South Africa's Criminal Statistics

2015-09-30 14:34

So far I have survived two armed robberies. Physically that is. I have been followed from my office and had guns held to my head. I have been pushed around and intimidated into compliance. I have handed my hard earned possessions over, and I was grateful for the privilege of being allowed to do so. Because the alternative was so much worse. And nothing sharpens one’s focus and perspective like being a finger twitch away from death does.

The South African crime statistics released yesterday are cold. As statistics are. They might tell of a shameful increase in violence, but they don’t tell the story of broken lives and broken spirits. They don’t hint that the stress of the attacks will make you sick, will strain marriages and give children nightmares. They don’t tell of closed businesses and the painful rebuilding of lives because sometimes too much perspective is dangerous and debilitating. They are silent as to how it robs you of all joy and makes colours fade, so that happiness and sadness take on the very same hue. They are merely numbers on a page that pretends that violent crime can be discussed without emotion.

Exactly two years ago my life changed. A gun was placed at my head and my world dimmed. Three months later it happened again. After the first incident I pretended I was fine and I was strong and I carried on as though this was the normal fate for all South Africans. Which is sad in of itself. After the second incident I stumbled and I was unable to pretend. The psychologist I went to called it a complex trauma. Our government calls it statistics.

It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the fact that we live in a country where the tsunami of crime threatens to drown us all. It’s about the fact that we live in a country where we need to fend for ourselves because there is no one else who is prepared to do so. We live in country where there is so much corruption at every level of society that we know that our missing watch doesn’t count. So long as we have survived in order to buy another.

In 2010 I walked through Hillbrow. I hadn’t been there for many years but with a with a Soccer World Cup game being hosted at the famous Ellis Park Stadium, we were forced to park in the shadow of the suburb’s buildings. I recall so vividly walking through the streets and wondering how it was possible to feel so safe in an area that was a no-go a few weeks prior. Of course it meant that if our government wanted to they could make our streets secure. It simply wasn’t a priority. And I became angry because it meant that we would be fine and we would be safe until such time as our visitors boarded their planes to fly back to their homes. And that wasn’t right.

I have little doubt that many crimes are reported for insurance purposes only. Because without a case number there is no chance of a claim being settled. I wonder what percentage of people hold out any hope that a crime will be solved and that their possessions will be recovered. Those are the statistics that I would like to see. And these are the statistics that might tell the real story.

I also have little doubt that we have many dedicated and committed crime enforcement officials in our country. People who wake up every morning and place themselves at risk for all our safety. And I have little doubt that deep down our government would like crime not to rip our lives apart. But in the meantime the shameful rising crime statistics tell us of a Government who might well care in theory, but very clearly not well enough.

Two years after my incidents I have begun to recover. I don’t always clench my panic button when I enter my driveway and there are times that I forget to look behind me to make sure that I am not being followed into my home. And loud noises no longer bring me to my knees. There are even times that I am grateful for the journey that I was forced on, but I still wonder what would have been if I wasn’t.

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