Due to the international publicity around the incident, the South African minister of police, Fikile Mbalula, in attempting to manage the incident has affirmed its disastrous nature by describing the armed robbery as “almost like a hostage situation”.
Mbalula said: “It was a dramatic experience and as much as they wanted to stay longer, what they came across on Sunday was almost like a hostage situation by criminals who undermined the authority of the state.”
The ANC minister expressed his concern about the effects on South Africa’s tourism industry of the widespread negative publicity, but was grateful that nobody had died. “”Our biggest concern is, if people had to die on that bus, it would have been worse than it is now,” Mbalula said. “In God’s prayers, nobody died.”
The group of 36 innocent tourists from the Netherlands arrived at the airport, which has been named after ANC terrorist O.R. Tambo, while looking forward to a holiday of 22 days in South Africa. Yet shortly after getting onto their bus that would take them to their hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg, they were stopped by a vehicle with police insignia and the drive was forced to drive to a deserted area. At least one of the robbers also wore a police uniform, while five others were dressed in civilian clothes.
After this the tourists’ possessions were violently taken from them, with some being treated afterwards in hospital for their injuries. Cameras, cellphones and other electronic goods, but also their luggage, were stolen and driven off in the “police vehicle”.
The left-wing Dutch ambassador to South Africa, Marisa Gerards, that regularly caution Dutch companies in South Africa not to employ whites or do business with them, pretended that it was “out of the ordinary” for people to be robbed on their way from the Johannesburg airport.
“I’m really shocked by it,” she said. “But I am confident that we will find the people who did this.”
While Mbalula was grateful that no-one had died on the bus, the Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported that the robbers tried to shoot their hostages. “It was hell,” one passenger said. “People were panicking and even had guns pointed at them. In two cases the trigger was pulled but the gun did not go off.”
While there are daily horror stories in the South African media about farm murders, house robberies and car hijackings, the country is bidding to present the 2023 Rugby World Cup tournament. As someone tweeted: “It is only going to put millions of dollars into the pockets of criminals.”