason’s jaw. They were then robbed of their possessions but managed to drive away from Nyanga.

The attack on the couple followed the murder of British tourist Kar Hao Teoh, who was shot after he and his family were diverted from the N2 through Nyanga during the violent taxi strike in August.

A family travelling through Crossroads, including two children, were also stoned during the same period.

One of the children in the back seat suffered head injuries from a brick that was thrown through a window.

Based on SAPS’ last provincial crime statistics released on 29 February 2024, Nyanga ranked third highest in the province and fourth nationally with 73 murder cases reported.

Google announced in November last year that it had started removing the Nyanga route from its system.

It did not respond to queries by the time of going to print yesterday.

At the time of the announcement, Google South Africa director Alistair Mokoena said: “From a Google perspective, we have been in conversation with the Department of Tourism, the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism and other role-players to figure out the best safety and security method we can introduce to address incidents such as the recent happenings.”

Nyanga cluster community policing forum (CPF) chairperson Martin Makasi said the safety concerns in Nyanga were “undeniably severe”.

“The decision to expunge Nyanga from Google Maps due to safety issues is indicative of a pressing crisis that warrants immediate attention.

“However, this action should be recognised as symptomatic of more profound issues rather than an isolated problem. A nuanced perspective suggests that all three spheres of the South African government bear responsibility for the crime epidemic.

“The government’s approval of Nyanga’s removal from Google Maps signifies a failure to ensure the safety of both tourists and, more critically, the residents. This move tacitly acknowledges the formidable challenges faced by the community.

“The government’s obligation extends beyond superficial remedies, such as removing the area from online maps; it should delve into the root causes of crime and implement comprehensive strategies for the holistic betterment of Nyanga residents.”

Makasi said they have appealed for more deployment to avoid such attacks on tourists.

“Despite persistent appeals from the community, government agencies have consistently failed to respond positively.”