Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

South Africa

Maybe somebody is dead & their money paid for my pap

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


  1. It’s interesting how much South Africa has come into our focus, and not for entirely positive reasons. For many ordinary people in the west, SA is still the glory child of Africa. It’s representative of their token act of anti-racism, their support of those against the apartheid that was before 1994, and their “African experience” where they can go and gawk at Africans, but still escape to “whiter” areas when they feel overwhelemed. But now we realize that something is eating SA, and that although the struggling appears to be over, that which we were told was to be stuggled for has not come…maybe….

  2. The media broke the South African story into nice bite sized chunks beginning-middle-end even though most intelligent people new that free elections were just the beginning of the process of building a freee South Africa.

    Now they tend to portray current problems as if they are the making of the ANC government when all that is happening is that that government is having to deal with the results of decades of injustice. Previous Apartheid governments used force to keep a lid on this issue. The ANC have to learn on the job, follow a steep learning curve whilst some western onlookers give one the impression that some are enjoying each misstep.