In the past year, cases of murder, sexual offences and robbery all increased and contributed to a total rise in the number of contact crimes (crimes against a person), which amounted to 621 282 crimes committed from April 2019 to March 2020.
These grotesque figures, released as part of the South African Police Service’s annual crime statistics report, are the reason we have learned how to live with fear in this country. The way we live is unnatural.
That constant thought at the back of your mind, that no matter the lengths you go to in order to protect yourself and your family, you are never really safe, and your turn will come, and then your next turn.
Petty instances of theft hardly even register on our emotional scale any more. Just last week, one of my colleagues had her handbag stolen while she was doing grocery shopping, and we all reacted with far less outrage about the crime than about the inconvenience this caused because she now has to replace her driver’s licence and ID.
It is a sign of societal trauma that we now need to exaggerate the cruelty of a crime so that people will take notice and care.
After the recent brutal farm murders of the Brand family from Hartswater, false accounts of the crime were circulated on social media with fictional details about how the family members were tortured before they were killed, as if what had happened to them was not horrifying enough.
Sometimes, when driving in my car and listening to the radio, or when I read the news and learn of another child who has been killed, another young woman who has been raped, another family living on a farm who have been attacked, I separate myself from this news by imagining that I can become less invested in the future of this country.
We must acknowledge that it is crime that has destroyed South Africa. The massive corruption and theft committed by politicians, civil servants and their corporate helpers.
The crimes committed by people against other people. The crimes committed by companies against their employees and shareholders. These are the things that have broken this country.
I look around me and the only thing that I find harder to understand than all the cruelty is how so many of us still choose to endure and to build.
For example, about 26-year-old Emmanuel Gumede, who lives near Buffelsdraai township in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal, and is working hard to save every cent he can toslowly grow his small broiler business into a viable operation, which he runs from his backyard.
We have no greater responsibility, as a society, than to make sure that there is a future for people like Gumede to look forward to.
But to achieve this we need to elect leaders who care at least as much about this country’s future as they do about their own present.