Back in my final years at school, about ’97 & ’98, I remember Jo’burg being one stressful place in regards to crime. Friends and family were being hi-jacked, raped, robbed, mugged, and attacked. I never had anyone close to me murdered. And the sick thing was that this was considered lucky. The whole place was fucked up, and I could not wait to get out.
I left travelling, then to varsity far away, and I had no desire to go back to that stress, of lying in my bed at night wondering if that night would have someone break into the house, tie us up, and have free reign over any of their desires. Or having to look around every bush when the car stopped at robots or we needed to drive in a driveway. Or being taught the craziest tactics of how to avoid crime. I don’t know how real any of these possibilities were, but the fact is that most of Jo’burg was stressed out about it.
Over my varsity holidays I would come back to Jozi and watch the most incredible change. The city was becoming safer as well as damn fun. Afro chic was taking over, Newtown opened up, and clubs were diversifying to a crazily enjoyable extent. I was so happy to move back here and start my working life.
As of late, I have been feeling that stress return. Crime is definitely starting to hit close to home. It is just starting to reach that point where the story of a serious crime is your friend telling you about their friend/ colleague/ family member. Last night my dad told us of a friend who was gyming at a private gym when guys burst in and held a gun to his temple and took the most random of goods. Last night’s front page story of one newspaper was of a man murdered at the N1 Rivonia on-ramp on Saturday night and all was taken was his cellphone. The fcking bastards didn’t even bother to take his wallet or car. This was the exact off-ramp where I was at 11pm on Sunday night, driving home, on my own, as always.
I am a very independent person, this means that I am often heading all over town at crazy hours to meet friends or on my way back from events. My folks stress about this but I am not prepared to change my love of life to suit some angry greedy youths. It does not help my stress levels either though, especially with these stories escalating, having had a smash-and-grab 10 minutes from my house, and my apartment block having had several car burglaries in our badly-lit isolated basement. I even am left thinking that anyone is able to “case my apartment” from the street and realise my coming-and-going times as well as whether I am alone or not.
While driving home last night I realised how crazy some tactics are that I and others have developed. Never pull into the driveway while waiting for the gate to open. Pull through the gate quickly while at the same time pushing the button to close the gate. Do not store gate remotes or keys in the car. Every time I park, even when in my basement, leave the cubbyhole open, take off the radio face, gearlock on etc. Do not stop at Stop Streets or Robots, but somehow maintain enough momentum to keep going while at the same time being able to stop should there be another car driving the other way. Carry my keys in a way that they could be used as a weapon. Be careful should you make any wealthy purchases at the shopping centre as someone might be watching you and follow you home. Replace your real engagement ring with something cheap and nasty. Someone lying in the middle of the road, looking like they have been knocked down, might be pretending so NEVER stop. One of my friends says at her work every single office has an alarm, and women are encouraged to lock themselves into their offices should they work afterhours & then call for an escort to lead them from their office to their car. Does anyone else think these are a bit ridiculous?
Also, last night while having dinner at my folks’ place, I was struck about how absurd we must be to foreigners, had they been listening to our conversation. We were involved in debates on whether one should have a safe or not, and store enough money in there to make some intruder happy. How much is enough – 5 grand, 10 grand, just 3 grand? Maybe even buy some costume jewellery to store in the safe to ‘trick them’. My folks don’t own a safe, or guns, or even have high walls with electric fencing. If some guy had to break in would he really believe that people in such a rich area could honestly be so chilled, and if he doesn’t, what will he do?! And the thought of that gets me fucking angry.
I do not care that I am some wealthier chick or whitey chick or anything of my socio-economic racial status. I am as South African as every other SA citizen – I have the ID number, the passport (& only 1 at that), pay my taxes, love my country and my screwed-up city etc. Where the hell is my president, at least appeasing our stress about the rising crime by speaking to us, let alone actually acting on eradicating it?! Or will I only get sympathy when I have been raped or a family member has been murdered.