Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nobody is immune from crime in SA




There is nothing quite like having a knife at your throat to focus the mind. Last week on Tuesday evening, myself and my ten year old daughter were involved in what every South African dreads - an armed house robbery. We innocently set off from my home to visit friends for dinner, who live in Eddy Street, Bedfordview. I had my daughter and my friends’ two little boys in the car. The house is situated in a quiet cul-de-sac, and sadly, this particular home has been robbed a few times. In any event, I alighted from the vehicle, pressed the buzzer, announced myself, and got back into my car, waiting for the gate to slide open. At this point I must say that I have always prided myself on being extremely vigilant. In fact, I have been rather contemptuous of people in crime situations who have been completely unaware of who was behind them. At this point there was no vehicle behind me, and I drove into the driveway and switched off my ignition. Almost simultaneously, a man appeared at my window. Initially I thought that it was my friend's gardener, asking that I park in a different spot. Regrettably it was not. I realised this when a knife materialised at my throat and my hair was grabbed. Another man appeared out of nowhere and ran towards my friend at the main door, brandishing a gun. Once they had secured her husband inside, they unceremoniously marched us into the lounge and asked us to lie face down on the floor while they proceeded to ransack the house, having been joined by a few more men. We are not sure how many there were in total - probably about four or five. It was an exceptionally long hour, and the thoughts running through a person's mind are terrifying. I do not have to explain these thoughts to many South Africans - every second person knows them too well. We were nothing special that evening - just another statistic - just another robbery. What made this experience so incredibly torturous was having three young children directly involved. We escaped through the bathroom window, where they had locked us once they had finished. I do not believe that it was their intention to hurt us, however the occasional cocking of their guns left us in no doubt that they would take the necessary steps to ensure that we co-operated. So, this is the reality of what I read in incident reports that I receive on a weekly basis. The words I see written -"armed house robbery" cannot begin to accurately describe what actually took place. The truth is that cowardly men invaded a sanctuary, where the most basic freedom, to be at peace in your own home, was destroyed. The ugliness of this reality is a very dark colour. One of the greatest things that I appreciate in my life is independence and freedom. I think that the same applies for many of you. Anyone invading the privacy of our homes, ensures that we feel the enormity of the erosion of that fundamental freedom. It is an abnormal situation, and it has to stop. The fact that we were not hurt is something for which I shall be forever grateful. In fact, the thought crossed my mind that if I ever had to testify at their trial, I would give evidence in mitigation of their sentence - isn't that surreal? I also had the overwhelming sense that I wished I could have spoken to them to find out how they had fallen through the cracks, and why they had resorted to this crime. Having said that, it is no good to keep saying - well thank God we are ok, that's the main thing. Of course that is the main thing, but in the greater context, becoming blasé will eventually destroy our norms and values. It's like the frog who is popped into boiling water. The frog dies immediately. If, however, the frog is placed into lukewarm water which heats up after a long period of time, it can withstand the temperature at boiling point because it has become used to it. We shall not be placed in a position where we become used to this. Not now......not ever. The State is contractually bound to protect its citizens, and this is what we must now demand. Everyday we must chip away, until nobody dares to walk into another person's home with a gun. Certain things seem impossible to eradicate, and often the challenge is daunting. Take the Selebi case by way of example. Jackie Selebi and his cronies thought that they were untouchable. Admittedly it took an extremely driven individual to bring him down, and our courts played their role. That was the most admirable, hopeful verdict I've seen in a while. Only people can make a difference to their own circumstances. Becoming accustomed to a victim mentality will erode the fabric of our society and ultimately render all the hard work it has taken to build the South Africa that hosted the World cup useless. A friend of mine asked me a few days after the incident whether I would now consider leaving the country. My rather rude response was...are you mad? I'm not going anywhere. This is my home, and my beautiful country. The perpetrators of crime must leave. My attitude is that we must all triple our efforts, and escalate the issue of crime in our suburb in a united, forceful manner. I've learned from this nightmarish experience that it is not enough to say that Bedfordview is actually safe compared to other precincts of the same size. One home invasion is too many. Here's the thing: We have this Community Policing Forum which is an amazing platform from which to really make a difference. It has been gaining burgeoning support, but we require more energy, more input, involvement and assistance from you. Our priority has to be safety and security. It could have been any one of you on Tuesday night. We need visible patrollers who are residents, street captains and security companies, all working with the police. Our men in blue are stepping up to the plate, but they are limited. We, as a community need to start putting pressure on Government - there are a hundred ways to do this. When residents say that they don't have time to become involved, I cringe. I am a Director of a law firm running five branches, and an extremely hands on mom - I find the time. When I was lying on the floor...apart from praying, I kept thinking.....I should have worked harder to protect us from what was happening. But, I am one person, assisted by a handful of dedicated people. We need more assistance. If you think that you are doing enough by protecting your own home and family, you are sadly mistaken. This incident has concretised my view that we all have no choice but to become community oriented and united. The white population in our area is decidedly apathetic. I can confidently say this having worked for the community in a hands on capacity for the last seven years. The only time we are occasionally outraged is when incidents have a direct bearing on us. I include myself. Instead of seeking support from each other to eradicate problems, we complain and whine, and when things improve, we forget.....until the next time. Look at what we achieved during the world cup - there is no excuse. We can work together. At the Police forum just last week we hired a professional fundraiser to start strengthening the following three projects: Firstly protecting the children of Bedfordview by raising awareness and by implementing anti crime initiatives in the schools, secondly by harnessing the power of our staff in quadrupling the numbers at our Domestic Worker's Forum, and thirdly by taking our professional marketing and communication skills to a different level. Apart from joining hands to reduce crime, we shall also become a proactive, strong community.

Think about it. Now I shall provide you and your family with a great opportunity to do something immediate. Get committed by dressing up warmly and coming with all your friends and family to the Virgin Active lower field this coming Sunday at 7am. We are walking five, or if you would prefer ten kms through Bedfordview. The event is sponsored by CIB and ABI, and a huge amount of effort has gone into the organisation. Many of you may not know, but Elandsfontein forms part of the Bedfordview precinct. The Transnet School of Excellence which is an extremely poor school in the heart of Elandsfontein have purchased one hundred and seventeen T-shirts for their learners to participate in the walk. That is what community spirit is all about – we have a lot to learn.

The least that you can do is join the walk to show that we are taking back our streets, and that we are all on the same page. I'll be there with my daughter......thank God.

Marina Constas

Chairperson Bedfordview Community Police Forum

Director – BBM Inc Attorneys

Comments by Sonny

There is no mitigation in armed robbery!

These convicted robbers should get the death sentence for their crimes of violence!

It's time to eliminate criminals from society!

The SAPS are bound by the Constitution to protect the citizens and visitors in SA.

The crime campaign should start with Jackie Selebi being sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for Corruption!

No comments:

Post a Comment