A friend of my mother’s was shot by an intruder last year. She was pottering around in her garden when the intruder killed her. She had probably got in their way. She was in her 60’s and posed no threat. None at all.
I heard about a guy who got home the other day to find two intruders in his house. They were holding his 12 year old son. He was armed and he shot at the intruder – the intruder shot him back and killed him in front of his son.
I could go on for ages telling you about the amount of people that I know that have been held up, shot or killed in South Africa. I couldn’t count the stories that I hear on a daily basis there are just too many.
- Around 5900 crimes are reported by the South African Police every day
- Crime statistics for the year ended April 2012 show there were 15 609 murders for the year, which equates to about 43 murders a day
- The world average for murder is 7.6 per 100 000 people. Murder in South Africa is 36.5 per 100 000
This isn’t the place for me to go into they history of apartheid and to tell you that although I (obviously) think this random killing and loss of life is abysmal, horrific and frightening, I kind of understand it.
I don’t condone violence but I do “get” that generations of people have grown up without basic human rights and have been subject to the most senseless violence themselves. It’s hard to value life when no value has been placed on your own life.
I can’t explain what it’s like living in a city like Johannesburg (or Pretoria) . I can’t explain the fear and the reality of these crime stats. They don’t just happen in “bad areas”, they don’t just happen to “other people”. This is the reality of life for many every day South Africans living in gated communities behind electric fencing with guns under their beds – ready to defend themselves. To protect their lives and the lives of their children.
- More than 64,000 sexual offences, including rape, were reported in South Africa in the year to April 2012,. The rape figures could be much higher, as research suggests that only a fraction of sexual assaults are reported.
- There are around 250,000 reported burglaries a year
Before we left South Africa we lived in a townhouse complex. One night we heard a shooting outside. Instead of locking the doors and ducking for cover we did what every one of our neighbours did – we ran outside to see what was happening. The only difference between us and our neighbours was that we were the ONLY couple standing outside without a gun. Every other person that stood with us that night (and there must have been around 8 families) was armed as we watched somebody chase someone else down the road shooting randomly into the dark.
My husband’s father had a weekly card game. He played with a group of suburban upper class business men who got together and played bad cards, ate gummy lollies and drank whiskey, As they entered the house of the person hosting the game they would hand in their guns. Just like swingers handed in their keys in porn movies of the 1970’s. Or so I’ve heard.
The reality of owning a gun and being prepared to use it is an everyday thing in South Africa.
The reality of being petrified of intruders is not uncommon either. It is the reason I left South Africa. It is the reason I was too frightened to return to South Africa for my own sister’s wedding many years ago. It is the reason I never attended my step-father’s funeral 3 years ago. I was just too scared to be in Johannesburg.
Violent crime is not discriminating.
I am not saying that Oscar Pistorius is innocent but I am saying that it’s very hard to comment on the fear he may have felt IF there was an intruder in his home. Imagine just for one second that he was scared – and that he killed the woman he loved by mistake.
“Cases of fatal shootings in South Africa based on mistaken identity include one in 2004, when a retired international rugby player took his teenage daughter for a thief and shot her dead as she was sneaking out of the family home at night to visit her boyfriend. In December last year a man in Johannesburg accidentally shot dead his young daughter after spotting an intruder downstairs in his house.”
It’s hard to judge this one from Australia.
When I hear people making jokes about shooting their partners “by mistake” just because it was dark I think how lucky these people are that they have never felt real terror for their lives just sitting at home or trying to sleep.
I know that feeling and it very nearly drove me insane.