December 4, 2021

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South Africa Travel Advisory

17 min read

Reconsider travel to South Africa due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime, civil unrest, health, and drought.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for South Africa due to COVID-19.  

South Africa has lifted stay at home orders, and resumed some transportation options and business operations. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID19 in South Africa.

Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.

Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent.

Parts of South Africa are experiencing a drought. Water supplies in some areas may be affected. Residential water-use restrictions are in place in Cape Town and other municipalities. Read the country information page.

Please see our Alerts for up-to-date information.

If you decide to travel to South Africa:

Last Update: Reissued with updates to drought information.

News Network

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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida alleging that Target Recovery Towing Inc. and Target Recovery & Transport Inc. (together “Target”) violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), by failing to obtain a court order before auctioning off a car belonging to a U.s. Marine Corps Sergeant who was deployed overseas.  
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    In U.S GAO News
    This testimony discusses the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2013. GAO very much appreciates the confidence Congress has shown in the efforts to help support the Congress in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve government performance and accountability for the benefit of the American people.GAO is requesting an appropriation of $526.2 million for FY 2013 to support a staffing level of 3,100. This funding level represents a modest increase of 2.9 percent over FY 2012, and is 5.4 percent below our FY 2010 level. The majority of the requested increase represents the first step in rebuilding our staff capacity to a level that will enable us to optimize the benefits we yield for the Congress and the nation.We have carefully reviewed every aspect of our operations from a zero base to identify opportunities to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of our work and preserving our ability to assist the Congress in addressing the most important priorities facing the nation. However, given that staff costs now represent about 81 percent of our budget and the deep reductions already taken in our infrastructure programs, reducing the size of our workforce could not be avoided. By the end of FY 2012, for the first time in over 75 years, GAO’s staffing level will drop below 3,000 staff, resulting in a net reduction of 11 percent in our staff capacity, or 365 people, in only a 2-year period.GAO’s work directly contributes to improvements in a broad array of federal programs affecting Americans everywhere and remains one of the best investments across the federal government. With this committee’s support, in FY 2011, GAO provided assistance to every standing congressional committee and about 70 percent of their subcommittees. GAO issues hundreds of products annually in response to congressional requests and mandates. Our work yielded significant results across the government, including financial benefits of $45.7 billion—a return on investment of $81 for every dollar invested in GAO. Our findings and recommendations produce measurable financial benefits for the federal government, enabled through the actions of Congress and Executive Branch agencies, ultimately making funds available to reduce government expenditures, reallocate funds to more productive areas, or increase revenues.
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  • Public Health Preparedness: Information on the Use of Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers during Emergencies
    In U.S GAO News
    Almost all states have a network of health care volunteers—the Medical Reserve Corps—who can augment federal, state, and local capabilities in response to public health emergencies, such as those arising from wildfires and hurricanes, and infectious disease outbreaks. Having sufficient, trained personnel, such as these volunteers, is critical to a state's capability to respond and recover from public health emergencies. According to federal data, 48 states and the District of Columbia reported 102,767 health care volunteers in 838 Medical Reserve Corps units as of September 2019, with nurses making up 43 percent. Number of Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers by Type, as of September 2019 Note: These data illustrate 90 percent of total health care volunteers. The remaining five types volunteers each make up less than 5 percent of the total. Other Public Health Medical volunteers may include cardiovascular technicians, sonographers, and phlebotomists. Medical Reserve Corps volunteers in states included in GAO's review—Alabama, California, North Carolina, and New Mexico—were deployed in response to natural disasters in 2018 and 2019, migrants at the southern border in 2019, and COVID-19 in 2020. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) documentation shows these volunteers performed a variety of health care activities, such as providing medical services, setting up and providing support at shelters, and distributing medical supplies. Volunteers from these four states and others also participated in the response to COVID-19 by supporting testing sites, collecting specimens, and performing administrative tasks, such as data entry. For example, one unit deployed four volunteers a day for 3 days to work alongside nurses at a drive-through testing site. In addition to responding to public health emergencies, volunteers participated in preparedness activities, such as an initiative to train the public on how to respond to emergencies. HHS oversees the Medical Reserve Corps program and has assisted units in developing their volunteer capabilities. For example, HHS funded the development of a checklist of activities that should occur during volunteer deployment such as re-verifying medical credentials; provided training to new unit leaders on developing, managing, and sustaining Medical Reserve Corps units; and issued generally accepted practices, such as periodically re-evaluating volunteer recruitment procedures. The Medical Reserve Corps consists of health care volunteers—medical and public health professionals—who donate their time to help strengthen a response to public health emergencies and build community resilience. These volunteers prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, which may include natural disasters—such as hurricanes and wildfires—as well as disease outbreaks, whether intentional or natural. