My black male colleague had a gun to his head at 11am on Saturday morning at the Norwood ATM next to Nandoes. Broad busy daylight & he was being held up. He is still shaken. A woman in my street was held up by men who conducted battle maneuvers to get inside her garage, with her, her 2 children under 7, and her maid in the car. The man who leopard crawled under the gap of the garage door put a gun to her head, all to steal the few Rands in her wallet and her phone. Triggermap's story was the third crime story I heard about on Monday 26th February 2007, ie. yesterday.
Having a gun to your head it NOT NORMAL.
Nor should it be acceptable.
I wish to (again) put my two cents worth in about this whole crime situation in South Africa. (Well, more like R5 considering the length of today's post. Find some coffee.)
Dave put it well in one of his comments when he said that "Drop a frog in boiling water and it will jump straight out. Put a frog in water and then slowly continue increasing the temperature and it will stay in there until it has boiled to death. I use that analogy to describe why I think, as an expat who returns fairly regularly and keeps in touch with current affairs back home, I am entitled to say I believe standards have declined".
You do not know how bad (or good) you have it, until you take yourself out of the situation.
In 1999, I lived in America for six months. It was startling to go out and about in Boston, with the house left unlocked as we did not have a spare key for me. Or that staying at home alone did not even play a moment of havoc on my subconscious. The possibility of crime simply did not exist in this society.
In 2004 I headed off to a minute town in the south of France, and it was here that I really learnt how incredible life is, in a safe environment.
My first proper night out, wining it up heavily in a café, I asked the Irish owner how wise it was to walk home on my female own hours later. Another one of the patrons was very confused as to why I was even asking. But the Irishman had lived in SA, and knew well where my question came from – my ingrained SA fear, weariness and caution. He told me it was completely and utterly safe, that I did not have a worry in the world. And so I did walk (stumble). And so I was safe.
There are some areas in SA where you could maybe stroll alone. But it is not wise. “Why even put yourself at that risk” we respond to our bravado. But there in France there was NO RISK. Imagine. It was not in the mindset, or the legal and police reaction, for criminals to chance it.
Rape was a horrific unthinkable unlikely concept there in France, rather than here where we know it is a possibility.
For several months of my life I WALKED home at ANY hour, by myself or with others, back and forth and across this town, and NEVER did I fear for being followed, having my possessions stolen, or being attacked. I lived in another paradigm.
The fear generated from crime, which South Africans subconsciously store in us to the point that we no longer realise it is not normal or healthy, was nowhere to be found in my head for months. My mind was free. Let alone my physical self.
Can you imagine?!?! Unless you have lived in that situation, I don’t think that you actually can.
One night I sat explaining to my American mate that I was choosing to leave all of this first world safety (ok, yes, there were visa issues too) to return to a place where I did accept that the possibility of rape or violent crime could be committed against me and my family, let alone simple daily (often unnecessarily violent) offences. Crazily I am choosing to live back in a state of fear, awareness, and weariness. I do fear rape. Attack. Being hi jacked. Being mugged or burgled. My possessions are not necessarily always going to be mine.
This is not fair. It as plain and simple as that.
Crime adds a negative restrictive element to our lives in SA.
It is a universal right to not have this. Sure, that right is an ideal, but if our government subscribes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (let alone our constitution) then they have a responsibility to prioritise upholding their citizens’ rights to safety and freedom. This means we are allowed to demand this from our government.
Yes, South Africa is a developing country, not a developed country like France or the USA. But this means we are meant to be doing all we can to improve our nation, move it forward, to reach for First World standards. Crime is definitely holding us back. There are so many arguments claiming this. Therefore, our government as well as ourselves should be concerned in rectifying this as soon as possible.
And I do not believe all crime in this country is simply out of impoverished desperation. I can hear the rich organised criminal syndicates laughing at such statements of skirting politicians.
President Mbeki - why do you never open your mouth & say that we have a problem, that far too many of South Africa's people are living in fear, and that crime will be dealt with harshly?! Just at the very least acknowledge in what way all citizens seem to be equal - in our fear of where others' illegal activities will land us.
I could never deny that I love South Africa in so many ways. And that it is an incredible country. However, I fear that certain problems, unless forcefully met head on, will deteriorate its greatness.
And so I do not believe it is necessary to keep starting up initiatives to remind us of the incredible nature of our land and people. I think, rather, that more energy needs to go into figuring out how we can hold our government responsible, as well as fight against the mindset of lawlessness that is growing in this country. (Obviously, though, both types of initiatives can work side by side).
I seek means to solve this problem of crime. I hope to join in on the march on 10 March (thanks to efforts by VIRSA). I call for more policemen present and active, for the police to receive better salaries, and for them (and other civil servants!) to be dealt with harshly if they are found accepting bribes or intimidating the innocent. I hope to contribute to working against a land of lawlessness – No more driving through red robots. Not aiding corruption by slipping a cop a R100. Reporting crimes to the police to ensure their stats & reports are correct. Keeping up-to-date on developments, or lack thereof. Reading my community newspaper. Creating awareness. Applying the “broken window” theory of Guiliani’s, spoken about in The Tipping Point. I still seek further solutions. Any ideas and arguments are always welcome….
Winnie’s house was robbed recently. It already seems apparent that people are trying to say, but yes, it was inside job. That not to worry, we have not reached the terrible extent of strangers so brazenly hopping over this demi-god's wall & violating her personal space. AND no physical harm was caused. [Oh great. What a bonus.]
But theft should be extremely wrong. The very concept should not be in the general citizen’s mind if our country is close to being in a state of law. We should not be noticing the opportunities to commit crime, as we should believe straight from the subconscious start Crime Is Wrong and that There Will Be Serious Consequences. But while crime rules over our lives, we give allowances to such unhealthy behaviour and attitudes that were alive in the minds of those people who stole her jewels.
Will I leave SA because of the extent of crime?
And this is why;
We live in a world order that dictates that the globe is cut up in to ‘states’. Within each state, the people of that area buy into their own “Social Contract” about which John Locke and Hobbes philosophised. If the majority of South Africans decide they are content with the increasing crime, the deteriorating freedom, and what I believe to be an unhealthy amount of stress on our daily living and survival – then they accept this.
The majority have then chosen a social contract that I do not agree with, and it is up to me to react accordingly.
Incredibly luckily for me I have resources at hand to relocate to a country where they choose to not live like this. And I will, as I do not need to nor should I have to live under such fear. At the core of this all, I do not see a biological obligation (perhaps then a social one?) to stay and fight against people who are happy with how things are. I believe I have paid back my debt to my state, who assisted with my university education. I believe I have fought for change.
I do hope to never have it reach this stage, and for awhile longer I will work for it to not to. But if my fellow citizens and I continue to disagree, then I will seek out a better future elsewhere. With sadness.