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Google Maps will no longer direct visitors through Cape Town township after attacks on motorists

Google Maps will no longer direct visitors through Cape Town township after attacks on motorists
Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille and Director of Google South Africa Alistair Mokoena in Parliament, Cape Town on Monday, 13 November 2023 at the signing of a collaborative agreement on promoting safe tourism. (Photo: Samane Jnr Marks)

Nyanga township and some routes to and from Cape Town International Airport are to be excluded from a navigation app as the fastest routes to and from the city.

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille and Prof Alistair Mokoena, country director for Google South Africa, signed a collaborative agreement in Parliament on Monday aimed at promoting South Africa as a safe tourist destination.

This follows incidents of stone-throwing and attacks on motorists on and near the N2 in recent months.

On 3 November, a 55-year-old tourist from Connecticut in the US was shot in the face and robbed soon after leaving Cape Town International Airport. A navigation app on his phone reportedly indicated that the most direct route to Cape Town was through the Nyanga township, News24 reported.

At Monday’s signing of the agreement, Mokoena said Google had been in touch with city officials and had identified crime hotspots. These included Nyanga and the intersection at the airport, which would soon no longer be recommended by Google as the fastest routes to the city.

Speaking to Daily Maverick at Parliament, Mokoena said Google considered driver and commuter safety to be a priority.

“Google is a tool to connect you with your destination in the fastest and safest possible time. So when it comes to recommending routes, we look at what is the fastest possible way to get you from point A to point B… we look at the nature of the road, the quality of the road – we also look at safety,” said Mokoena.

Mokoena said that “the first area [of] focus will be Nyanga because we have had a couple of incidents and seen an increase in violent crimes there.

“We want to make sure that we don’t have this sort of [thing] recurring. Recommendations have not yet gone live to exclude the Nyanga area route from the airport intersection as the fastest feature…

“We are working with all the role players, including car rental companies, to ensure that everybody is warned, everybody is given information, because once you have been given information, you are empowered to make informed decisions.

“We are coming in from a tech perspective, but the city is putting up signage… there will be a marketing and a comms campaign to alert people of dangers to ensure that we have a great tourism experience,” said Mokoena.

Read more on Daily Maverick: Visitors warned to be alert on Cape Town’s N2 ‘Hell Run’

  • In March 2023, Leonie van der Westhuizen died after a rock shattered the car window and struck her in the head, triggering cardiac arrest. The Van der Westhuizens were reportedly directed by Google Maps via Nyanga because their planned route was closed.
  • In July, a 21-year-old student from Inscape in Stellenbosch, Lucilla Vlok, had her jaw fractured when a rock was hurled through her car window while she was driving on the N2 to Cape Town International Airport.
  • Most recently, in October, Los Angeles couple Jason and Kate Zoladz were heading to Cape Town International Airport via Philippi when a brick shattered the car window, forcing them to stop. Four men approached their rental car and robbed them at gunpoint.


Cape Town's deadly route to the airport

‘It’s nothing new’

De Lille confirmed that the tourism department had developed a solution with Google.

“In terms of using technology, for me, it started way back in 2014 when the City of Cape Town became the most-desired city in the world.

“The first thing we did was to design an open data portal, which was also a first for the city. I made sure that we overlaid all our decisions, at all levels, at all departments in the city, with digital technology. That’s when I realised the value of this and how easy it is.

De Lille added: “For me, it’s nothing new. I think it is compulsory for government to use technology. I have just attended the world travel market in London, where they were speaking about artificial intelligence and how the tourism sector is using AI.

“The quicker we can pick up the technology, the better it will be for the sector,” she said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Abraham MN says:

    Somewhat fixing the wrong problem. As bandage would

  • Suat Palanduz says:

    So changing the route will solve the problem!
    Would like to know how many people are in the police force and what they do all day everyday.

  • Frans Flippo says:

    Not a word about our law enforcement agency SAPS. Surely these rockthrowers should be found, arrested, convicted of murder, and put behind bars for the rest of their lives?
    It’s just acceptable to say “crime is a reality we’re not going to change, we’ll just direct tourists around it.”
    One more reason to vote the ANC out. Or perhaps the ministers can all be forced to move to Nyanga and witness the situation firsthand.

  • Gavinn6 Winfield says:

    Only in south africa Mr president .wake the f up.

  • Agf Agf says:

    It’s akin to putting up signs warning of potholes instead of actually fixing them.

  • bigbad jon says:

    Not to forget the brit. surgeon who in August this year was shot in the face and killed after taking the wrong turn into Nyanga.. Pleasantly surprised that Google, the more ‘woke’ of the search engines implemented it first.

