Back

Country Reports

South Africa Country Report

Content provided by
IHS Markit Logo

Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

President Ramaphosa trimmed the cabinet following the May 2019 elections and retained Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan in the key finance and public enterprises posts, respectively. Some state-owned enterprises are likely to be partly sold to private investors, with partners already being sought for national carrier South African Airways. The announcement of a new Eskom CEO on 18 November 2019 is likely to accelerate the unbundling of the utility into three parts, forcing greater competition among power generators. The debate on land expropriation without compensation is likely to return to the fore as parliament prepares to debate the revised wording of the property clause of the constitution in December 2019. This is likely to slow Ramaphosa's efforts to assert his pro-growth policy agenda on the ruling party and government, particularly as the ruling party prepares for a National General Council in July 2020 where government implementation of party resolutions will be assessed. The government is likely to forge ahead with plans to make state-owned land available for occupation by poor communities, particularly on the outskirts of major urban centres in Gauteng. This will assist in staving off illegal occupation of vacant land around the country.The new mining charter was released in September 2018. It requires a minimum 30% ownership of mining companies for historically disadvantaged South Africans, as well as a minimum 70% of total mining goods procurement spending on South African manufactured products. IHS Markit assumes a modest recovery in South Africa's GDP growth rate to 1.4% in 2019. The budget deficit is expected to average 4.3% of GDP in 2019–21, with the public-sector debt stock increasing to close to 60% of GDP. The country also faces the risk of a sovereign rating downgrade to sub-investment grade by Moody's Investors Service. A Moody's decision is likely to be deferred until after the polls.
Last update: November 20, 2019

Operational Outlook

Inter-union rivalry contributes to increased strike and violence risks, particularly in the precious metal mining sector amid a battle for influence. The introduction of a minimum wage has been supported by most unions, but the hardline SAFTU federation is likely to continue calling for nationwide demonstrations in 2020 demanding unlikely increases. The government is planning to synchronise a state-capture inquiry with prosecutions, which are likely to implicate more companies in business malpractice allegations. However, corruption risks for investors in the medium term are likely to be reduced by the dismantling of powerful patronage networks.

Last update: December 3, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

The likelihood of an attack by, or inspired by, international terrorist groups remains low despite the abduction and killing in February 2018 of two British botanists in KwaZulu-Natal. The arrested suspects had links to the Islamic State and evidence suggests a clear terrorist motivation. However, radicalisation remains likely to be confined to individuals or small groups with a violent agenda. One man was stabbed to death during a knife attack at a mosque near Durban on 10 May 2018, but no group or organisation has claimed responsibility, and the motive may be related to a personal feud, or the mosque being a Shia place of worship.

Last update: November 20, 2019

Crime

Crime is the dominant security issue in South Africa. The country's murder rate is among the highest in the world, and official statistics released in September 2019 showed a 3.4% increase to an average 58 killings per day for 2018–19 compared with the previous reporting period, but it is lower than the 2002–03 peak. Most violent incidents are highly localised within townships, such as Khayelitsha and Guguletu in Cape Town, Katlehong in Gauteng, and Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal. Break-ins at armouries in 2017 raised fears of sourcing of automatic weapons for use in crime. Carjacking remains high despite a small decrease of 1.8% in 2019.

Last update: November 19, 2019

War Risks

South Africa plays a limited but important peacekeeping role on the African continent, notably in the DRC, where it contributes 1,150 troops, and helicopters to the UN mission. Funding and capacity constraints, coupled with public opinion and a conservative foreign policy, limits the likelihood of wider peacekeeping commitments or further deployments. A new political crisis in Lesotho resulted in a limited regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention with a 300-strong force in December 2017, which was withdrawn in November 2018. South Africa will continue to play a prominent role, after years of leading diplomatic efforts to stabilise the country.

