South Africa: Dutch tourist group cuts visit short after armed bus robbery

A forensic investigator searches for clues on a bus alleged to have been used by the 36 Dutch tourists who were robbed at gunpoint on Sunday in a brazen heist while traveling from JohannesburgÕs main international airport to their hotel, officials said, in Johanneburg, South Africa, September 26 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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SEPTEMBER 26, 2017. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, as well Marisa Gerards, Dutch ambassador in South Africa, were present at a press conference, at a lodge in Fourways. He has condemned the robbery incident involving a group of Dutch tourists who were travelling from OR Tambo International Airport to their hotel in Fourways on Sunday, saying that the robbery amounted to an attack on the tourism sector and the economy.”The tourists’ bus was stopped by a vehicle that was marked as a police car. A man dressed as a police officer and five other men dressed as civilians got in the bus demanded the tourists’ possessions.” PHOTOGRAPH: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

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 tourism 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.