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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora