Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Releasing some anger

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.


TwoFlower said...

i know how you feel champs - i love our country but i just wish the crime wasn't so fucking bad!
i like to think that it is getting better or perhaps thats just me trying to be optimistic (or stupid depending on which way you look at it).

i won't be leaving this country anytime soon just because i will continue trying to see the good in it and continuously praying that nothing happens to my family and friends....

muddlepuddle said...


This is our reality girl.

To answer your question - No. You will not get sympathy from anyone other than people who have been in your situation before, should you get raped god forbid or someone close to you murdered. That is the sad truth. The people in this country that are actively fighting crime, have been victims. Not government.

And yes every citizen is at risk. In fact the truth is white people don't have it half as bad as black people do. It is a known fact that crimes comitted in the townshps and settlements are far more violent than anywhere else.

It is a sad situation but it is the way it is.

I know it might sound like a cop out, but every place (barring australia!!) has its problems.
Imagine living in the middle east and learning how to recognise a suicide bomber??Or how to get to a bomb shelter in record time and use an oxygen mask.

The world is fukt girly. Man has complicated it and money and greed are rotting this universe at its core.

Champagne Heathen said...

2F - It is a gorgeous country, with gorgeous people. The nature of my work means that my place is here, particularly based in this city, and I have no intentions of going anywhere. Optimism is great & to be admired & mainly be one's choice of outlook. But I am not in the mood for crime again escalating to ridiculous levels again. And if it does, I am perfectly at liberty to and will be continuing my bitching, hoping some solution will smack me in the face (rather than the butt of some gun).

Champagne Heathen said...

Yes but Muddle, we are the ones who accept or attempt to change this reality. And I do not believe it is a reality that should simply be accepted.

I cannot cope with the argument that people have it worse or their own problems. That does not make any of this right or acceptable.

My job often takes me into the middle of townships or to rural towns for weeks at a time. Am I then more at liberty to demand my right to security than the guy that works in Sandton? No, as we live in an equal society.

My particular street has seen security guards murdered & a car found with several big guns and 400 rounds of amo, as well as the usual car thefts and break ins. Does this "ghetto" character of my neighbourhood allow me more priviledge to deplore the entire city's situation?

It is a situation that should be recognised as more than "sad", but ridiculous and unacceptable.

The Middle East is at war. We are not. Why are we then experiencing similar levels of crime, terror, murder and rape?

"The world is fukt girly."....And a truth is, is that it does not have to be. But we are too scared and desensitised to realise this.

TwoFlower said...

champs - when you come up with a solution please let me know!

muddle - 'barring australia' but who in their right mind would want to go live in a sheep-infested-wannabe-south african country...???
sorry, i'm not a fan of australia because of the ex-pats who go live there and spend their days dissing us! grrr!

p.s. champs - these word verification things seem to get harder and harder to do each time! ha ha!

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I just don't know what to say! That is so $&%^ed up. I've just remembered how hard your brain has to work in SA to avoid crime.

I agree with you about Joburg now being a lot funkier than it was back in the mid to late nineties. Its definitely better than when I was there in '96.

My Mother, Sister, Grandmother, Aunt all live in Joburg and they go through exactly the same crime avoidance techniques every day.

Me I live in London. The greatest thing about London is very simple to descibe. It is the complete and utter relaxtion one feels when you climb into bed at the end of the day. In South Africa I used to lie in bed and stress about every little noise outside, now I just ignore it and go to bed, trust me you sleep a lot better in London!

The only real crime related stress in London is worrying about my family in Joburg!

Imagine a South Africa without crime, imagine paradise!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say that I agree wholeheartedly with you Champs.

The current crime situation is not acceptable!!! It is not as bad as anywhere else in the world!!! The sooner South Africans face this reality the sooner things will change. Most SOuth Africans just bloody accept the situation and tell others around the world that "its not that bad". In my book that is tantamount to being a South african traitor, you are failing your own country, failing your own family and allowing the death of South africans at the hands of murderers to continue.

20,000 murders in SA last year. Thats 54 a day people!

Anonymous said...

I love living here, but I know what you mean about crime being on the increase. At some restaurant in Fourways on Saturday night, a bunch of guys walked in and started firing their AK47s. Luckily no one was hurt. But what the fuck? There is no basic respect for life - which in a twisted way makes sense as well because if I lived in a 1 roomed shack with no running water, I might not see the point to life either.
I have lived in JHB all my life, and it's weird when you list all the defensive ways we live because for me, it's basically become completely subconscious for me. I have only felt the relief from this behaviour when I have been overseas...

Champagne Heathen said...