Last update: November 20, 2019

Social Stability

Very high

Within city centres, social unrest risks stem largely from political, xenophobic and labour-related protests, and persistent service delivery-related demonstrations are confined to townships. Although the scale and intensity of political protest has abated with the removal of Jacob Zuma as president, activists' focus has turned somewhat on to demands for implementation of land expropriation without compensation. The Economic Freedom Fighters party has joined pressure groups to call for constitutional and legislative changes which will likely materialise during the current sitting of the sixth democratic parliament. Protests over the delivery of public services in poor neighbourhoods often become violent, but are usually contained within these localities.

Last update: November 20, 2019

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and over one year of age and for travelers who have been in transit >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission. 

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B : A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and from Eritrea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia. Vaccination is also required if the traveler has been in transit in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.
Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

The Cape region may experience heavy rains, floods, and landslides during the austral winter (June to August).

Many areas, especially in the province of Western Cape (Cape region), are also affected by bush fires during the austral summer (December to February), which tend to cause extensive material damage and traffic problems. In January 2017, significant wildfires caused the destruction of several properties in Somerset West. 

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Elevated

Most modes of transportation are considered relatively safe (roads, Gautrain, national airlines, etc.).

South Africa has good airport infrastructure serving large cities. South African airlines (domestic and low-cost) operate in accordance with international safety standards. It is advised to remain vigilant in airports, as numerous baggage thefts are reported. Similarly, cases of travelers who were followed from the airport to their home to be attacked, have been recorded. It is advisable to organize your arrival at the airport prior to departure.

The Gautrain high-speed rail line linking Johannesburg and OR Tambo International Airport as well as Pretoria can be taken safely. It is recommended, however, to not use the old railway line "Metro" between Johannesburg and Pretoria, where many bandits operate. Management of the rail network is often criticized by South Africans who denounce the insufficient amount of funds given to this sector.

Major highways crossing the country are in good condition. However, secondary roads - especially in provinces of Eastern Cape and Limpopo - are often poorly maintained and/or unpaved. While driving in South Africa, remain alert for animals, people walking alongside the road, dangerous overtaking, and lack of lighting in some areas. Driving in rural areas at night should be strictly avoided. Roads around North Kwazulu and Zuzuland are particularly dangerous at night, as numerous robberies were reported, especially on secondary roads. Fatal car accidents occur frequently as vehicles are poorly maintained and there is a general lack of respect for road rules.

The use of a chauffeured vehicle is recommended to get acclimated to a city's environment. It is worth noting that in South Africa motorists drive on the left side of the road, which will require special attention for those accustomed to driving on the right.

Furthermore, it is essential to be particularly vigilant on roads, as thieves are known to employ various methods to stop a vehicle (e.g. placing stones on the road, simulating car breakdown, impersonating and dressing like police officers, or hitchhiking). Finally, it is recommended to keep belongings out of sight and to lock car doors while driving. When traveling over long distances, cars should be stocked with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. Ensure that the vehicle contains spare mechanical parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and has an effective means of telecommunication.

Tourists and business travelers should never travel alone or at night; it is best to travel in groups of at least three. Travelers are also advised to avoid taking public transit and to instead travel by chauffeured car as much as possible. Driving should be limited as much as possible to daylight hours and windows should remain rolled up and doors locked. Avoid minibus services due to the dangerous driving practices of bus drivers and potential mechanical failures of old, worn vehicles.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

The use of mobile and internet telephones is widespread in the country. Mobile phone reception tends to be good in cities and major towns, but may be sporadic in more rural areas.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

The climate in South Africa varies considerably from one region to another. The northwest is arid while the central and northeastern areas are less so. The monsoon brings heavy rains in the summer (January-April), particularly to the Johannesburg coast. Temperatures are highest from December until March (summer). Temperatures can fall below freezing in winter months and snow is not rare at higher elevations, notably in the Drakensberg mountain range.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +27
Police: 110

Electricity

Voltage: 220/230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019