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 included a provision for GAO to review states' use of health care volunteers during public health emergencies. This report describes (1) the number and type of Medical Reserve Corps volunteers; (2) the types of public health emergencies volunteers have participated in; and (3) how HHS has assisted in developing volunteer capabilities. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed data reported to HHS as of September 2019; reviewed HHS documentation on four states' use of volunteers, which GAO selected based on population, number of volunteers, and event; and interviewed officials from HHS who oversee the Medical Reserve Corps program. GAO plans to further examine how states have used health care volunteers to respond to public health emergencies, including COVID-19, and any associated challenges to doing so in a future report. GAO provided a draft of this report to HHS. In response, HHS provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or deniganmacauleym@gao.gov.
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  • F-35 Sustainment: Enhanced Attention to and Oversight of F-35 Affordability Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found F-35 mission capable rates—a measure of the readiness of an aircraft fleet—have recently improved, but still fall short of warfighter requirements, as discussed in our draft report. Specifically, from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2020, the U.S. F-35 fleet's average annual (1) mission capable rate—the percentage of time during which the aircraft can fly and perform one of its tasked missions—improved from 59 to 69 percent; and (2) full mission capable rate—the percentage of time during which the aircraft can perform all of its tasked missions—improved from 32 to 39 percent. Both metrics fall below the services' objectives. For example, in fiscal year 2020 the Air Force F-35A full mission capable rate was 54 percent, versus a 72 percent objective. Since 2012, F-35 estimated sustainment costs over its 66-year life cycle have increased steadily, from $1.11 trillion to $1.27 trillion, despite efforts to reduce costs. The services face a substantial and growing gap between estimated sustainment costs and affordability constraints—i.e., costs per tail (aircraft) per year that the services project they can afford—totaling about $6 billion in 2036 alone (see fig.). The services will collectively be confronted with tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project as unaffordable during the program. Gap between F-35 Affordability Constraints and Estimated Sustainment Costs in 2036 Note: Costs are in constant year 2012 dollars as that was the year when the F-35 program was most recently re-baselined. aSteady state years for the F-35 program are defined in each respective service's affordability analysis as: US Air Force/F-35A – 2036-2041; US Marine Corps/F-35B – 2033-2037; US Navy/F-35C – 2036-2043. Steady state refers to the program's peak operating point. The Air Force needs to reduce estimated costs per tail per year by $3.7 million (or 47 percent) by 2036 or it will incur $4.4 billion in costs beyond what it currently projects it could afford in that year alone. Cost reductions become increasingly difficult as the program grows and matures. However, GAO found there is no agreed upon approach to achieve the constraints. Without an assessment of cost-reduction efforts and program requirements (such as number of planned aircraft), along with a plan, the Department of Defense (DOD) may continue to invest resources in a program it ultimately cannot afford. Congress requiring DOD to report on its progress in achieving affordability constraints and making F-35 procurements contingent on DOD's demonstrated progress would enhance DOD's accountability for taking the necessary and appropriate actions to afford sustaining the F-35 fleet. Why GAO Did This Study The F-35 aircraft with its advanced capabilities represents a growing portion of DOD's tactical aviation fleet—with the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy currently flying about 400 of the aircraft. It is also DOD's most ambitious and costly weapon system in history, with estimated life-of-program costs exceeding $1.7 trillion. DOD plans to procure nearly 2,500 F-35s at an estimated total acquisition cost of just under $400 billion. The remaining $1.3 trillion in life cycle costs is associated with operating and sustaining the aircraft. This statement, among other things, assesses the extent to which (1) the F-35 has met warfighter-required mission capable rates; and (2) DOD has reduced the F-35's estimated life cycle sustainment costs and made progress in meeting its affordability constraints. This statement is largely based on GAO's draft report, which was provided to DOD in March for review and comment. For that report and this statement, GAO reviewed program documentation, analyzed performance and cost data, collected data from F-35 locations, and interviewed officials.
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  • Department of Energy: Improved Performance Planning Could Strengthen Technology Transfer
