SafariBookings.com, the largest online marketplace for African safari tours, conducted the survey. Picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - The Kruger National Park will no doubt be flooded with tourists this festive season.

But if an open letter to the premier and his government of Mpumalanga is anything to go by, visitors to one of South Africa’s biggest tourist attractions shouldn’t be surprised when approached by police for unsolicited bribes while on holiday.

The editor of Getaway Magazine, Cameron Ewart-Smith, blasted the Mpumalanga government for the widespread bribery there which, he said, was undermining tourism and damaging South Africa’s image.

 

Ewart-Smith wrote in his letter, dated November 15, he had met a number of international tourists while on an assignment across Mpumalanga.

“You can imagine my disappointment, embarrassment when those travellers regaled me with stories of intimidation and bribery from your traffic officers. And it wasn’t just one story about one incident; just about everyone I met had either been victims themselves or had met someone who’d had a run-in with the law.

“The tactic is to trump up spurious violations (often at your non-working traffic lights) and claim exorbitant spot fines in excess of R1 000; when tourists justifiably question the fine, they’re told that they’ll be forced to accompany the officers to the nearest traffic office.”

Apparently, only cash will do.

He further wrote that the province needed to launch an urgent investigation into this behaviour.

“Seriously, the tourists are laughing at you – at us – over post-game-drive drinks. I’m sure you’ll give this pernicious practice your full and urgent attention, especially considering the importance of tourism to Mpumalanga’s economy and indeed its importance to the greater wellbeing of South Africa.”

Speaking to Pretoria News’s sister paper Saturday Star this week, Ewart-Smith, who had had no response from the provincial government, reiterated his embarrassment.

“It’s shocking to listen to these stories. There has always been that underlying issue for tourists of violence and crime in SA.

“And with police brutality making headlines around the world, tourists are scared.” - Saturday Star