Going against the flow

2008-03-06 00:00

Swimming against the emigration tide is 35-year-old Umhlanga resident Justin Foxton, founder of Stop Crime ... Say Hello, who returned a year ago after being in London for nearly six years. During that time, he fulfilled his “mission” to set up a UK wing of his successful South African experiential marketing company Comment.

Foxton, who trained and worked in the performing arts before getting involved in marketing, is co-author of buzz marketing bible Connected Marketing, and is apparently considered an authority on alternative marketing.

“I loved London but I wanted to come home. I missed it and I had friends and family here,” he said of his decision to return.

Stop Crime ... Say Hello — a bid to address crime by changing attitudes — was born in September. It’s founded on the premise that “big changes are brought about by small actions repeated often”.

“We’re not asking people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro,” says Foxton.

“At its lowest level, the idea is about getting out on the street and greeting people. You will find that 99,5% of people are great, law-abiding people.”

Foxton says that “getting out there” helps to prick the bubble of fear in which we live.

“I had no intention of getting into the crime side,” says Foxton, “but I realised that the experience I had garnered in the UK could be applied to the situation here. While corruption is not unique to South Africa and problems like load shedding could be addressed through collective action, violent crime is a serious dent in perceptions of the country.

“Everybody seemed desperate to do something, but didn’t know what.

“It’s clear that people are craving positivity,” he said, referring to the enthusiastic response he’s received to his fledgling website. Although he’s funding the concept himself, he reckons he’s already reached a listenership and readership of six million.

For Foxton the reason that economic crime tips over into violent crime is because South Africans have pent-up anger and bitterness which didn’t disappear because apartheid ended and the TRC happened.

“It exists in the hearts and mind of people. We need to think about how we respond to each other, how we address the bitterness.

“Are we using abusive language? Are we dignifying people? A lot of crime is revenge-motivated. I’m not justifying it, but I do understand it. Whites have their passports in their back pockets ready to head for Perth, but they share some responsibility for the frustration.”

Foxton believes that people should not return in spite of problems, but because of them.

“In our lifetime, we have an opportunity to leave a serious legacy if we stop whingeing and stop pointing fingers at the government.”

One of Foxton’s priorities is to take his ideas into schools where they can touch the hearts and minds of children.

•For more information and to order a free bumper sticker, visit www.scsh.co.za

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