News / Africa

Many South Africans Live in Constant Fear of Crime

Muldersdrift, now suffering from a high crime rate, is home to a large hospitality industry that caters to neighboring Johannesburg and Pretoria citizens coming there for functions or weddings. (Photo: VOA/Solene Honorine)
Muldersdrift, now suffering from a high crime rate, is home to a large hospitality industry that caters to neighboring Johannesburg and Pretoria citizens coming there for functions or weddings. (Photo: VOA/Solene Honorine)
Solenn Honorine
South Africa is a very violent country with a murder rate four times the global average. The current murder case against Olympian Oscar Pistorius has touched a nerve. His claims that he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, when he mistook her for a burglar does not sound far fetched to some middle class South Africans. In a highly economically unequal country - robberies can quickly turn violent, leading to extreme measures by people wanting to secure their homes.  

At noon on a Saturday in Muldersdrift - a rural community outside Johannesburg - which has been hit by a wave of violence in the past few months, two dozen residents from Clinic Road, a quiet place in the gentle hills east of Johannesburg, have gathered at the Frog & Toad, the local pub. The occasion? A neighborly braai as South Africans call a barbecue.

Each newcomer piles on the table his contribution of thick sausages to throw on the grill. The conversation rolls onto everyday topics for this farming community: Dean got bitten by a snake yesterday, Vanessa's mare is finally pregnant, and what is new in terms of farm attacks?

“We haven't had a braai in about three years I think," Cochrane, one of the participants, explains. "It's just to find normal. You know, meeting somebody above a dead body, it's not the way to deal with your neighbor, if you know what I'm saying! It sounds horrific, doesn't it? But it's true?”

In the past six months, three people have been killed on Clinic Road, including a 13-year-old girl, and residents can recall over a dozen violent, albeit non-lethal, robberies or highjacks. This on a road that counts only 27 properties, mostly small cattle farms.

Gael Bagley, who manages a horse farm down the road, was the victim of an attack six months ago.

“I was just having a drink on a Friday evening. I got up to leave, and as I open the door this guy ran in and he pushed me out of the way. And the gun went off," Bagley recalls. "I saw the spare room was open, and I ran in there and I locked myself in. They basically stole silly stuff: two laptops, two phones, an iPad. When I came out, Ann was lying on the floor, and then next thing Dean walked in and collapsed. He had been shot as well."  

Bagley says Dean was shot sort of through his butt, and the bullet is still sitting on his hip. Ann's bullet is in her spine, she was paralyzed for four days. But she's fine now, she's walking.

"And Dean got a colostomy bag, which they're gonna reverse in the next couple of weeks so... that should be better,” Bagley adds.

Charmain Cochrane, 20, recalls two attacks in her house when she was a teenager.

“It's not something that you can take yourself apart from. It happens to everybody here," she notes. "And we were lucky in the sense that we didn't get shot or raped, it's one of those lucky things. We, in a way, had a very good farm attack. It was a good one. It was gentle, it was nice”.

But residents say the attacks on Clinic Road have turned shockingly violent in the past few months.

“They used to come in and they'd sort of say: “shush, sit down”... and they didn't shoot you. They might smack you around a bit, but now they... they shoot to kill,” Bagley says. “They're not even stealing stuff, they're just shooting. It's almost like an act of war, it's terrorism! Because if it was economically based, they would wait till you're out and rob your house, wouldn't they? So, the fact that they're waiting for you to come home, it means it's intimidation."

The South African police have arrested five men linked to murders in Muldersdrift. Three of them have been connected to 14 different attacks. Authorities say, despite the violence, the motive seems purely for economic gain - even though what they took was relatively small such as cell phones.

But few Clinic Road residents can afford to pack up and leave their street's danger. As the crime rate shoots up, their properties' values dive down. Nikki Schimansky, whose husband's family has lived here for more than 30 years, says that there is no solution and no security system safe enough.

“Maybe six years ago it started to be a problem. The first thing we did was to get big dogs," Shimansky explains. "Then we put up security gates inside the house to close off the bedrooms. … then we put up security lights; we got an alarm system installed connected to a security company, with a panic button. … My husband has a gun, it's a .38 special. It is locked in the safe during the day, but at night, when we go to bed, the gun comes out and it's with him, next to the bed. ...It really is terrifying living here. You know, we feel like prisoners in our own homes”.

Since January, police have beefed up their presence in Muldersdrift - adding more vehicles on the streets, a dog and an equestrian unit. Residents have welcomed the efforts, but they say they still do not feel safe.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robocop
February 22, 2013 10:44 AM
Guys take heed the writing is on the wall. No good locking your firearm up in the day, carry it concealed. In this way you have a chance, locked in the safe, no chance. The Police cannot be everywhere at once. The perps know this and so do the Police, including the Minister of Police who has a retinue of bodyguards.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More