The Big South African Crime Post

This post won Runner-Up in the 2008 SA Blog Awards BEST POST category.

Wow. What a week.
We had the arbitration panel’s report on the Tevez affair, we had the new crime stats released in South Africa and I actually managed to play a game of football for the first time in almost three months, the last of which goes some way towards explaining the bruise on my arse. Some way, not by any means all.
It was inflicted by a stoutly-built Slavic dwarf. Seriously. I’m still not sure how he reached.

As for the Tevez scandal, I’m not going to start on here about that. First off, I’d have to try and explain it, which is going to be time-consuming and suitably subjective. Then, by the time I upload this, everything will all be out of date. And, by the time you read it in 2009, they’ll probably still be bickering over some minor legal technicality. It’s time that football authorities clamped down on the things that are ruining our beautiful game. Those things would include dodgy transfer deals, Sheffield wednesday and stocky Bulgarian midgets.

Which leaves us with the hot potato, the thorny apple, the… the… pokey fishcake – whatever – that is South Africa and crime. Woo.
OK. For starters – South Africa has a big problem with crime.
There. I said it. Whoever that was at the back who suggested I wouldn’t say it was wrong.
You people who deny that there’s a problem, get with the programme. There is. Believe it, because it’s true.
And some of it is on the increase. Although equally, some of it is on the decrease too.
The stats show that South Africa remains one of the most violent societies on earth – the figures are shocking. People pay their taxes and they are right to expect more to be done to reduce rates of crime in the country.

That said, while the stories in the newspapers may make grim reading, the majority of us carry on with our lives without being directly or personally affected by crime. According to the latest figures, 40 in every 100,000 people will be murdered in SA each year, but lest we forget, that still leaves 99,960 who won’t be. I’d love them to be better, but for me, those odds (equating to 2,500-1) are still pretty good. Let’s face it, would you really bet on a horse that was a 2,500-1 outsider and expect to win? No. Because that’s what odds are all about – indicating the probability of something actually occurring. Moreover, by being sensible and avoiding situations and places where you might put yourself in danger, you can lower that risk still further. You can’t do that with your horse.

There’s another more sinister side to this issue as well – race.
Because of the ongoing inequalities in many areas of South African life, there is a perception that the majority of crime victims are white.
Not true. By far the majority of crime victims are black. But the average white person is more likely to have a computer, internet access, education to be able to write to their local newspaper and so forth than their black counterpart. So we do hear an awful lot from them.
It’s just another way that the press exaggerates the public perception of crime in this country. Yes, the power of the press can be an important tool in bringing about change in society, but sadly, the current hysteria is counter-productive and the perception of the situation is actually far worse than the situation itself.

In addition, there really isn’t the need for the hysteria that the extremely vocal minority exhibit on online forums etc. Many of those seem to be ex-pat South Africans desperate to run their country down, perhaps in order to justify their decision to move away. That move was their decision and it’s their right to be allowed to make that choice. But while they tell the world about how dangerous South Africa is from their new homes thousands of miles away, we live here and we’d like to set the record straight.Do come to South Africa. Do behave sensibly as you would on holiday anywhere else in the world.
Don’t wave your iPod around in downtown Cape Town – it might get nicked. As it might in downtown New York, Amsterdam or Sydney.
Don’t wander round Nyanga on your own late at night. Or Harlem. Or the Manor Estate in Sheffield.
And really, don’t expect to be shot or mugged as you get off the plane – that’s just paranoia – you’ll be sadly disappointed and you’ll look proper stupid doing your ninja stealth moves along the air-bridge for no reason whatsoever.

I’d especially welcome comments on this post; from those in SA, those with an SA connection and those with a passing interest since they started reading this brilliant blog – what do you hear about SA in your country? Please take time to indicate which category (if any) you fall into – just for interest’s sake. 

Keep safe, wherever you are.

Comments from this post on (my old site) can be read here.


