A community unites

2013-11-16 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG residents turned out in their hundreds yesterday, despite the heavy rainfall, to take back the streets in an anti-crime awareness run following the rape of a city doctor earlier this week.

Dressed appropriately to support the “Red Sock Run”, and carrying red balloons, with a sharp blow of The Witness whistles the 600-strong crowd took to Villiers Drive, Clarendon, near where the young doctor was grabbed and dragged into bushes on Monday morning. She had stopped to tie her shoe lace when she was attacked.

Community outrage and support thereafter resulted in a meeting to devise an action plan for the safety of runners.

Run organiser Sam Hamman said at the start of the run that he was overwhelmed by the strong show of support, which was indicative of people “being sick and tired of crime”.

“All of you here today shows that we are taking a stand against what is not right. Despite the terrible weather, we are here to walk en masse to show that acts like rape are just not acceptable,” he said.

His wife, Robyn, said all runners concentrated on when on the road was completing their run. “She never got to do that. A simple goal was taken away. But today we are here to witness how amazing it is and what we can do if people can stand together.”

From babies in prams, to professional running teams and teenagers, it was clear that residents were not going to give up their neighbourhood easily.

Accountant Dylan Rawson said he was participating in the run to show his support for the doctor. “We need people to become aware of crime and that we all can make a difference together.”

Veteran sportsman Poobie Naidoo said this was not the first time a woman had been raped while out running, and it was about time the community stood together to make sure it didn’t happen again. “Women especially need to be able to run without having to look over their shoulder.”

Despite a hiccup with police, who closed down the run’s starting point, the Pot Belly bar, based on a liquor licence issue, the runners and walkers, some who finished the 4,65km route in 15 minutes, were in high spirits.

However, they were upset that the police had hijacked the positive community effort to stamp out crime for their own ends.

“They haven’t caught the rapist yet, but they can police a soft target at a time when they were meant to be here to render support to the community,” said one runner.

At Wednesday night’s community meeting organised by Clive and Margie Henderson, it was suggested that runners and walkers form groups and schedule their walks from strategic points to ensure their safety. Clive Henderson had discovered the distressed doctor on the road after her ordeal and raised the alarm for help.

The Witness has committed to this initiative and has already distributed 500 whistles to runners and walkers to use in emergencies. These were distributed at the community meeting and last night’s run.

The doctor, who is with family in Durban after her ordeal, is said to be still traumatised after the attack. Police have not been able to interview her yet. No arrests have been made and investigations continue.

• Red Sock Friday and its war cry of “ShooOoops” were launched in South Africa in April 2010. It is dedicated to making a difference, being passionate, inspiring others, staying positive, remembering friends and expressing yourself.

Proceeds from the sale of red socks — which the owners are expected to wear on Fridays — go towards a charity.

According to the “I wear red socks on Friday” Facebook page, Red Sock Friday has its origins in World War 2. South African Sidney Feinson and two friends, after having escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy following their capture during the siege of Tobruk, pledged to wear red socks as a gesture of friendship, unity and remembrance in memory of lost friends, comrades who had not escaped, and those who had fallen in battle.

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