Google Maps and Waze to stop suggesting notorious Nyanga, Borcherds Quarry routes to users

Google South Africa CEO Prof. Alistair Mokoena with Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Google South Africa CEO Prof. Alistair Mokoena with Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 14, 2023


Cape Town - The route that has led many unsuspecting travellers into Nyanga through the Google Maps navigation system will no longer be a feature on the app.

Global technology giant Google said it has begun removing a route that has led several tourists into a notorious township from of its system.

Google South Africa director Alistair Mokoena revealed this at the signing ceremony of an agreement between Google and the National Tourism Ministry in Cape Town yesterday to promote South Africa as a prime tourist destination and provide training and support to the sector in digital training.

Google’s revelation comes after yet another tourist, Walter Fischel, an American citizen, was shot in the face and robbed in Nyanga while driving from Cape Town International Airport last Friday afternoon.

Fischel’s attack occurred exactly three months after British surgeon Dr Kar Hao Teoh was shot and killed after taking a wrong turn into Nyanga.

“From a Google perspective, we have been in conversation with the Department of Tourism, the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism and other role-players to figure out best the safety and security method we can introduce to address incidents such as the recent happenings,” Mokoena said.

He said through the collaborative process, the multi-stakeholder group had decided on several security measures they could use, including pushing the visibility of warning signs in and around problematic areas, as well as warnings and messaging in campaigns targeted at tourists so they were fully informed and could sensitively plan their trips.

“In locations such as the area around the Nyanga, around the airport and intersection, we have been receiving reports of these attacks, so what we have come up with as Google or Waze is that we have categorised some of these routes as high-risk routes or crime hot spots.

“Based on that data, we are working with our engineering teams to no longer recommend those routes and so instead we will recommend other routes, but nobody can predict where crime is going to come from. We might assume that staying on the N2 is the safest thing to do until crime starts to move on to the N2.

“So for now, we want to make sure crime-prone routes do not come up as recommendations, and for that, we take guidance from the authorities like the City, who as I mentioned earlier are hosting initiatives to address these incidents.”

In August, the National Department of Tourism announced the launch of the Secura Traveller app and operations centre by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa. The app incorporates affordable emergency medical responses, breakdowns and crime-related incident assistance.

It also points travellers and tourism stakeholders to hundreds of emergency service providers when every second counts. The application is one of the ways the ministry revealed that it would be addressing safety and security issues during the peak tourism and summer season.

“As Google, we will always support such work, like we will be doing with the agreement we have signed with the Ministry of Tourism today. I think we all realise that it’s particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a need to accelerate economic recovery,” Mokoena said.

Google through its partnership with the South African tourism sector will work to support the industry by providing the country with access to essential initiatives and programmes.

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said: “In a world of digital transformation, the collaboration between technology institutions and government entities has the potential to reshape industries and enhance public services.

“As stated in the Tourism Sector Green Paper, there is a ‘lack of support mechanisms for the sector, particularly SMMEs, to adapt to a digital future and other technological advancements’. This visionary partnership between us and Google focuses on non-monetary exchanges to leverage each party’s strengths for mutual benefits.”

The collaboration between Google and the Tourism Ministry is also set to provide insights into global travel trends and see Google host custom studies that will investigate the impact of digital platforms and online content.

“This information can guide the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism’s strategies for targeting specific markets and tailoring experiences to visitor expectations. This partnership forms part of our vision to grow South African tourism to its full potential, unlock the power of technology in the sector and increase arrivals to South Africa to support economic growth and job creation in South Africa,” De Lille said.

City of Cape Town Mayco member for economic growth James Vos said: “The National Tourism Department’s MOU with Google was an important step in the right direction.

“City of Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy, and I have also met with Google to discuss matters relating to safety because we care about the well-being of locals and visitors. Fruitful discussions were held, and the work will now be taken forward by Google technicians and Cape Town traffic and tourism authorities,” Vos said.