the muiz

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

LIVING IN FEAR

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

That quote from the much-respected Mandela is all well and good, but if you can conquer that fear by moving somewhere else, for your own safety, and for the sake of your child’s future...then I don’t see why you wouldn’t grab that opportunity.

Background:
We left South Africa at the end of 2012, for a variety of reasons (already explained in previous blog posts). However, the escalating crime rates in the country, and the alarming degree of violence and cruelty, especially towards women, children and animals, were a huge factor in my own decision not to raise our daughter in our so-called ‘home’ country.

Instead, we returned to Australia, to Sydney – a large city with many issues of its own, and of course crime is still a fact of life for people living here, as it is in cities anywhere in the world. I am definitely not saying Sydney or Australia are perfect, and the adjustment required after moving countries often make one doubt one’s original reasons for making the move.

In the last 6 months, my longing for family, friends and the beauty of South Africa has made me wonder if I was completely mad to leave. I also have a few friends who returned to South Africa after many years overseas, and they appear to be still in that ‘honeymoon’ phase – e.g. posting rave reviews of life in South Africa on facebook...again, making me feel a bit bleak about having left ‘all that’.

However, when I remind myself again of our gorgeous daughter’s future opportunities and safety, all other considerations fade away into mere background noise.  I am certainly not one to support one-dimensional evaluations of what is important in life. But with regard to NOT wanting to ‘live in fear’ anymore, I will let the statistics below speak for themselves in explaining where I would rather live...

These figures are from:
- the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); 
- South African police figures compiled by Crime Stats SA, which can be viewed in detail at http://www.crimestatssa.com; and 

Crime statistics: Murder
Nearly 16,000 people were murdered in South Africa (SA) in the twelve months between 2011/2012. Over 161,000 people have been murdered in SA since 2004 – in other words, since the majority, black, ANC government took over from the much-hated minority, white, ‘apartheid’ government.  That’s over 43 people murdered on average everyday in South Africa. Sound like a ‘dream come true’ for the people of this long troubled nation?

In Australia it’s less than 1, or roughly 1 murder every second day.

Ahh, you might say, but South Africa has more than double Australia’s population. (South Africa’s population was last recorded to be 50.6 million in 2011. Australia’s population has only recently reached 23 million) Okay, but the murder rate in South Africa is 31.8 per 100,000 people. The world average murder rate is 7.6 per 100,000 people. Australia’s murder rate: 1 per 100,000 people.

Crime statistics: Sexual Assault
Now here is a surprising one – SA recorded 64,419 sexual assaults in 2012. In Australia, the 2010–11 ABS survey estimated that 54,900 (0.3%) of Australians aged 18 years and over were the victims of at least one sexual assault in the previous 12 months prior to interview. 

This is a very high number. Taking into account the well known fact that not all sexual assaults are reported, especially in a country like South Africa – with an unpopular, inept and even corrupt police force... still doesn’t seem to fully explain why Australia’s sexual assault figures are so high (when adjusting for their population size in comparison to SA).

Crime statistics: Kidnapping
SA has alarming kidnapping figures - in 2012 there were 3,935. In Australia the most recent statistics showed a rate of 2.7 victims per 100,000 persons was recorded in 2010. Since the population that year was recorded as 22,342,000, this must mean about 83 kidnappings that year? Even doubling that figure, to attempt to reflect the population differences between the two countries, it’s still quite a huge difference.

Life expectancy:
The good news is that the life expectancy of an average South African has increased to 60 in 2012 from 54 in 2009, according to The Lancet Health Journal. Even better news (for us anyway) is that in Australia the average life expectancy is 81.

Now, comparing our specific little corner of South Africa with our new neighbourhood in Sydney –
We lived in Muizenberg, a beachside suburb in Cape Town, Western Cape province. A comparable suburb in Sydney might be somewhere like Bondi Beach in the Eastern suburbs – both have a mix of people from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds, and they are not the most affluent suburbs in their respective cities, yet also not struggling as much as some others.

More people were murdered in Nyanga (Western Cape) than anywhere else in SA – 233 in 2012.

Also, 47% of all drug related crime in SA occurs in the Western Cape.

Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape (a suburb very near to us in Muizenberg) reports more crime than any other police precinct in SA.

A survey conducted on the top 10 most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world found that Nyanga-Cape Town came second! (see ow.ly/kDdfj )

Our old neighbourhood, Muizenberg alone had 26 murders in 2012!

Compared with Bondi in Sydney, NSW – the whole Eastern suburbs area recorded 0 murders in 2012; the worst area in Sydney that year was Canterbury-Bankstown, with 8 murders; and in all of Australia there were 229.

I rest my case.

Some further crime statistics just to confuse things:
However, for the sake of fairness, I must include these rather surprising statistics too!!

In Muizenberg, sexual assaults in 2012: 78; whereas again in this one area, figures are apparently worse for Bondi/Eastern suburbs: 92 (the worst area in NSW was Newcastle: 446) – see my previous comments on this subject, above;

Muizenberg house burglaries in 2012: 649 (in all of SA: 245,113 that year!); while in Bondi (well, actually the whole Eastern suburbs, which is a much larger and more populous area than one suburb) there were 1,347 break-ins; and all of Australia: around 335,700 break-ins were recorded (according to the Federal government) in 2009-10.

WOW!!! That is much higher than South Africa’s figures, especially when you adjust for population sizes. I thought I was going mad, but I then saw elsewhere that Australia is said to have the second highest rate of household burglaries in the world! Very surprising indeed.

However, here’s the key difference: in SA, the burglaries are far more violent and scary – usually resulting in rape and murder of the occupants, not just simple theft, as people living in countries like Australia would picture (and therefore they would not be anywhere near as frightened of being ‘burgled’).

Finally, in Muizenberg car theft in 2012: 123 (all of SA: 59,120 in total for the same year);while for  Bondi/Eastern suburbs this was 567: and all of Australia had almost 60,000 cars stolen in 2011-12 - a rate of 164 vehicles a day (The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council study). Again, this is much higher than South Africa’s number when you adjust for population sizes.

I value personal safety much more than cars or household goods of course, so these strangely high figures do not influence my thoughts on which country is ‘safer’ overall. But still, who would have suspected that Australia had so much theft and sexual assault – so out of proportion to its population size?

Some important closing thoughts:
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to conclude by reminding everyone (including any family or friends who may be offended by my blog post) - that South Africa’s situation today is the result of its troubled and complex history.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained in a recent television interview (by Sir David Frost, broadcast on Al Jazeera English, Dec 2012), "We are a wounded people.” Tutu recalled painful testimonies he heard as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) hearings.

"Things could have been a great deal worse but I still have this sense that they could have been a great deal better," he said of South Africa's political transition in 1994.

Elsewhere, Tutu has been an outspoken critic of South Africa’s crime situation today, admonishing those who are robbing the ‘rainbow nation’ of its dreams and potential.

On the other hand, though, the causes of this sky-rocketing crime are obvious – I will let Tutu say what is frequently dismissed when I say it: "I think we have let the people down, in so far as you have an elite that has done very, very well for themselves, who have got quite quite rich, and the bulk of the people are still where they were, or sometimes worse off" (Frost interview, 2012).

So, while I have ‘voted with my feet’ and left South Africa, I am still painfully aware that most do not have this option, and many do not even want to leave a country they are very, very loyal to.

This blog post is intended to stir people up just enough to ask ‘what can we do about this?’ and ‘how can we ensure a brighter future for all South Africans?’ – since (this, and other of my blog posts would assert) uplifting all of ‘them’ is likely to improve everyone’s safety ...and turn a culture of fear into a culture of hope!

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