  • Maurice Smithers says:

    ‘Most recently’ isn’t actually October, as the article suggests. It was Friday 10 November. I was directed by Google through Nyanga to Muizenberg. At a traffic light in Nyanga, a young dude hurled a 20kg chunk of concrete through the side window of my hired car, missing my head, but ripping my arms open. He wanted my cellphone, but I fought him off. He was alone and unarmed. Had that not been the case, things could have gone very differently. As it happens, he eventually gave up and ran away, leaving me stranded because, after breaking the window, he’d taken my ignition key out and thrown it behind the car to stop me driving away. Fortunately, someone found it and gave it to me and I could leave the area. Yesterday I sent Google a message urging them not to send people on that route. I’m used to being in townships, so I wasn’t particularly worried when I found myself there and could handle myself when I was attacked. That definitely won’t be the same for others, especially overseas visitors.
    For me, the question is: 30 years into democracy, why do we still have areas like Nyanga Alexandra and other apartheid-era dormitory townships in such poor condition, so under-developed, offering so little hope to young people growing up there? How did the kid who attacked me lose his humanity to the extent that he was willing to risk badly maiming or killing me, another human being, for a cellphone? Perhaps he doesn’t feel his life is valued, so he doesn’t value the lives of others?

  • Tom Sel says:

    The measures taken don’t solve the root cause of the problem, which is crime.
    What are you, the City of Cape Town, doing to put an end to crime in these townships? You focus mainly on protecting the rich and turn a blind eye to the poor townships in and around Cape Town.
    Turning tourists away from the poor townships is a short-term action. Crime and criminals will continue to thrive and get out of control if you, the City of Cape Town, continue to be so short-sighted and concerned only with the rich and ignore the poor.
    Apprehend and prosecute the criminals and we, the citizens of South Africa and tourists alike, can venture where we please.
    The reason for my frustration is that, of all the municipalities in South Africa, Cape Town has great potential to make a difference in tackling South Africa’s crime pandemic. Let us also know what you are planning to do to address the crime in these townships.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Crime is the domain of SAPS which is a national structure thus anc. The DA has been calling for an increase in policing for years yet the anc choose rather to reduce police presence. Law Enforcement is not the DA or the COCT’s domain, surprised you don’t know that or maybe yo do and you’re just another anc/eff shill stirring the pot

      • g k says:

        That is what I was thinking, He should ask his bossses if they would allow DA Cape Town to tackle the police issue.

      • Graeme J says:

        @Ben: You hit the nail on the head. The central government, under the control of the ANC, is determined to destroy the Western Cape, instead of building up the entire country.

        Snouts in the trough!

    • Peter Wanliss says:

      Thanks for this information. As the inhabitant of a fairly “rich” suburb I’d like to know what it is that the City is doing to protect us. We have a neighbourhood watch, cameras, private security companies, but all of that is paid for by the “rich” (actually struggling middle-class) inhabitants. We do have street sweepers, but all areas of Cape Town have those. I’ve seen them on my frequent visits to the “poor” areas. What have I missed?

  • Martin Smith says:

    The crime will simply move to where the victims are.

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    Had a similar experience last year when we ended up in the middle of a township with rocks in the road and burning tyres. Fortunately managed to get out without harm but will now always check the suggested Google route before departure.

  • Gee Coe says:

    The government has officially run out of ideas. She should be embarrassed.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Well said Ben! There was also once a Railway Police and the DA has been asking for ages for control of our own police force, including running the railways. The anc and of course their partners in crime, effthieves, can’t stand that the opposition runs the WC and it is run properly with clean audits versus the shambles, degradation, misery and destruction in the rest of the country that they “run”. They will do all possible to sabotage the DA & WC – all these thieves, criminals and predators know is to steal, break and destroy. 13tomsel – the root of this problem is crime – brought with compliments to us all by none other than the anc and their fellow travelers, who have squandered, more like stolen, the enormous potential that this great country has when they took over and left it virtually a wasteland.

  • Chris Narramore says:

    Don’t forget that during Santaco taxi strike a visiting orthopaedic surgeon,Dr Kar Teoh, was brutally murdered in front of his wife and 2 year old child.

  • Steve Daniel says:

    Google maps – too often so very wrong.
    Waze – way way better, not yet perfect but interactive.
    Sincere condolences to our MUCH appreciated visitors…

  • Alan Jeffrey says:

    I agree with most of the comments here, however the reaction from people overseas is a little one sided. We know crime is bad in SA but look at some of the overseas newspapers as e,g, Mail Online. In the UK every day there are people stabbed to death especially in London. Muggings and swarm shoplifters run riot. In the USA, San Francisco and other cities have Zombie alleys crowded with druggies, and mass shootings are epidemic. It is no longer safe to visit Central Park in New York. Not minimising our problems but we are not alone. The world is becoming dangerous everywhere

    • Mark MANTON says:

      I disagree, the reality is that SA is now the 3rd worst country globally for murders per 100,000 people per year at 42 per 100,000. Only “beaten” by Jamaica and the US Virgin Islands. Double even Nigeria (22) and Venzuela (20) compared with 6.8 for the USA and 1.2 for the UK. So you ARE alone!
      Figures from Wikipedia based on UN Office of Drugs and Crime (search “murder rates globally”), so more reliable than Mail Online.

  • A Police Station should be established at that hot spot crime area. This will give tourists and the users of that section of the Road/area confident. It’ll discourage also criminals to operate in that area.

  • The minister is obviously talking rubbish.

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