Us and Them

15 02 2007

I was sent an obituary this week of a white South African historian, David Rattray, who was murdered recently. There was no apparent motive. It’s a depressingly familiar scenario – in excess of 2000 white farmers have been murdered in South Africa since 1994. David Rattray was a historian though and immensely popular within and outside South Africa. Aware that this was a high profile case the authorities “moved quickly” and there have been 2 arrests. I am not sure how this bodes for the image of the World Cup in 2010. I can imagine the criminal element is overjoyed at the potential bonanza. I suppose I should clear up a point here; I am not saying that there is no crime in Zimbabwe, of course there is and plenty of it too. The crime in Zimbabwe is rarely very violent i.e. fatal.

Some years ago a friend of mine was pulled out of her car at her parents gate one evening and the criminals made off with it. She got slapped and pushed into a ditch. In South Africa the consequences of car-jackings are frequently fatal. I did hear of a more serious attempt while attending a pre-New Year’s Eve lunch. A friend of a friend was recounting how some months previously she was attacked by her gardener’s son and she stupidly resisted. Things got serious as he tried to cut her throat with a bread knife (for some reason she regarded this as funny, no-one else did). She then gave up and he tied up both her and her son in a room that did not lock. They promptly untied each other and she called the quick reaction squad (private security company, the police in Zimbabwe rarely react never mind quickly) who arrested the miscreant on their way to the scene as he tried to climb over a wall – they thought he was behaving suspiciously. This may sound appallingly violent to most First World readers but the truth is it is rare and fatalities are extremely rare. You could say Zimbabwe is to South Africa as Canada is to the USA. And by the way NEVER call a Zimbabwean South African!  We may sound similar but THAT’S IT!

A friend of mine attended his niece’s wedding in Durban over Christmas. While he was there a cruise ship called into Durban and two mini bus loads of tourists went off to visit the renowned aquarium. Both buses were ripped off before they arrived at the aquarium. The ship’s captain vowed that they would definitely not be back. Yet Zimbabwe gets a much worse press than South Africa. Somehow state sponsored crime is more newsworthy, I suppose I am not too surprised.  But yes, with the declining economic situation in Zimbabwe the crime is becoming more and more common. We have just been ripped off at work of 2 electric pumps, a borehole pump, various tools and money. The thieves gained access to the storeroom and office from a brightly lit area and also attempted various other rooms. The 3 security guards we hired (past tense) had no idea how it happened! We have had an ongoing petty crime problem since we hired these guards. I leave you to draw the conclusion. The police were politely interested but admitted that they were overwhelmed. So, we will try another more “professional” organization. With a dog. I live in hope.

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