South Africans seek tourist boycott as crime rates soar

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South Africans, exasperated by their government's failure to control crime, have launched a campaign to warn tourists to avoid the country in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.

A website called Crime Expo, created by a disgruntled insurance broker from Johannesburg has gained significant public support to embarrass President Thabo Mbeki as he seeks to capitalise on South Africa's role as host in four years.

Neil Watson, and 12 others, have started a web log of "gruesome murders taking place all over our killing fields" with warnings to tourists about what to expect in South Africa.

Mr Watson says the spectre of tourists and soccer fans staying away, and costing the government billions of pounds in lost income, is the only effective way of goading the government into action against crime.

The website, which has angered Mr Mbeki's government, organisers of the 2010 World Cup and tourism companies, has posted gruesome stories and pictures of murders.

The website, www.crimexposouthafrica.co.za, warns tourists and would-be 2010 spectators to expect to see the real Big Five in South Africa - murder, robbery, rape, theft and hijackings. It promises to help with funeral arrangements for tourists who fall victim to crime.

"Insulting politicians is not going to do the trick (in fighting crime), voting for a fancier politician is not going to do the trick. Telling the international tourist about what is happening between the airport and the hotel is going to do the trick," the website claims.

Although high crime levels have long been a feature of South African society, there has been a major upsurge of violent crimes in the past five months with a record 56 police officers murdered. Thousands of civilians have also lost their lives in a country with 51 murders, 150 rape cases and 345 armed robberies every day, according to the government's annual crime statistics.

Crime dominates South African headlines. In the latest news, prominent Cape Town journalist Megan Herselman was shot dead as she left Johannesburg International Airport. A senior manager of Qatar Airways, Clay Pierre-Louis, was shot dead for his mobile phone on Saturday night close to where Ms Herselman was murdered.

The resurgence in violent crime is partly blamed on poorly paid soldiers deserting from Robert Mugabe's army in Zimbabwe. The soldiers are believed to be providing useful back-up for South African criminal syndicates.

Mr Watson does not agree that the murders of 56 police officers while fighting crime is an indication they are doing their best. He says it represents a lack of training. The Mbeki government simply does not take crime seriously, he said.

Mr Watson has received death threats, but he is not giving up. "Extreme situations call for extreme actions," he says.

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