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 Then, by the time I upload this, everything will all be out of date.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 ballacorkish.net (my old site) can be read here.
 
 

 

Sport and Racism in South Africa…

I read with interest the Ruck & Maul column by Ashfak Mohamed in today’s Cape Times. Ashfak is a rugby fan who was at the SA v England game in Bloemfontein last Saturday.


Ashfak isn’t white. (There was a photo).


He described what we’ve all seen at rugby matches across South Africa, namely an almost complete absence of black and coloured fans in the crowd; an embarrassing and hostile silence through the first verse of the national anthem (which is sung in isiXhosa), followed by a bellowing of Die Stem (the Afrikaans verse which also used to be the national anthem of the “old” South Africa) and players of colour being racially abused for their mistakes on the pitch.
His citing of previous racism at matches in Bloemfontein for this overwhelming majority of white fans got me thinking. Also on Saturday was the ABSA Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns (that’s a soccer* game, folks). One wonders how many white fans were at that game? I would wager that it was fewer than blacks and coloureds in Bloem. But is that a problem? Well, obviously, it is a problem when racial abuse stops people from watching sport** – whatever their colour. But is that really the reason that these two games were attended by such completely different crowds?
I think it is only one part of the story.

According to southafrica.info, “Sport is the national religion. Transcending race, politics or language group, sport unites the country”

I laughed when I read that. Yes, this country could have gone down the road of civil war in 1994 and it didn’t, and for that everyone should be thankful. But saying that life is settled and the country is united in any form just because there’s no civil war is like saying that England did well at the rugby because they didn’t lose by, say, 100 points. Those claiming “racial harmony” are, to coin a cockney phrase, “having a larf”. This country is amongst the most divided in the world.

Insecurity, paranoia, resentment, retribution, disillusionment and distrust are plainly evident the way many South Africans live their daily lives. Those reading this will probably snort and dismiss this. “That’s not me.” they’ll say. I beg to differ.


The population here is divided into those who won’t openly admit to there being a problem, those who see the issues but don’t have a problem with them and the other 1% who want to sort things out but can’t overcome the apathy or engrained racist attitudes of the other 99%. Of course, 99% of the South Africans reading this think that they’re in that 1% – and that’s exactly the problem.

But back to sport.

Because of the unique history of this country, the lines of division run through every aspect of life. But perhaps the most public of these is sport. Well, that and politics, but no-one reads posts about politics. Sport is neatly divided in three in this country: Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. Of course, there are other sports played here, but those are the biggies. Rugby and cricket get the most press. They are the “white” sports. What distresses many of the rugby and cricket fans is that the official national sport of South Africa is… er… the other one. And that’s because the majority of the sporting population play football. Rugby and cricket come in very much second and third. How embarrassing.


And while there is a huge push to get more coloured and black players into the national teams for rugby and cricket to make the team more representative of the racial make-up of the country (often despite the fact that the players in question aren’t actually very good), there is no reciprocal push to get white players into the soccer team.

Ashfak suggests that beacuse the ANC is in power in the Free State, there must be a lot of black people living there and they should have been at the game. Nice big tarring brush you have there, sir.
But it seems to me that the major reason for the obvious racial divisions in South African sport is that for the vast majority of whites, soccer holds no interest and for the vast majority of blacks, rugby holds no interest. And as long as those few who want to watch and play a sport from “the other side” can, I don’t see a problem.


So Ashfak, while I agree with your comments regarding the Afrikaaners and their small-minded and right-wing attitudes, I think the major reason for the nearly all-white crowd last Saturday was really because they were the only ones actually interested.

*I hate this word. Obviously, I mean football, but that would just confuse everyone.
**or indeed doing anything.

Back to the future (sort of)

I found a web-based version of HG Wells’ infamous Time Machine (thanks Ender) which has allowed me to relive certain moments of my life over the last 4 years. Sadly for you, it also means that I can let you relive them too, and thus the slow and tedious task of putting all that archived material together into a W3C compliant, user-friendly format has begun. Or at least, has been thought about being begun.

