It has taken me days to write this post… and as I write this I still feel unsure if I should publish it. However my words are building up inside me and I have to vent. I don’t like putting negativity out into the world and would prefer to write things of a positive nature but what I saw this week has led me to write the following. I apologise to those who will berate me for my views, know that although I write what I believe to be the truth, I also feel sense of disloyalty, because I honestly wish I didn’t feel this way.
On June 10, 2008, South Africa once again made Sky News. I watched in horror once again and once again I felt tears run down my face.
A horrific and tragic picture of the body of a young girl, just 12 years of age, covered in red foil with just her regulation school shoes peaking out the bottom. Her name was Emily Williams, who died instantly when the car her mother was driving her to school in was caught in a shootout. A bullet, which entered through the back windscreen, proved fatal when it struck this little girl whose life had only just begun. Toni Williams, the mother of this little girl described it as “instant”.
The reporter for Sky News Africa then goes to the townships and squatter camps showing how the poor are unable to surround themselves with electric fencing and armed security guards like the South African middle class and are therefore worst hit by crime. She interviews a young mother, Evelyn, who reported her missing daughter 3 times before the police responded and is now also left mourning her child. Her 7 year old daughter was raped and murdered.
As a mother I feel a great sadness for these woman who have had their children taken away from them in such a brutal way, I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like because even that leaves me devastated.
According to Sky, thousands in South Africa plan to march against crime. I have seen the frustration and rage of the South African people and crime has touched my own life personally but thankfully it never ended in a funeral. I support any effort there is to make our government sit up and take notice of what is happening in our country. It infuriates me to learn that some politicians in our current government claim that there is no crisis when it comes to crime in South Africa. What I found really eye opening was that Sky’s Africa Correspondent, Emma Hurd referred to South Africa as, “… one of the most dangerous places in the world outside a war zone…”
We are all shaking our heads wondering why crime is so high in South Africa, but the answer is simple, it’s poverty. South Africa was crippled due to it’s past and we knew that after the 1994 elections we would have to rebuild our country again under the new flag. Plans were instituted to uplift the living standards of the those previously disadvantaged with Affirmative Action, Employment Equity and BEE business deals, Educational Reforms, Labour Reforms and still 14 years later we seem to have made little progress. Why has our poverty line increased?
I believe a few factors which have kept us from joining the emerging markets of the world. Some believe AIDS has had a significant effect as many families are losing their breadwinners to this virus leaving them destitute. Some believe that the instability of Zimbabwe and some of our neighbouring countries have also added fuel to this fire. As South Africa was trying to uplift it’s own people it was faced with a steady influx of immigrants, many seeing South Africa as a land of opportunity or maybe safer than staying in their own countries. This has placed more pressure on our country’s own resources.
There are some of us who live in suburbia, our white picket fences are now solid walls with electric fencing on top, we have purchased blackout lights to see us through the times of load shedding, which may or may not return, and when we go to bed at night we punch a series of numbers into a keypad and leave our safety in the hands of a security company so that we can sleep peacefully. We have braai’s behind these walls, friends over for tea and our children can play outside under the warmth of the African sun. We raise our glasses of wine and joke, “another kak day in Africa hey?” and make snide comments eluding to those who have immigrated – how could they leave this!
I question what constitutes the ‘good life’? How free are we? I question what our sense of ‘normality’ has become. Do we continue to look at our little lives and say we are living well, or do we look at the bigger picture – at our government, their actions, rising poverty, the crime rate and what is been done about it.
I remember during my studies we learnt about what constituted a first, second and third world country. One had to look at certain sectors in a country namely Safety and Security,Public Health, Public Transportation, Education, Social Services and Infrastructure. At the time we were freshly into our new democracy and in that lecture we knew we could hardly be ‘First World’ but that we were a peripheral country, we were still falling somewhere inbetween and thankfully not ‘Third World’. In the last fourteen years have any of these sectors, which I have mentioned above, improved in South Africa?
- Do you feel safe and secure in your country?
- Do you use our Public Health System or are you on private medical aid?
- Do you use Public Transportation?
- Are your children attending solely goverment run schools?
- Are your needs been met with clean water, electricity and waste removal?
I have one or two yes’….. the rest are all no.
If I had to live like Evelyn, where I could not afford to live in a fortress and had to rely on an overstretched police force, would I still live in this country?
I may be what Emma Hurd referred to as, the ‘middle class’, living in my fortress with security guards, but I have to ask myself if I was Toni Williams just driving my daughter to school like every other normal school morning and have her ripped from me by crime then am I living the ‘good life’?
The drums of Africa will always beat in my heart but I may have to take that beat and make music with the rest of the world.