A friend mailed to to request some advice on whether or not her friend should stay in SA or not, being seriously concerned about crime since visiting South Africans living in Perth. Herewith my response:
I cannot argue on the point of crime. If someone feels that the (crime) risk of living in South Africa is not worth the general quality of life we have here, then that is something I feel other people should not interfere with. The way I feel about it, and I don’t expect other people to feel like this, is that South Africa needs people like you and I to be here and contribute if it is going to have any chance of sorting out its many problems – crime being the most critical of all. I am willing to risk, if in the wrong place at the wrong time, being a victim of crime if it means I get to live here with my friends and family and be part of what this country is fighting hard to become.
Crime to me is about vigilance – we need to know and respect the fact that it is a major problem in our society and learn to live with it. If it is something one cannot come to accept, then that person cannot stay in South Africa. If, however, you can accept that we are required to learn to live with crime – and all that implies – then I believe we can live a safe and happy life in South Africa.
What do I mean by learning to live with it – well, are you daydreaming at the robots at 2am, instead of being vigilant about what is around you? Are you aware of those two dodgy characters walking toward you – if you are, something as simple as stepping into a shopping centre might be all that’s required to scare them off. Are you careful not to be on the beach, concealed from view of everyone else at night, perhaps distracted by a friend or companion? These are simple things, but they can mean the difference between being a victim of crime and not.
Now let’s be clear that I do not for a second condone the crime situation in South Africa, but I do suggest that being as serious a problem as it is, we either need to accept it exists and learn to live with it – learn to be as safe and vigilant as possible – or, if we cannot or will not, then South Africa is not going to be worth it for you.
This is a question only you can answer and nobody can ever hold you to account for your choice. Is South Africa and being in South Africa the most important thing, or is the relative safety of another country with less of a crime problem than South Africa more important. You answer will decide whether you stay or whether you go.
Note: I included a copy of Steuart Pennington’s words on truth:
These are my truths (Steuart Pennington)
I have received so many mails recently regarding our current crises.
They force me to reflect on my own truths, rather than argue the merits of who did what.
These are my truths:
I am acutely aware of Africa’s problems and find them hard to defend.
I wasn’t aware that in black languages there is no word for “maintenance”.
I become angry when I read of the fracas in SA Cricket over selection.
I cannot defend the Judge Hlope debacle.
I become extremely impatient when I witness the hopeless incompetence of some in positions of authority.
I recoil with anguish when I visit the crèche in Soweto (which I have adopted) and see the plight of those living in poverty.
I am ashamed when I visit black schools to see how little they have.
I hate it when my friends refer to my compatriots with racist epithets.
I hurt when people, particularly the media, run this country down.
I am optimistic about our future.
I am proud of what this country has achieved over the past 14 years despite the contrary predictions of many.
I am learning that Africa is beginning to change for the better.
I am aware that English does not have a word that embodies ubuntu.
I love the warmth of African people and their ability to forgive.
I believe in our president’s and our governments resolve to deliver “a better life for all”.
I am in awe of the thousands of South Africans who toil, unsung, to help the less fortunate.
I am hopeful that Africa will have a better 21st Century that the previous five.
I pray everyday that I will remain proud of my country and that my actions will contribute to building a great nation.
And finally, I hope my optimism is firmly rooted in the reality of our progress and the goodwill of our people.