South African police use rubber bullets to disperse crowds in xenophobic violence, May 2008
Crime wasn’t the reason why we left South Africa to come and live in England. We emigrated primarily because Stephen works in Health and Safety and that profession is taken so much more seriously in countries such as UK, Australia or Dubai. We chose the UK because I am a British citizen.
When we decided to leave though, it was as if I allowed myself for the first time to see how bad things really were in South Africa. I have a theory that if you are in any perilous situation, you have to put up shields in order to maintain integrity. I use the word “perilous” for a reason. The situation could be a job that is destroying your soul, a marriage that is leaving you empty or continuing to live in a country where you could be murdered the next day. In order to get up every single morning and continue to live your life and maintain integrity at the same time, you need to filter out much of what is going on and in a manner of speaking, you shield your vision with blinkers.
Once I decided to leave, I allowed myself to see for the first time and to grieve.
I did not lose any of my direct family or friends but those closest to me lost three people to gunshot wounds to the head. Three people murdered in hijacking or robberies and three times I helped those closest to me put their broken lives back together. One person lost to a broken heart.
I was in a bank robbery and received no debriefing afterwards. It took me a year to acknowledge that a gun had been pointed at my head by a man who was very willing to use it if we did not let him escape.
My cousin was hijacked and her son taken when they stole the car. He was returned but the damage was done.
Men with guns held up my friend’s kids and her parents. Three children under six years old and two older people and they held guns to their heads. They stole cell phones and jewellery.
I was attacked whilst in my car and a simple smash-and-grab turned into something more as I instinctively held on to my belongings and would not let go even while the perpetrator punched me repeatedly in the face.
A cousin’s uncle was shot three times in the chest in his driveway and survived.
My friend’s sister was held up at gunpoint whilst my friend was giving me an art lesson. She left our house to go pick her sister up at the side of the road.
I took a day off work due to the stress of being broken into three times in one month. Valentine’s Day 2000. They came back a fourth time while I was inside the house and my dog saved my life.
Friends held up in bank robberies, restaurants, in their cars. Smash and grabs, burglaries. Not being able to escape it as the photograph of someone you know is plastered on the front page of the newspapers for months after their murder.
I don’t often speak about it but I know people want to know. I know people want to ask but they are too scared to do so and I am afraid I will unravel if I tell them. I don’t often succumb to triggers but today was just one of those days and it all came flowing out.
Just for this post, please ask if you have questions and I will answer them as best I can.
Come back tomorrow for a post on Louis Theroux’s Law and Disorder in Johannesburg.