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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid