JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A group of 36 Dutch tourists were flying out of South Africa on Tuesday after they were robbed at gunpoint on Sunday in a brazen heist while traveling from Johannesburg’s main international airport to their hotel, officials said.
The incident is an embarrassment for South Africa, a country keen to promote itself as a tourist destination but scarred by violent crime. Tourism accounts for 3 percent of GDP and is seen as a bright spot in an otherwise moribund economy.
Journalists saw the group pull out of the hotel in a bus under police escort after they met with South Africa’s police minister and tourist minister as well the ambassador from the Netherlands.
“We’ll bring these criminals to book. We’ll find them,” Police Minister Fikile Mbalula told journalists after the meeting.
The bus was stopped on Sunday night by a vehicle with police markings and one man in police uniform with five accomplices in civilian clothing robbed the tourists at gunpoint. Nobody was shot but two people were injured, police said.
Dutch ambassador Marisa Gerards said most of the tourists had to cut their visit short because all of their belongings were taken.
Ironically, she said many of the tourists had “booked this organized trip out of safety concerns.”
South Africa entices tourists with first-rate infrastructure, sunshine, beaches, wildlife and an exchange rate that makes its food and wine cheap by global standards.
But a jobless rate of over 25 percent and glaring income disparities have worsened its problems with violent crime. The murder rate is 34 per 100,000 people, according to data released by police last year, almost seven times the rate in the United States.
Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg