What’s lurking in the shadows?: Babalwa Shota

2013-04-23 10:00

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SA’s women live an odd paradox. We have some of the most progressive laws for advancement in the world, but often there is fear laced into the fabric of living. Public and private spaces can be constructed on fragile foundations where too often property, hate and sexual crimes are risky cocktails, constructing fragile foundations for life. Four City Press staff members share how they negotiate fear and the joy

A few weeks ago, my usually level-headed friend fired a string of pings to my BBM.

When I eventually answered, she breathlessly told me that she had just chased three young men down the street who had bashed a brick through the TV room window in my house while she was reading in the bedroom.

They’d assumed no one was home and either had climbed over the electrified fence or taken the gate off the rail in order to gain entrance into the yard. I don’t know and, frankly, at that moment I didn’t care. I was too busy laughing at the image of my friend, bleached yellow hair lighting her up like a torch, chasing the three thugs.

It was only a few minutes later that it dawned on me that someone had tried to break into my house and steal items that are an accumulation of 15 years of hard work. These three people had been brazen enough to attempt this theft in broad daylight, without a vehicle and certainly no concern about an alarm going off.

The audacity of it all made me furious. How dare they think they can rip away my plasma screen off the wall and sell it for less than a third of what it cost me? How dare they think that they have a right to help themselves to items I had worked so long and so hard to own?

I don’t even care if it’s the R3 coffee mug.

The first person I called was a publicist friend who then posted the general description of the hooligans on our Facebook page and sent an email alert to other residents. Yes, the residents in my neighbourhood have a Facebook page and are on email.

We have a cellphone number for the police patrol van and our email group includes the local station commissioner, who is also a woman. We – especially the women – are vocal and active on these platforms.

Just a couple of weeks ago this social network connectivity helped apprehend a pervert who had been exposing himself to domestic workers as they walked little children on the street. He was also known to happily masturbate while looking at cleaners across the street.

On Wednesday night my publicist friend told me she had been to court to testify against the cowardly opportunists who had held a gun to her head and taken her car from the driveway one early morning.

The case was postponed, but she’s determined to see it to its conclusion. My friend tells me it’s time we – especially women – take our streets back. We are mobilising in my community because we want to swap being victims for being activists.

I will no longer be a passive observer, whining about incompetent police officers and the crime rate in this country. I choose to own my fear and do something about it.

It’s about damn time.

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