“It [the bungee jump] has been in operation for 10 years,” he told the Lusaka Times. “This is the first time I am hearing of an incident. The probability of an incident is one in 500,000 jumps.”
There is some mathematical truth to this, of course. But as someone who has taken a number of tours in Africa, I would add just a few qualifications.
One: Tourists who come from litigious societies such as the United States may have an assumption that an activity is safe, because it is allowed to exist. Such an attitude may be reasonable in the US or Australia, but it doesn’t necessarily work in a country such as Zambia, where civil court cases can take decades to resolve.
Two: Africans of all races and nationalities revel in the credo, “Africa is not for sissies.” A tough environment engenders a corresponding toughness of character. A hike up Cape Town’s Table Mountain starts out gently, but rapidly can become death-defying, with nary a handrail in sight.
Three: Maintenance of facilities – such as roads, factories, power plants, and yes, bungee cords – tends to be on an ex-post-facto basis.
Langworthy’s plunge reminded me of the anecdote of a friend in Johannesburg, who took his clients on a year-end corporate junket to Victoria Falls. The last event was to be a bungee jump off the Victoria Falls bridge. All but one of the clients took the plunge. The one who didn’t jump had asked the bungee operator what would happen if the bungee cord breaks. The tour operator grinned: “We’ll replace it.”