living in South Africa: crime and police

April 7, 2008

I had a couple of experiences over the last few days which got me thinking about what it mean to live in South Africa. So I think I’ll be blogging about this over the next few days. I live in Kameeldrif, it’s on the North-Eastern side of Pretoria, at the moment consisting mostly of plots ranging between 1 and 200 hectar over an area of about 15km East of the N1 North highway, and 30km North of Zambezi road (the Pretoria Cullinan road).

Kameeldrif made it into the news a few times over the past weeks, but not in the way we would have liked to make it into the news. It would seem like organized burglaries moves around the city in… well, in an organized way. This mean that for a few months a certain area will have a lot of problems, and then, I guess when they have fortifies their security enough, whoever is doing this moves on to another area. I guess I could be wrong in my analysis, but this is how I see it, and I’ve heard others make the same observation. It seem to be Kameeldrif’s turn.

It started a few weeks ago, with armed robberies at some plots, and in the last two weeks it has gotten really bad, with an armed robbery about every two days, a couple of people being shot, some killed, a woman raped in front of her child (and this happening inside a security complex near Roodeplaat dam) and many people traumatized. I had to talk to some of the kids after one of these incidents two weeks ago.

On Friday at about 00:30 myself and Handré was coming back from a 21st. When we got of the N1 at Zambezi, we saw a guy walking beside the street, I remember Handré asking why I think this guy was walking there. We saw a car standing beside the road on the Western direction of Zembezi. Next moment we heard a woman screaming, and then a taser going of again and again. We turned around, and saw people fighting in the road, as Handré drove up to them, I opened the door, not quite knowing what we’ll do, but the someone ran away when we approached, seeing that we intend to stop, and we picked up the woman.

Turns out it was her husband we saw walking, for some reason he was mad at her, and then stopped the car, and left her beside the road, and before he was 150m away someone tried to steal her handbag. Just after we again stopped at her car (we first drove away), someone elkse stopped, he was from the police, but was off duty. He looked for the thief, but he was gone. Then there was a whole mess-up with the drunk husband, and at some point the tow-in guy stopped. When he heard what happened he called the police. Within two minutes the police was on the scene.

This is what I think I want to say today. A lot of negative stories was spread about the police in the past, stopries of how they never arrive at a scene etc. I’ve experiences this myself a few years ago after a house I was watching over the holidays got robbed. But on Friday night, and from what I hear from the people in our community over the past weeks, the police is really fast in responding and helping. So, for all of you in the SAPS, thumb-up, and thanx for the things you are doing for us!

Well, I guess crime is part of the reality of living in South Africa. But my experience of the police is getting really positive. And do we help? Maybe it was stupid to actually turn around and stop at a crime scene on Friday, but how could we not stop when hearing a woman scream, knowing that something must be wrong? And so many others actually also stopped on Friday night. I hope communities are starting to look after each other again, or maybe it’s just the community in Kameeldrif.

Well, I’ll continue with some more thoughts and stories tomorrow


2 Responses to “living in South Africa: crime and police”

  1. […] idea that I find very important as well, therefore the subtitle of this blog, and posts like these (Living in South Africa 1 and 2). This was also why I’ve been saying from time to time that we need to figure out what […]

  2. Louis Stoltz Says:

    The death penalty.

    I received an invitation to join a petition to bring back the death penalty. The option to participate in the termination of a human life. Big task!

    I guess one could argue that it may be my social responsibility to participate in such a petition, do what I can to remove the threat to our children from the street. Get them before they get me. In this society of fear it is understandable that we could start thinking of such radical solutions to solve such severe problems.

    My wife and I lived in Durban for two years and got the opportunity to really explore that beautiful city. We lived in Berea which is reasonably close to downtown and quite interesting and gritty as a result. My wife is an artist that likes to use everyday people as her subject matter, so we would drive around the city taking pictures of people and places. As with most cities in South Africa there are multitudes of street children waiting for handouts at every street corner. They would break your heart with there injured eyes and convince you to give them the two rand change laying around in your car. This would appease your conscience for a little while and you could drive off happy in the knowledge that you are a descent human being. If you were to drive past that same intersection on a regular basis and get those same children come up to your window every time – you get annoyed and wind your window up and just stare straight ahead, pretending they do not exist. What if that child gets to be a teenager with facial hair and muscular hands, does he frighten you now? Is he the face of danger?
    After driving past just such an intersection many times and going through the same emotions that most people, with something to lose, go through we started noticing something interesting. These kids work in groups. Some are standing at the intersection begging and others are sitting next to the road under a tree sniffing glue. Often there would be a group of adults nearby drinking. These kids start sniffing glue before they learn to walk. They are beaten and raped by adults and older children. Are you surprised that they do not have the same moral values as you or I? Does right and wrong have the same meaning in their life as it does in yours? Does their life have the same value to them as yours do to you. Does your life have the same value to them as theirs do to you? That is the important question, isn’t it?
    When you wake up in your warm bed every morning and you get into your SUV to drive to your office to earn your ridiculous salary. Do you spare a thought for their lives? Do you attach any value to whether they live or die today? How then can you expect them to value your life or the life of your children? Maybe they value a little respite from their everyday hell more than they value your inconsequential life.
    We have been raised in our safe suburbs with such conviction of what is right and wrong. Yet, our human history has consistantly plundered and killed to achieve our social and economic goals. We created this pacifist society that seems to be working well for the majority of us. We did not however include everyone in this paradigm shift, some were left out in the cold to fend for themselves. When are we going to start accepting responsibility for the world that we involuntarily created. When will we stop merely appeasing our conscience with a R20 donation on Sunday at church. Maybe instead of waiting for these forgotten few to grow up damaged and follow the inevitable path to crime and violence we could intervene earlier and give them a life worth living.
    Every time you pay off a corrupt official to get out of a speeding ticket or to secure that government contract, every time you choose not to participate in mass protest against a corrupt system, every time you choose to not vote, you choose to uphold a corrupt society that favours only a few. If we choose to uphold such a society you will always be in a fragile state of fortune.
    Why not try to build a society that takes care of all her children. So that all her children would take care of her.

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