Mpumalanga blasted for ex­tor­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KASHIEFA AJAM

WITH the fes­tive sea­son in sight, the Kruger Na­tional Park will be flooded with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional tourists.

But if an open let­ter to Mpumalanga pre­mier David Mabuza and his gov­ern­ment 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.

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

In his let­ter dated Novem­ber 15, Ewart-Smith wrote that he had met a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional tourists while on an as­sign­ment in Mpumalanga, which he de­scribed as “a won­der­ful prov­ince”.

“You can imag­ine my dis­ap­point­ment, em­bar­rass­ment when those trav­ellers re­galed me with sto­ries of in­tim­i­da­tion and bribery from your traf­fic of­fi­cers.

“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 ur­gently in­ves­ti­gate this.

”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.”

Ewart-Smith, who has not had a re­sponse from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, this week re­it­er­ated his out­rage.

Af­ter Ewart-Smith’s let­ter was pub­lished in Get­away, many read­ers re­sponded with their own ac­counts of bribery.

Lynda Freese told how her sis­ter, fam­ily and friends from Aus­tralia were ripped off by of­fi­cers in Mpumalanga while vis­it­ing the Kruger.

“On their way down to White River they were stopped en route. She could not re­call the town but said it was buzzing with peo­ple. The traf­fic lights were not work­ing, there was a truck in front of them and they eased up to the four-way stop, noth­ing com­ing and went through. The traf­fic depart­ment stopped them and said they had failed to stop at the four-way stop and would have to be fined.

“The pa­per­work was oner­ous and they would have to ac­com­pany him to the sta­tion to com­plete (it). But if they paid R1 000 they could be on their way. A pity that they took this op­tion. If we all said ‘fine, let’s go do the pa­per­work’ this would per­haps bring this un­law­ful prac­tice to a halt,” Freese wrote.

The pre­mier’s of­fice was ap­proached for com­ment, but had not re­sponded at the time of go­ing to press.

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