Soccer's premier international event, the World Cup which occurs every four years, will be taking place in South Africa in 2010. South Africa is trying to put its best foot forward, hoping to convince people from all over the world to visit. The final list of qualifying teams is available HERE, and the United States will be represented.
But is it really safe to visit South Africa? Some media outlets have questioned whether South Africa is capable of ensuring the personal safety of visitors. A June 2009 Newsweek article states that it is crime that worries South Africans the most; 58 percent believe that safety will be a concern for visitors, according to a previous survey conducted for world football officials. The South African government claims that violent crime is gradually declining and the government is taking a tougher stance on tackling it, but the crime rate in South Africa remains among the highest in the world.
Here's a YouTube video posted on the MySouthAfricaSucks blog which summarizes the problem:
You've probably not heard much about South Africa's crime problem on the American nightly newscasts. That's because, in between pleas to buy expensive designer pills to control the disease du jour that will never go away, the media is too busy obsessing with celebrities or reporting on other inane subjects. In addition, the South Africa government has been rigorously censoring reports which expose the sheer magnitude of crime in the country.
A force of some 40,000 police officers will be deployed in cities hosting the games. Dedicated police stations, crime-investigation teams and special courts will deal with event-related crimes around the clock, and a 24-hour multilingual hotline will assist visitors in trouble. Countries competing in the event will send their own specially trained officers to assist in the effort, and soldiers could be drafted in to help the police and emergency services.
But will they be effective? Past and present performance does not warrant optimism. For example, bands of roving “road pirates” have been stalking drivers along South Africa’s main highway linking Oliver Tambo International Airport to Pretoria for the last three months. The attacks happen mostly between 9 P.M. and 4 A.M. between the Tembisa Road Bridge and the N1/R21 interchange. Motorists are stopped by debris thrown off bridges or rocks that have been lined up on the roadway, after which the gangs, which usually travel in packs of 8 to 20, swarm their victims, robbing, assaulting, and carjacking them. Police supposedly know about it but can't stop it even though they know which area is most vulnerable; there have been no arrests.
If the South African Police Service can't stop this sort of activity, they'll never stop the more ordinary purse snatchings and muggings rampant throughout the country. Stay home - and watch the World Cup on T.V.