It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. The stories of crime in South Africa are so frequent, you actually have to enter into that state of denial the locals seem so good at if you are to survive this place. Psychologically, I mean. I came here and insisted it wasn’t as bad as people said. J & I spent hours slagging off the Whites in particular – It’s not nearly as bad as all that, we told our smug selves, They ought to get out of their cars and walk a bit. But as time has passed, I realise this is the superficial kind of statement newcomers say when they come to a country, the kind of easy statement you make about a place you don’t know based on a brief glance across the country. A week doesn’t go by without hearing about someone else whose husband was shot dead, whose best friend was beaten and raped, whose teacher was stabbed to death, or who was simply mugged and beaten and robbed. Before I came here, just like many others who love to loathe the white South Africans, I was sure that the only reason crime had become a topic of tittle tattle was because it was happening to the whites. But this is frankly bollocks. The crime affects everyone here, black, white, coloured, Indian (to go through the rainbow ) no matter whether they’re rich or poor. If you walk you’re a target, if you drive you’re a target. If you jog you’re a target. If you live in a condominium, hidden and locked away from the outside world, you’re a target. No one is free from the fear of crime.
If you don’t believe me – fearful, white European – try this for size. It’s a personal piece by a black South African, a man who, so I’m told, was a comrade in exile. Not a wallflower scared of his own shadow – but a freedom fighter. He writes here about his own experience of being attacked outside his own home.
And the point, it seems to me (even if you do insist on slagging off the whites), is that there is something very wrong & very worrying about living in a country in which so many people want to violently attack and assault others. Sometimes they want cash, they want sex, they want your phone, & sometimes they want nothing more than simply to attack (for no doubt a whole host of psychological reasons). If you don’t believe me, come and stay here a while. You’ll soon get the picture.
I feel some guilt in putting this up. South Africans might read this and feel I am letting the side down, that I’m giving their country yet more negative publicity. There is much that is good about the place, it is true, but the crime is outrageous. And South Africans should be outraged. All South Africans. There should, as a colleague said recently, be spontaneous demonstrations on the streets, calling for something to be done. There should be demands on the government to begin to publicly acknowledge and address what is going on here. But there seems to be nothing. It seems so quiet. So silenced. So censored, perhaps.