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy (DOE) and its national labs have taken several steps to address potential barriers to technology transfer—the process of providing DOE technologies, knowledge, or expertise to other entities. GAO characterized these barriers as (1) gaps in funding, (2) legal and administrative barriers, and (3) lack of alignment between DOE research and industry needs. For example, the “valley of death” is a gap between the end of public funding and start of private-sector funding. DOE partly addresses this gap with its Technology Commercialization Fund, which provides grants of $100,000 to $1.5 million to DOE researchers to advance promising technologies with private-sector partners. Further, DOE's Energy I-Corps program trains researchers to commercialize new technologies and to identify industry needs and potential customers. However, DOE has not assessed how many and which types of researchers would benefit from such training. Without doing so, DOE will not have the information needed to ensure its training resources target the researchers who would benefit most. Illustration of Funding Gap for Commercializing New Technologies DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer activities by setting strategic goals and objectives and annually collecting department-wide technology transfer measures, such as the number of patented inventions and licenses. However, the department does not have objective and measurable performance goals to assess progress toward the broader strategic goals and objectives it developed. For example, without a performance goal for the number of DOE researchers involved in technology transfer activities and a measure of such involvement, DOE cannot assess the extent to which it has met its objective to encourage national laboratory personnel to pursue technology transfer activities. Internal control standards for government agencies call for management to define objectives in measurable terms, either qualitative or quantitative, so that performance toward those objectives can be assessed. Moreover, DOE has not aligned the 79 existing measures that it collects with its goals and objectives, nor has it prioritized them. Some lab stakeholders said that collecting and reporting these measures is burdensome. Prior GAO work has found that having a large number of performance measures may risk creating a confusing excess of data that will obscure rather than clarify performance issues. Researchers at DOE and its 17 national labs regularly make contributions to new energy technologies, such as more efficient batteries for electric vehicles. Technology transfer officials at the labs help these researchers license intellectual property and partner with private-sector companies to bring these technologies to market. However, several recent reports have highlighted barriers and inconsistencies in technology transfer at DOE, including a 2015 commission report that found barriers related to the costs of collaboration and low maturity level of many DOE technologies. This report examines (1) steps DOE has taken to address barriers to technology transfer and (2) the extent to which DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer and commercialization activities. GAO analyzed DOE documents on technology transfer and spoke with officials at DOE and seven national labs, as well as with representatives of universities and private-sector companies. GAO selected labs across a range of DOE activities and based on their technology transfer activities. GAO recommends that DOE assess researchers' needs for commercialization training and develop objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals and a limited number of related performance measures for its technology transfer efforts. DOE concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Candice Wright at (202) 512-6888 or WrightC@gao.gov.
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  • Retirement Security: DOL Could Better Inform Divorcing Parties About Dividing Savings
    In U.S GAO News
    Although more than one-third of adults aged 50 or older have experienced divorce, few people seek and obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), according to large plan sponsors GAO surveyed. A QDRO establishes the right of an alternate payee, such as a former spouse, to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable to a participant under a retirement plan upon separation or divorce. There are no nationally representative data on the number of QDROs, but plans and record keepers GAO interviewed and surveyed reported that few seek and obtain QDROs. For example, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation administered retirement benefits to about 1.6 million participants, and approved about 16,000 QDROs in the last 10 years. GAO's analysis of other survey data found about one-third of those who experienced a divorce from 2008 to 2016 and reported their former spouse had a retirement plan also reported losing a claim to that spouse's benefits. Many experts stated that some people—especially those with lower incomes—face challenges to successfully navigating the process for obtaining a QDRO, including complexity and cost. Individuals seeking a QDRO may be charged fees for preparation and review of draft orders before they are qualified as QDROs and, according to experts GAO interviewed, these fees vary widely. These experts cited concerns about QDRO review fees that they said in some cases were more than twice the amount of typical fees, and said they may discourage some from pursuing QDROs. Department of Labor (DOL) officials said the agency generally does not collect information on QDRO fees. Exploring ways to collect and analyze information from plans on fees could help DOL ensure costs are reasonable. Divorcing parties who pursue QDROs often had orders not qualified due to lacking basic information, according to plans and record keepers we surveyed (see figure). Plan Administrators and Record Keepers Reported Reasons for Not Qualifying a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) DOL provides some information to help divorcing parties pursue QDROs. However, many experts cited a lack of awareness about QDROs by the public and said DOL could do more to make resources available to divorcing parties. Without additional outreach by DOL, divorcing parties may spend unnecessary time and resources drafting orders that are not likely to be qualified, resulting in unnecessary expenditures of time and money. A domestic relations order (DRO) is a court-issued judgment, decree, or order that, when qualified by a retirement plan administrator, can divide certain retirement benefits in connection with separation or divorce and as such provide crucial financial security to a former spouse. DOL has authority to interpret QDRO requirements. GAO was asked to review the process for obtaining QDROs. This report examines what is known about (1) the number of QDRO recipients, (2) the fees and other expenses for processing QDROs, and (3) the reasons plans do not initially qualify DROs and the challenges experts identify regarding the QDRO process. