Over the past few weeks South Africa has been engulfed by a dark cloud of violence. This violence isn’t your ordinary violence but targeted and mob-driven attacks on foreigners. I have had many discussions in different forums where images of brutal attacks were circulated. Some of the Facebook groups have foreigners. The question has always been, are we not shooting ourselves by sharing such information with people in far away lands.
While this might make sense, especially in our African culture which usually does not smile at the showing of things hidden in the armpits, the death of people at the hands of mobs is not something that can be swept under the carpet.
In one of the group , Travis – a tour guide wrote
Yes we want tourists to come to South Africa, but what do I tell them? That South Africa is safe? That they can come and enjoy Johannesburg streets? What if I do that and they come and are confronted by the angry mob and get killed?
This dilemma is on one side moral on the other plays into the nationalist narrative. A few travel agents have reported an increase in cancellations in the past few weeks. While xenophobic attacks have not been generally targeted on white people, South Africa which of late has been recording a steady increase in visitors coming from within Africa will certainly be affected by these reports.
With social media, things tend to travel fast and sometimes are ballooned out of proportion. In the past few weeks one would be forgiven for thinking that the whole of South Africa was just under some form of anarchy with dead bodies littered everywhere. In reality, these incidences were isolated to certain sections of the cities.
So even as tourism evangelists the death of people is not acceptable, at the same time we need to keep our country image in the positive. As Jane, another tour operators sums up;
We have an obligation to help our clients make safe decisions about visiting South Africa, however most of these decisions are made in people’s houses without us even knowing. Who would want to visit a country which when you Google the first thing you see are gory images of people being burnt alive. We have to push more positive stories about our country but that doesn’t mean we should ignore killings. I guess we just have to be responsible about what we share and to whom.