2F - I am doing my best to think something up, but feel free to suggest creative solutions.

Sorry about the word verification. I've also been denied by a few times today! Might have to get Jam's number verification thing.

Champagne Heathen said...

Dave, it was going so well. Crime really felt like it was on the decline. But this year people just seem to have gotten pissed off, violent, greedy & demanding. Maybe it's that people are sick of waiting for delivery by government. Or the realisation that the cops in certain areas are not as "on the ball" any longer. Or maybe its cos commercialism is hitting the poorer sectors. If you want the fashion trends, you have to steal for them.

And yes, maybe we should give those who have suffered and even been murdered because of crime some respect and justice, and start shouting a lot more about it.

Champagne Heathen said...

Jam - I heard some mention of that incident. And yet nothing seems reported in the media. Guess it just wasn't a dramatic enough story (sarcasm dripping with that statement)!

I have met so many people who live in screwed up circumstance yet have complete respect for themselves and for others.

And yes, it is when you travel overseas that you get some insight into the absurdity of our way of living here. When in France I remember being so grateful that I could stroll home on my own at 3am through the streets of my little town, feeling completely safe. It was incredible. And it was incredible that I was so awed by such a simple experience.

Dolce said...

Champers, come live in Slaapstad! The crime is there, but most okes just klap you one for your shoes instead of blowing your brains out.

Hey, and Dave, I've heard of a horde of recent incidences of petty crime in London...there is no escape I guess...but you're all right: it's not cool how random the violence is in proportion to the crime!

peanut said...

Hey Champs,
The Kitchen Bar incident (guys with AK's) was on Highveld stereo, IOL and news24.
Suppose it didn't get front page as the Rivonia off ramp shooting was worse.
Anyway, having discussed this with frinds, we agreed that yes, you do get crime in every part of the world, but you normally know which areas to avoid, or not to walk alone in etc. And incidents, when they do happen, are usually not as violent as here.

I don't care if my hand bag or car goes, they are only things. What i mind is being terrified of being randomly shot.

In Jozi it has become that we are not safe in our cars, homes, restaurants, parks or shopping centres.

And as a former crime victim, I'm sorry, but it is not at all about non-delivery by government. It is about greed.
I discovered that while tied up in my house staring at my hijacker's/robber's brand new trainers.

Shortypam said...

should you get raped or killed you will become another statistic in this country, none of the ministers will ever see this reality or why we live in fear because the live with 24hour police security and police escorts them wherever they go... i propose we kill a minister a month or maybe thier spouses or kids. i know thats harsh but something needs to be done... at least if thier friends start dissapearing they will take notice...

Anonymous said...

Peanut, very true, most crime is about greed, especially in first world countries like the UK.

A poor person might shoplift a loaf of bread, but there is no possible justification for a Cash-in-transit robbery on the grounds of poverty!

Revolving Credit said...

Agree with all, no comment as I get to worked up discussing!

Champagne Heathen said...

Dolce & Peanut - exactly. There is crime the world round. Yet Jo'burg suffers from an abnormal violence related to crimes. People are more than willing to give up their possessions, but we know it's not the way it works here. Why on earth not!?

Shorty - a little too dramatic for my liking & fueling the violence, but point taken.
We are meant to have mechanisms in place in our state to make serious statements to & demands on our ministers, who we elected or at least who represent us, to the point where they have to answer us. Meant to. And if we do, I think we need to find out what these are and starting working through these mechanisms. Otherwise, people will search out violent statements so, once again, fueling the violence & crime.

Dave - and especially when such cash-in-transits happen directly before Xmas holidays, which Jo'burgers affectionately laugh off by saying that they are "doing their Xmas shopping".

Rev - maybe I should reign in your great creativity to help come up with some plausible solution to some of this!

Shortypam said...

yes well i do tend to get a lil carried away but alot of ppl close to me have been hurt or even killed by criminals in this country and it jus makes me so mad when it seems nobody is doing anything about the situation... i cant carry on living in fear and i dont wana leave SA. its where i belong.

Peas on Toast said...

I really enjoyed this post Champs. I'm not originally from JHB, but I consider it home, and as a result have done the research involving what JHB was in the 90s.

You have a star on your forhead my girl, because through the grime and crime, you're doing quite a bit in line with Aids work. So you get to be proudly ZA and a porud-of ZA, if that makes sense.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Peas! Means a lot!! And what you said does make sense & made me grin.

And I really do hope that my AIDS work is getting through to people and changing systems. As many people say in this game: you just gotta keep your head down, do your small bit, believe it is changing things, cos if you don't & you keep getting lost in the big picture, you will go insane.