Mpumalanga blasted for extortion
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.