In other news, friend of 6000 miles, dear Manto, is rather ill. Her doctor suggests, among other problems that she is suffering from severe anaemia. I can sympathise – it’s the damn mosquitoes – at the moment, each night is like a bloody feeding frenzy. It’s my belief that they’re draining everyone in South Africa of blood and then they’re going to take over the world. Possibly. Either that or they’re in cahoots with the SA National Blood Transfusion Service.
Although saying that, I very much doubt that the opportunity to save Manto’s life would attract many more devotees to their cause.
Anyway, a quick count here indicates that I’m currently sporting 31 bites of various sizes. I itch.
It amazes me that I have any blood left.
While getting the link for the Manto story, I came across this little gem. Astounding.
If I didn’t know differently, I’d guess that story came out of South Africa – it’s typically bizarre enough: “sharpened kite strings”, indeed…

Finally, I was interviewed last week by a British journalist working for an emigration newspaper. They’re going to do a story about me and my experiences since I moved out to Cape Town.

No-one will believe a word of it.

Guess who’s found a cure for AIDS now!

There is a terrible disease sweeping across Africa. OK – there are several of them, but this one is really nasty. The symptoms include false hope, political gain and setting HIV/AIDS programmes back immeasurably.
We’ve mentioned South Africa’s own dear Health Minister – Manto Tshabalala-Msimang – on this site on more than one occasion, including her support for the Germanic conman Mattias Rath and her advice that a diet of garlic, african potato, turnips, lemon juice and olive oil can cure HIV. (Incidentally, even dear Manto is unwell). We even chatted briefly about the Deputy President of the ANC and his belief that taking a shower after having sex with an HIV positive individual will prevent you being infected with the virus.
Thank heavens that these individuals aren’t in positions of power and responsibility, hey?
Hmm.

Anyway – it’s all over now. Step forward Yahya Jammeh (ja, ja…) – who “just happens” to be President of The Gambia. He’s sorted all our problems out by discovering that a herbal remedy and a good dose of prayer will rid your body of HIV. And yes, that includes removing its intergrated nucleic acid from every last one of your cells. Incredible. He treats people on Thursdays and claims he can cure them in 3 days. Which should make for a pretty good Saturday night out, assuming all goes well. Sky News interviewed him while he was actually doing the biz – a superb demonstration of multitasking and altogether fascinating stuff.

The thing is, I can see you laughing at these stories in your comfortable Western homes and offices. What you need to realise is the terrible truth is that people believe these claims, they stop taking their ARVs and then they die.
I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. The answers to curing HIV or the answers to the dubious methods of African politics.


Frankly, I’m just shocked that “Uncle Bob” Mugabe hasn’t got in on the act yet…

Worshipping at the altar of Ben

I’ve made a start on Ben Trovato’s latest compilation, Hits and Missives. Of course, it’s typically brilliant.
Interestingly, if you want the book, I’ve just noticed that according to that link, shopping with Exclusive Books “is 100% safe”.
Bit of a bold statement, isn’t it? One wonders exactly what that covers…?
Credit card fraud? Probably.
Loss of product during delivery? Probably.
Being gunned down by armed robbers who burst into your home while you were deciding between the latest Jeffrey Archer and Hannibal Rising? Perhaps not.
A little clarification wouldn’t go amiss.

Anyway, I digress. Often.
I enjoy Trovato’s no nonsense approach to topics and his irreverent sense of humour. Take the subject of his latest column in the Cape Times for Valentine’s week: wife beating.

Entry-level wife-beaters need to remember that spousal abuse is no longer the brutal sport it was when our parents were young. The application of minimal force through the use of smart slaps has become the feng shui of home-based violence.
The Japanese even have a name for it – they call it karate, the way of the empty hand – although they practice something else when it comes to killing whales.

Of course, ballacorkish.net would like to point out that any form of violence against women is entirely unjustifiable. Unless they really asked for it. (This category would include talking during the football or not having a suitably chilled beer ready for you upon your arrival home from work.)* But whatever your views on this tricky subject, I strongly suggest that you make time and effort to read more of Ben Trovato’s work. The man is clearly a genius.

The other things that was going to go into this post were the first photos of the work that began late last year on the Green Point Stadium for the 2010 World Cup.
However, they’re not in here because precisely bugger all has happened yet.
Maybe next time… (Ja right…)

* Yes, I’m joking…