In yesterday’s Quick Links I post I mentioned briefly Kameelah’s suggestion that we need to redefine who is criminal and what is crime. Who are the real victims of crime, certainly not the people in the far off suburbs protected by electronic fences, security alarms and 24/7 patrols or even those driving around in cars. Seems like crime and race are unavoidable for huge sections of the population here. This story from this week’s Mail & Guardian speaks for itself. Crime – who commits it, why and who are the victims.
“You whites will never understand anything about living in the sand in a hok big enough for a dog. And you will never understand crime. What’s crime? Am I a criminal because I eat with robbed money? I don’t want to know how my two sons earn the R20, R30 or R100 they bring home most evenings. Of course they’ve stolen it; or maybe they’ve mugged somebody; maybe somebody was stabbed with a knife or screwdriver. Maybe somebody is dead now and their money paid for my pap tonight.”
Sure not everyone committing a crime is stealing 30 rand to eat. But having briefly lived in a space surrounded by extreme poverty, homeless adults and children, I feel no anger at whoever attempts to break into my home or rob me of my phone or wallet. I feel angry at the system and circumstances that underpin these daily crimes and put me at risk of my life, make me walk in fear, prevent me from the freedom to move outside after 8pm, not forgetting that many of the “criminals” themselves are living at risk of poverty, HIV/AIDS, other illnesses and yes are at risk of crime a hell of a lot more than I am.
Crime in Enkanini is rampant, says Nandipa: “I’ve been mugged at gunpoint three times; at night skollies have kicked down my shack’s door twice. I don’t know anybody living here who has not been robbed or mugged or raped or shot or stabbed. But it’s my home.”
Other residents describe Enkanini as a particularly lawless place, where the absence of the police means that anything goes. “This place is worse than other places because the criminals here aren’t scared. They know the cops can’t get to them because there are no roads. People don’t have phones