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Durban - South Africa’s “high levels of crime” have prompted Israel to join the US and several EU countries in issuing travel warnings for its citizens intending to visit the country.

In a travel warning issued on New Year’s Day, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “In South Africa, there is a high level of crime.”

Adding details for its citizens, the ministry described South Africa as a country battling violent crime, saying that women were at particular risk.

It appears the security concerns were heightened when an Israeli woman was gang-raped and robbed while on holiday in Mpumalanga province in September last year.

“Violent crimes are also common, and target tourists. The majority of criminal episodes are concentrated in townships and homeless areas, including commercial areas, especially in the evenings and after dark,” the ministry warned.

According to Israel’s leading publication, The Jerusalem Post, which got the full advisory warning and ran it as one of their major news items, the ministry presented several recommendations for Israeli visitors.

These included not using public transport and carrying a lot of money or valuables, leaving natural reserves and other tourist areas before dark as well as hiding valuables under the seats when driving.

Moreover, it advised women not to walk alone as they were easy targets.

The online article by the publication drew comments from people who seemed to have knowledge of South Africa’s crime situation.

One user commented: “South Africa is a cesspool of rape, crime and hatred. My daughter has to move apartments and I told the new landlords only on condition of installing security gates on all opening doors. This place is a haven for criminals and rapists.”

The country’s high crime rate has been in the global spotlight for years, with some international organisations saying its murder rate is on par with countries at war.

On December 23, the US revised its travel warning for its citizens and changed it from Level 1 (normal) to level 2 (increased caution).

It told its citizens to exercise increased caution when in South Africa due to crime, civil unrest, and drought.

The warning said South Africa was prone to violent crime such as armed robbery, rape, car-jacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles.

“There is a higher risk of violent crime in townships and the central business districts of major cities after dark. Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. Such events have the potential to turn violent.

“These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services. Parts of South Africa are experiencing severe weather conditions, including drought and/or flooding. Water supplies in some areas may be affected,” it said. The spokesperson of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), Clayson Monyela, said the ministry would not comment on the issue.

While Dirco hardly comments on advisories about the country, in 2017, the ANC took offence when Australian MP Matthew Guy - while commenting on prisoners who had escaped from one of their correctional facilities - called for the sacking of a provincial premier saying the current government was “standing by and allowing Melbourne to become the Johannesburg of the South Pacific”.

The ruling party said the comments were derogatory and sought to portray South Africa in a negative manner, “more specifically the city of Joburg as crime-infested”.

Political Bureau