South Africa has always fascinated me, due to its insane history. I've thought about doing an internship there, and I've now wanted to gather a bit more information.

How safe am I, as a Caucasian male, around the age of 25? I've heard horror stories about people being murdered over being white. All houses have huge fences around them with cameras, and sometimes even bodyguards.

The reason I'm asking is because someone just sent me a YouTube link, where white students have barricaded themselves in a classroom, against a protesting mob. They say it's because of the university fees, but what's the story?

Would I be safe going to South Africa for about half a year? What would I have to do to stay safe?

edit: Let's define safe as "without worrying for my life as I do my daily bidding: going to and coming from college every day, doing my groceries, do a morning or evening run, go out with other people".

  • "Safe" is a subjective word, which means something different to every person and in every circumstance.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 23, 2015 at 8:51
  • I've added my definition of safe to the post
    – Mave
    Oct 23, 2015 at 8:56
  • 8
    There are currently widespread protests against rising fees at basically all universities in South Africa. It is not a racial issue (students of all races are involved) and the vast majority of the protesters are peaceful (but in any protest as large and emotive as this, some people get out of hand, especially as police are not always responding in the most responsible way). This is not something that happens every day in South Africa, and South Africa is far from the only place where such things have happened.
    – Max
    Oct 23, 2015 at 9:00
  • 2
    Have you considered Cape Town? It is a demonstrably safer city than Johannesburg, with a good university. Anecdotally, I think that most South Africans would rather live in Cape Town than Johannesburg – both because of safety, and general quality of life.
    – Moriarty
    Oct 23, 2015 at 11:25
  • 2
    Ironically, in my experience, Cape Town is a much more racially segregated city than Johannesburg.
    – MastaBaba
    Oct 23, 2015 at 23:31

3 Answers 3


Johannesburg has improved in recent years crime-wise, but it's still not particularly safe. However, remember that a lot of people who live there are 'white'. You'll learn reasonably fast that there are areas that you don't go into, but places like Sandton or Morningside and other affluent suburbs are (relatively) fine. Yes, you'll be in a house with 'burglar guards' (bars on the window) and likely a security system, but it's sort of part of life, and strange as it sounds, you get used to it.

There's common sense new 'rules' you will find yourself applying - always drive with the windows up and doors locked, keep an eye on people walking near your car and the like, but again, for the most part like anywhere in the world, people are good. Unfortunately a large percentage of people are poor, and a small percentage of these people are opportunistic and see a way to gain money easily through crime. Try and minimise these opportunities. Talk to your colleagues / fellow students when you arrive and they'll give you advice and tips about the latest types of crimes in vogue and what to watch out for.

(Disclaimer: not all criminals are poor, and not all poor people are criminals. The same applies to any demographic or race of people).

Source: I lived in South Africa for 13 years, and have visited Johannesburg twice since. I also have relatives in Pretoria.


As a white South African I can categorically state that you are not in more danger here because you are white. As the other posters have noted, you will have to get used to taking some basic safety steps but that just gets to be part of how you live your life. But race really doesn't have anything to do with it.

You can have a look at http://www.joburgexpat.com/ for some useful insight.

Then, the tip about Cape Town is quite true. I live in Gauteng myself, between Johanesburg and Pretoria, and yes - although we won't often admit it - most of us would love to live and work in Cape Town.


The idea that Cape Town is safer than Guateng is actually pure myth when you consider the actual crime statistics. As as the case with these things the socio-economic factors are huge in deciding what area you can consider safe.

THIS article give huge guidance as to where murder happens in SA.

While many people think that Johannesburg is the most dangerous metropolitan city to live in, in South Africa, the reality is quite different. Consider that between April 2011 and March 2012, police recorded more murders in Cape Town than in Johannesburg and Pretoria combined. This means that taking population into account, Cape Town residents are almost twice (1.8 times) more likely to be murdered than Johannesburg residents.

...almost two-thirds of the Cape Town murders took place in just ten of the sixty police station precincts in the city, according to an analysis of crime hotspots we carried out at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Research shows that most victims are killed by acquaintances, friends or family members during disputes overwhelmingly fuelled by alcohol and in some occasions, drug abuse. Victimisation surveys, police docket surveys and mortuary surveillance studies reveal that the most victims of murder in South Africa are young black men. And studies reveal that most murdered women are killed by their intimate partners. And that men are six times more likely to be killed than women.

People tend to focus on our national murder rate which is four and a half times higher than the global average of 6.9 per 100,000 people. Yet, some 13% of police precincts in South Africa have murder rates below this rate. These areas include affluent such as Brooklyn (Pretoria), Garsfontein (Pretoria), Camps Bay, Claremont, Rondebosch (Cape Town), Edenvale and Linden (Gauteng). Meanwhile, residents of suburbs like Sandton, Parkview (Johannesburg), Durban North, Table View and Woodstock (Cape Town) and others have a murder rate of fewer than 10 per 100,000.

Over 10% of our policing precincts – more than 115 stations – have a zero murder rate. Three in four murders occur in just a quarter of the country’s police station areas.

While murder is often used as the main indicator to support arguments that South Africa is a violent country, it makes up only 2.5% of all violent crime. While there were 15,609 murders last year, a total of 607,877 other violent crimes including attempted murder, rape, robbery and assault were also reported to the police. When violent crime hotspots are analysed, central business districts remain the most high-risk areas in terms of violence in general, and specifically for robberies. The clear front-runner is Johannesburg Central, followed by Durban Central, Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town Central and Pretoria Central. These areas also experience very high property crime rates.

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