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The RSA has one of the world's top murder rates. As, the above link shows, other countries have similar murder rates but they are not in the radar of international travelers.

For example, as seen in the list, Puerto Rico has similar statistics. But, personally, I never heard of Puerto Rico to be a dangerous place to travel.

Why is it considered so dangerous to travel in South Africa? Is that due to the incompetent law enforcement agencies?

  • related: expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/681/… – Vince Sep 3 '14 at 17:21
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    A few things: 1) questions about long-term relocation such as for a degree program belong on Expatriates.SE. 2) South Africa is a big country and as crime is a local phenomenon, conclusions drawn from statistical generalizations at the national or provincial level will not necessarily be accurate. 3) security and the perception of safety vary; one person's "it's fine" can be another's "I was never so afraid"; we need more context to be able to answer usefully. – choster Sep 3 '14 at 17:26
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    Those statistics don't show who the vicitims are. Somewhere where gang members kill each other but no one else will be perfectly safe for travellers, no matter how high the homicide count. Somewhere where the locals target only travellers will be extremely dangerous, no matter how low the count. – AakashM Sep 5 '14 at 10:13
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There are three major areas of risk in South Africa at the moment, I will devote a paragraph to each...

The risk associated with the Ebola outbreak is overwhelmingly prominent. Two weeks ago the South African government introduced travel restrictions and a general advisory was issued by the Department of Health.

The next area of risk is the rampant crime that takes place both in urban and isolated areas. There are particularly high levels of crime in the Berea and Hillbrow districts of Johannesburg and around the Rotunda bus terminus in the Central Business District. Also there are reports of individuals being followed from Tambo Airport and being raped or robbed along the way. The police keep a reasonable amount of coverage in the tourist areas and business districts, but this does not necessarily apply to you.

Finally, there have been strikes which have become violent along with the nascent emergence of South Africa as a terrorist target.

You did not provide detailed information about where your university is and your living arrangements there, so this answer covers South Africa in general. You can always contact the local police to obtain any advisories they have currently.

  • @BROY, Editing on this question makes a moving target. The reference to Cape Town seems gone now and the question has been placed on hold. And why the down vote? Is it because the answer treats all of SA? – Gayot Fow Sep 5 '14 at 13:16
  • I didn't vote you down. – user2352 Sep 6 '14 at 2:32
  • Old answer but... Ebola risk? In South Africa, in September 2014? Even in April 2014, a director of virology was advising "You probably couldn't get Ebola if you went to Conakry [Guinea] now if you tried". Ebola's awful and every country took protective measures, but transmission required exposure to bodily fluids - even in 3 countries actually affected, direct risk was mainly to frontline medical workers, people in slums and people who didn't receive prevention advice (e.g. remote villages) or who didn't follow it (e.g. traditional healers). – user56reinstatemonica8 May 30 '17 at 0:05
  • And South Africa is 5000km away from where that Ebola outbreak was! Further than London was (and with fewer flight connections!). Why was Ebola your #1 risk for South Africa? – user56reinstatemonica8 May 30 '17 at 0:06
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I know this is a very late answer to the question, but would like to add to what was said so far for future readers interrested as a born and bred South African citizen.

Visible crimes that are very common in South Africa are rapes, car jackings, house and business robberies often leading to murder of the victims, farm murders, and "gang related" crimes like territorial conflicts, drug abuse etc. With this said, this is the typical crimes the residents are faced with, that tourists might not encounter at all. When you watch the news of things happening in other countries, it's almost the same, and I almost become scared of thinking to travel to those countries, and would rather just stay here and face the problems we have here. This is a wonderful country, and basic survival instinct will keep you safe.

South Africa can be considered a dangerous place because of a few things:

  1. Poverty and unequal distribution of wealth: Where there's poverty, there's crime, that's a fact everywhere around the world, and also because of the political history of the country, most of the wealth is still possessed by a minority of the population (all races included). The impoverished majority might feel that the wealthy owe the poor, or that the wealthy don't really deserve their wealth.

  2. Corruption: Organized crime is a reality, and government officials are either complacent about the fact, part of the criminal organization, or has close friends or family members in criminal circles which they want to protect. This flows from the highest level of government all the way down.

  3. Remnants of the political history. The masses have very little education with respect to the history of this country, and rely on the stories told to them by their parents and grand parents. This leads to subjective perceptions which is not in line with actual facts and statistics. This breeds hatred in the hearts of those masses, which may or may not overflow into criminal activities against those perceived as the enemy.

This website gives an interesting view of the dangerous parts of South Africa.