12 thoughts on “The Big South African Crime Post

  1. I am a Capetonian.

    Yes, we have a serious and unacceptable level of crime, especially violent crime. But, as you mentioned, I think there is a degree of hysteria in the media and from certain sectors of the population.

    When I was a child growing up in a working class coloured area the nightly gunshots were a familiar chorus. It was a rare night we didn’t hear any. It was common to hear and see large groups of gangsters going past our home. My brother was stabbed, nearly fatally, just a few metres from our home. My father and I (I was about 10 at the time) were attacked and stabbed.

    The white population was largely protected from the crime that the rest of us grew up with. I find that most black people (and I include all people of colour) are generally more philosophical about crime because we’ve had to live with it for far longer.

    Having said that, I have sympathy for any victim of crime, whatever their skin colour. No one should have to endure the terror of facing a knife or gun and fearing for their lives. It is simply unacceptable that South Africans have to endure the level and violent nature of crime that we do.

    As they say, bad news sells, so it is in the economic interests of the media to put crime at the forefront. I don’t have a problem with crime being reported but sometimes I am uncomfortable with the manner in which it is reported. The tabloids are particularly guilty of using inflammatory emotional language.

  2. I am about to leave the building.

    That would put me in the highest category for saying nasty things to justify leaving. So, in order to justify your preconceived notion, I will.

    Consider: 2500 to 1. Assume that my wife and I will have 3 children. 500 to one per annum that something will happen that will TRASH my life (one of my own nuclear family dies). Lets assume then that I will live for another 50 years or so. If we look at the accumulated risk over time, it’s about one in 10. A 10% chance that someone will ruin (part of) my life, and possibly all of it. Not so cool.

    Then, consider that life is not Russian Roulette (or horse racing). It’s the Lotto. Instead of winning the jackpot at 2500 to one, you may win one of the lesser prizes. Your wife or children may be raped, you may be terrorised in your home (often repeatedly), your space and trust in human nature may (and probably will) be violated repeatedly.

    And that’s not the end of it. You may drive into a drunk person who lurches onto a dark road and have to live with having killed someone. You may catch AIDS while helping out a car accident victim. God forbid you or your children should ever make a mistake that lands you in holding cell overnight, because you may get the death sentence via rectal injection.

    Granted, the final decision to go to Toronto came about because of politics, not crime, but maybe that’s just because I’m dumb and lucky.

    Excellent point about the predominant victims of crime, but I’m so sick of reading about race. Can’t we all just be people for a change?

  3. Doug, for the sake of Canada, you’re hopefully not going there to take up a job as a statistician. First, because the odds of 2500 to 1 are almost certainly biased to the detriment of people who aren’t in the demographic that can afford or consider moving to Canada, and second, because using these stats (in this way) to justify emigrating implies a 0% probability of these things happening in Canada (of course the odds there are less, but that’s not my point). Lastly, there’s a value trade-off – perhaps there are benefits to staying that outweigh the increased risk of doing so?

  4. I think that communities can also begin to form neighborhood watch organizations. This where groups people living in certain areas can put money together in order to pay for a security guard and surveillance camera in their area. If the community is poor the people can have a duty roster where they take turns to watch their space and communicate with the police if they see some criminal activities. This can also be applied to shops. People are afraid to go to some shops because they know that criminals are waiting for them. Neighborhood watch organizations have helped to reduce crime and would be useful in SA if many communities make use of them

  5. Delayed comment i know 🙂

    But an awesome post. Thanks for the chuckle.

    I sit in an office with numerous colleagues near by, and as each one reads something negative from news24, or (there preferred online news reader), they blast out their judgmental, naive responses to one another. The usual responses are:

    “OMG, What is this country coming too”
    “I mean, what world do we live in where people do that”
    “Its the ANC’s fault”

    And so on…

    Ignorant, gullible, sad. Believing all the propaganda. Its so disturbing.
    They are not even supporting the country with their bad energy. They fueling the negativity which the news strives on for its success. Its the only reason all this bad shit sells.

    Craig’s last blog post was: Hypnosis Fascination (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

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