Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A disillusioned patriot

I love our country - the diversity of its people, its unrivalled beauty, the fact that we are able to practice our respective religions unhindered. I cannot watch a documentary about our apartheid past without becoming really emotional - with sadness for all the lives lost or destroyed, but also with the most immense pride at everything we've overcome. I am so proud of the spirit of reconciliation (as opposed to revenge and violence) which characterised our revolution.

I don't understand the first thing about cricket, soccer or rugby, but, after asking everyone around me, "Who won that point?", I will leap about with demented happiness each time our respective teams play at major international events. I still choke back tears of pride, watching our teams sing our national anthem at World Cup events.

So, it is with reluctance that I am writing this post.

For the past two weeks, news headlines in our country have revealed shocking and devastating events. We are still reeling with shock at the brutality and lack of respect for life characterising the crimes perpetrated by our own people against one another.

And these are just the stories that made mainstream news headlines - one because of the horrifying savagery of the crime and the other because of the high profile nature of the accused.

The other day I picked up "The Voice", a community newspaper which reports on events in the Cape Flats (mainly on stories which do not reach the mainstream media). After reading stories about a father being killed for R1 (or some ridiculous amount like that), I hid the paper out of my kids' reach.

Most people I know have experienced crime to some extent - whether it's just a garden tap being ripped out of the ground and sold as scrap metal or more serious terrifying incidents.

We've been victims to theft (having our car broken into, goods stolen from our home etc ) so often that I cannot even keep count of the incidents - and that is no exaggeration. I've had a relative killed by shooting, one who was shot (and survived) and one who survived an attempted hijacking at the hands of two knife-wielding thugs.

We've had people trying to force their way into our home. Once, when I was pregnant with Aisha (3), Givemore - Mo's employee who works in our backyard - rushed inside saying that three men had been trying to force their way into our property. When he'd seen them, one had been trying to disable the security gate, the other was attempting to cut through a padlock of the door leading straight into our front room, and the third was busy breaking the garage door. When Givemore, who was arriving at work at the time, saw them, he yelled out loud, causing them to flee. I dread to think what would have happened had he come just a few minutes later, since the third guy had already managed to get a hole through the garage door, which would have allowed him entry into the yard and the house. I am filled with gratitude to the Almighty for placing such a brave and unselfish person at the right place at the right time.

Then there was the time, during the middle of the night, that some guys tried to force their way into the house, once again via the room with the padlocked door. Since the room has an inside door leading to the rest of the house, we were in immediate danger if they managed to get in. This inside door was closed, but unlocked. At one point, when the banging stopped, we had no idea whether they had managed to make their way into the room. We called the police (who are based about four blocks away), who promised they'd be there in a few minutes. It was about 12:15 am. We waited. And waited. We called again at 12:25 am. Again, we waited. That was about two years ago. We're still waiting.

Then, of course, there was this incident (which I'd prefer to forget).

Our latest incident happened at Canal Walk shopping mall on Saturday afternoon. Mo had just carried our food to our table (one of the long tables in McDonalds eating area), when his phone rang. After ending the call, he placed the phone in front of him. A few minutes later he realised that his phone was gone.

He headed straight for the security office, asking to see the security footage. They said that this was not possible since the camera footage at that spot belonged to McDonalds. So he and the security personnel rushed to McDonalds (aware that with every second wasted, the chances of catching the scumbags, were being diminished).

But they were not allowed to view the footage. Only McDonalds staff could do so. So the very cooperative McDonalds manager went inside to view the footage. The best she could do was to come and report to the mall security what and whom she had seen. Based on her description, the security officer then would have to radio his colleagues and describe to them what had been described to him. It was so preposterous - only my fury kept me from laughing out loud.

So McDonalds' manager described the following: Mo had placed his phone in front of him. We then proceeded to eat and chat, the way we do. At that point, three women got up from the neighbouring round tables and came to stand behind us. They appeared to be talking to the people at the long table behind us. While Mo chatted to us, one of them made her first attempt at taking the phone, but failed because the phone was too close to him. It was while he was listening to me chattering away that her friend positioned herself so as to block her actions from my view. At that point she succeeded in taking the phone. They were very very smooth.

We were informed that this happens often. These people would sit around watching people who were distracted - people like us who have many kids keeping them busy. They then move in as a group, snatching phones and handbags.

Mo was told to report it to Milnerton police. He'll probably never get his phone back, but these people need to be stopped. And the only description we have of these vile people are that they are "three plump black women - one with an orange top, one with a black top, and one dressed in white". Very helpful.

Mo asked for a printout of the images so that we could pass it on to the security offices of various malls (including that of Canal Walk itself, since they don't have access to the footage). These women had obviously done this before and would definitely do it again if not stopped. The response was that once the matter was reported, they could give it to us - AT OUR EXPENSE. Are they not interested in stopping people such as these from doing this to anyone else?

I know this was a minor incident compared to others happening around the country - or even compared to other incidents which we, ourselves, have experienced. But the feeling of frustration, helplessness and fury still cannot be avoided. And yes, I'm ashamed to admit - I've been battling intense feelings of hatred for these individuals. I hide this from the kids, but Nuha (8) kept on asking if Allah/God would punish these bad guys. I don't know how to respond. Despite the fact that stealing is a sin, how can I make such promises? So, I tell her that what those people did was bad and that their fate be left in God/Allah's hands. We should instead focus on how lucky we are that nobody got hurt in the commission of this crime. I'm not directing this gratitude at these awful people, but at God, who has thus far kept us protected.

The phone itself was VERY expensive, but, as is the case with all of the gadgets which were stolen from us over the years, the most significant loss is that of the family pictures and memorable moments captured. Mo, however, has also lost important notes which he'd recorded in meetings at work - I could not resist saying, " I told you so" , since I don't think that people are lining up to steal good old-fashioned notebooks, which, in my humble opinion, are therefore the best places in which to jot down one's valuable notes. But that is just my own old-fashioned opinion - and beside the point.

So, as I watch the developments in this morning's high profile matter, I say a prayer for the victims of crime and their families everywhere.

I pray that hearts filled with hatred and rage, are softened with love, tolerance and empathy. That respect for the lives, property and the dignity of others are as important to us as our own.

And I pray for the Almighty to keep us and our families safe from harm. إن شاء الله


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