Monday, June 7, 2010

Q: "Is South Africa Unsafe?"

... This is the question I keep getting from people in Europe, especially just before I left for my last vacation a few weeks ago. My answer?

"It's not any more unsafe than any other country."

Sadly, this is not quite a convincing answer to those who pose the rather complicated question. However unbelievable, it is nevertheless the simple truth. I will stick to this answer and defend it with all my might. To try and explain my answer, below is a quick commentary piece to help.

I have lived in Cape Town, South Africa for an extended time when I was growing up. In the decade and a half, I only experienced one instance of crime (if you ignore the petty theft at school). While living in the affluent suburbs of Newlands - not too far from where former President Nelson Mandela's private residence was - we had a break-in. The thief tried to take our car radio but failed, instead destroyed the Toyota's plastic dash and then spent the rest of the night in the back seat smoking away.

When I moved in Belgium, the Capital of Europe, the home of the European Institutions and NATO, I was mugged on the fourth month in the center of town at the Grand Place. It wasn't pickpocketing but armed theft. Granted, it was some dumb teen Northern African twat with a pen knife, but still not worth too much effort to try stop. To be honest the main issue was that I was wearing winter boots and I couldn't sprint as fast as the little twerp, nor do I know the annoyingly many and small side streets there were.

I moved into downtown Brussels a few years ago and stayed there for over a year. I count about four times when I was nearly mugged outside my own door when opening the door to get back either after work or after a night out. Outside my own door?! But I managed to fight them off every time, thank goodness.

These were my experiences in the past two decades. I think it already paints quite a clear picture.

Finally, just think about it. In the past week, a gunman went to the Brussels Courts (Justice Palace) and shot a judge and a clerk. Also during this week, a cab driver in the UK decided to go on a shooting rampage killing about a dozen people.

Is it more unsafe in South Africa than anywhere else? No.

The key is to be vigilant and especially not try to be stupid. There is no need to go to dangerous areas as a tourist. There is no point. South Africa is big and interesting enough for you not have to go seek out danger to get a thrill. If you want a thrill, go on safari and piss of a lioness and get her to chase you. Otherwise, we have the tallest bungee jump in the world (200+ meters).

Always be vigilant when you are in an unfamiliar place. That's just plain logic. So I implore the press, stop sensationalising the crime rate in South Africa. It really isn't much better in the country you come from. Archbishop, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu made the same request to press recently.

Let's try to be fair and judge only on merit and deeds. OK?

Image Source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment

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