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed available data, and a total of 14 responses from two surveys of large private sector plans and account record keepers, and interviewed 18 experts including practitioners who provide services to divorcing couples. GAO is recommending that DOL (1) explore ways to collect information on QDRO-related fees charged to participants or alternate payees, and (2) take steps to ensure information about the process for obtaining a QDRO is accessible. DOL generally agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact Kris Nguyen at (202) 512-7215 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.
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  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Improved Planning and Acquisition Strategies Can Help Address Operational Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    The current generation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) has been in development for defense applications since the 1980's. As of February 2006, the Department of Defense (DOD) had more than 3,000 unmanned aircraft, about 2,000 of which are supporting ongoing operations in Iraq. DOD's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review validates the importance of unmanned systems and establishes plans to significantly expand investment in unmanned systems and their use in military operations over the next several years. The Congress has been particularly interested in DOD's approach to determining UAS needs and managing the growing number of UAS programs. This testimony addresses GAO's prior work and preliminary observations on (1) the operational successes and challenges U.S. forces are experiencing with UAS in combat operations, and the extent to which DOD has taken steps to address challenges; (2) DOD's progress in establishing a strategic plan and oversight framework to guide joint and service-specific UAS development efforts and related investment decisions; and (3) our assessment of the Global Hawk and Predator programs' business cases and acquisition strategies and the lessons learned that can be applied to the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems program.DOD has experienced a high level of mission successes with UAS, but continues to face challenges in fully maximizing the use of these assets. In operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces have used UAS for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and offensive strike missions in support of joint and service-specific operations. As the numbers of UAS operating in the same airspace as manned aircraft grows, DOD continues to face operational challenges related to interoperability, availability of communications bandwidth, and airspace integration. While DOD and the services have taken some positive initial steps to address these challenges, such as issuing guidance and developing initiatives to improve interoperability, limited progress has been made and the effectiveness of these efforts cannot be adequately assessed until they are fully implemented. While DOD continues to request funds to support service plans for acquiring UAS, it still lacks a viable strategic plan to guide UAS development and investment decisions. Since GAO last reported, DOD established new oversight bodies and updated its UAS Roadmap, but it is too early to tell how the new entities will interrelate and whether they will be able to influence service plans. Also, the updated roadmap identifies broad goals, desired capabilities, and service acquisition plans, but lacks critical elements, such as a clear link among goals, capabilities, and plans, opportunities for joint endeavors, and funding priorities and needs. Until DOD develops a strategic plan, it will not be well positioned to validate requirements, evaluate and integrate services plans, and establish program and funding priorities, nor will Congress have all the information it needs to evaluate funding requests. Such a plan would also help DOD anticipate and minimize the types of challenges that are being experienced today. While there have been successes on the battlefield, UAS development programs have shared many of the same problems as other major weapon systems that begin an acquisition program too early, with many uncertainties about requirements, funding, and immature technology, design, and production. Unmanned systems have also experienced similar outcomes--changing requirements, cost growth, delays in delivery, performance shortfalls, and reliability and support problems. Future acquisition programscan learn from past efforts to craft better and less risky acquisition plans. Key steps conducive to success include preparing a comprehensive business case, adopting a knowledge-based and incremental acquisition strategy, and sustaining disciplined leadership and direction. Frequent changes to the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems technology demonstration program and recent budget actions raise some questions about the Department's priorities and future directions for UAS. Concerns have also been raised about possible duplication of systems as the services look to expand individual fleets. Ongoing Army and Air Force efforts to coordinate the Warrior and Predator programs are encouraging and could be a model for limiting duplication and fostering jointness and interoperability.
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