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Non-violent, non-violent...

statistic, report, news, crime, on the decline, Johannesburg, South Africa, violent crimes, murder, cash-in-transit, heists, housebreaking, perpetrator’s, subject, fire-escape, Randburg, Craighall, Alcatraz,

Non-voilent, non-voilent…
By Tebogo Rameetse

I happened to catch a statistic report yesterday morning on the news about how seemingly crime was on the decline in Johannesburg and South Africa as a whole. Just as I was about to voice out my very eloquent protest to nobody in particular – something to do with a male cow and manure – the news reader proceeds to give a break-down, all about how while violent crimes like murder and cash-in-transit heists seem to have decreased, housebreaking seems to be on a steady rise. Granted I have never been a victim of either one of the so-called violent crimes, so I am so not qualified to offer a justifiable opinion. But house-breaking... Now, there’s a subject I know a lot about! I think it’s important at this point that I add this disclaimer: Not from the perpetrator’s point of view.

One early morning I come back from a hectic party with a friend to my sort of “posh” Randburg apartment and right away, we pass out on the couch. Phones left on the kitchen counter, wallets, shoes and keys scattered systematically all over the floor. We were maxed out. Come sunrise, we open our eyes to find evidence of the grossest violation to our basic human rights that we could have experienced at that point in our lives. Okay, maybe I exaggerate slightly. But it was still bad. Someone had entered my apartment through a bathroom window, helped themselves to our phones, wallets and shoes! To add insult to injury, we had reason to believe that the culprit had actually entered my bedroom, gone through my DVD collection, and actually sat down to watch “Spiderman” while we snoozed away!

In another more recent episode, my girlfriend was woken up in the early hours one Saturday morning by a phone call from her flatmate, informing her that their apartment had been broken into the night before. This proved to be one of the most bizarre incidents we had been exposed to. Her apartment, on the first floor of a Craighall block of flats, overhanging one of the main streets was practically inaccessible without a key. One would have to manoeuvre their way through Alcatraz-type locks and chains on the fire-escape to the building next door, then with Olympic standard gymnastic flips and flicks – nothing short of levitation - manage to land safely on the roof/balcony outside her window. Then with a further impressive display of gravity-defying skills make their way through the window to her bedroom, which supposedly had been left open out of sight of the street for the first time since… since. Then for the grand finale, our very agile criminal would have to again make their way back down the same way, however, this time carrying a DVD player, an amplifier and a suitcase full of clothes. And I’m talking about a huge suitcase full of clothes.

All of that is not so hard to believe though, given that some weeks before that, we were both witnesses to another strangely orchestrated break-in at her building. While out on street, we noticed a strange blue Cressida parked outside her building. Paying it very minimal attention, we make our way through the security gates into the building, and are nearly trampled by what seems to be three removal guys, one of them carrying a 74cm TV all by himself. The others look us in the eye and smile ever so charmingly and greet us on their way out of this elderly lady’s apartment. Suspecting something afoul, I knock on the door only to succeed in freaking out this lady even more. She had just been robbed of appliances and R3000 in cash. Cressida? Heard a tire squeak outside and that was the last of it.

And that’s not all!

About two weeks ago, a friend of mine, Busi, was sleeping in her room in a Northcliff apartment, when she felt a presence in her room. Opening her eyes, she found a man standing over her. She lay motionless for a while. The man moved around the room for a while, and then left.

However, the most weird incidents are not only restricted to night-time. Another friend of a friend of a friend - we’ll call her Xolile* - received a phonecall from a neighbour while she was at work a few days ago. The neighbour simply wanted to know why Xolile would move out in the middle of the month without even saying good-bye to her neighbours. When Xolile asserts that she is, in fact, not moving out, the neighbour then tells her that some men came into her apartment earlier that morning, and started moving furniture out. When the neighbour enquired about the activity, she was told that Xolile had found a new place.

The thing that bothers me most is that, although these crimes are classified as non-violent crimes by the powers that be, there is a common strain of gross violation that runs through each one. The criminals are getting bolder and their activities more disturbing by the day. I’m not a psychologist, so I cannot conduct a valid study of the effects that they had on us, and how we could have possibly been different people today, save those incidents. But I do know that for two weeks my girlfriend could not enter her room without me by her side, and for even longer, she could not touch the remainder of her clothes.

If that is not violence to the soul, mind and spirit, what will it take to have these crimes attended to in this country? How many more people have to go through similar things? What if the man who entered Busi’s room had not simply left? Would that crime merit more attention then?
Published: 2007-12-07
Author: Tebogo Rameetse

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