Will Tourism survive two high profile court cases reflecting crime in SA?


bunte-oscar-pistorius-whale-cottage-portfolio-gun-745306312In the past two days Oscar Pistorius has featured in the 19h00 and 21h45 news broadcasts on ZDF TV, one of the largest German TV channels, the story no doubt reported by every other TV station in the country too.   Yesterday Shrien Dewani arrived in Cape Town by special chartered jet, to appear in court briefly for the alleged murder in 2010 of his wife, which he is alleged to have masterminded and paid for.  He has dodged being extradited to our country for more than three years, pleading that his alleged mental illness made him unfit to be extradited.  The story is being extensively reported by the UK media.  One must ask how damaging the coverage of both these alleged murders are for our tourism industry.

Of the two cases, the Oscar Pistorius one is the more serious one when it comes to its potential for its negative effect on the Tourism industry.  Pistorius described in detail in court to what extent he and his family have been the subject of crime, and why he carried one or more firearms.  Interesting was the report by Times Live yesterday, with research by Data Driven Insight (DDI) reflecting that the Pistorius case is dominating all news reporting locally, at 36%, followed by the Dewani case at 31%. Internationally, the coverage for the case between Monday and Tuesday was highest in South African tourism source countries, being the USA, the UK, Germany, Australia, and France, followed in sixth place by South Africa. DDI measures coverage by scanning 6,2 million ‘social media platforms‘, 60000 online newspapers, and 66 radio and TV channels globally.  The Pistorius case will dominate the rest of the week, as Pistorius testifies with his advocate Barry Roux, and then is cross-examined by State Prosecutor Gerrie Nel.  With word-for-word testimony visible on TV and via livestream radio, Pistorius’ case will in all likelihood have achieved the highest ever media coverage for a court case in this country.

The Dewani case was heard briefly in the Western Cape High Court yesterday, after Dewani was flown in by private jet by theShrien Dewani Department of Justice, at a cost of close to R 3 million.  This mode of transport was preferable to transport Dewani with his doctor, nurses, policemen, and Interpol representatives without exposing their identities, and due to Dewani’s alleged ‘suicidal tendencies‘.  The case has been postponed to 12 May. Dewani will undergo psychological evaluation at Valkenberg, his new home until the end of May, the deadline set by the UK authorities for him to be returned the UK if he is found to be unfit to stand trial.   Evaluations at Valkenberg can take a year or longer, the Cape Argus reported well-known defence attorney William Booth as commenting on Dewani’s case.  A media briefing, attended on Monday at the High Court by 60 local and international media, dictated that no photographs and filming will be allowed once the judge and accused enter the courtroom.  The media could however apply for permission before Dewani’s next court appearance, the Cape Times reported.

While Pistorius’ case is likely to come to an end far sooner than that of Dewani, it is likely that South Africa will remain in the headlines for all the wrong reasons for the remainder of this year!  The damage of the headlines to our Tourism industry can only be measured in the next summer season.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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