‘Thank goodness no one was hurt’

Hendri Pelser

Hendri Pelser

‘Thank goodness no one was hurt,” has been the general response to a recent break-in.

During the last burglary a few years ago the default response was: “What did they take?”

The police’s response also spoke volumes: while the men in blue were on the scene within 30 minutes of being called, they filled in the case file forms very quickly. They wanted to get to the murder a few blocks away.

There, a burglary had turned into a robbery – and then a murder.

So, thank goodness no one was hurt, as the thugs broke into the house while my family was asleep.

The footprints and fingerprints left behind leave little doubt that the burglars had a child in their midst.

Maybe someone will write the South African equivalent of Oliver Twist at some stage. The lead character will probably be an Aids orphan, befriended by a caring older mentor who is able to put food on the table and clothes on his back.

In return, all he has to do is crawl through broken windows and snatch a few items.

At some stage though, the young child will probably be shot as well. The young burglar will probably end up in a pauper’s grave.

Crime is the only way out of the vicious poverty of South Africa’s townships for many. There is usually an escalation in the type of crime, as young men hone their skills and want to increase their booty.

In the end we have a whole new generation of thugs who do not think twice about shooting a homeowner or taking a hot iron to their feet to find out where valuables and guns are hidden.

These young men – and women – have nothing and will never escape their plight. Laptops, televisions and firearms are traded for food, shelter and quick, drunken thrills.

While these thugs are potentially dangerous to the people they rob, they are exceptionally hazardous to the country.

They do not add value. They do not build. They merely destroy and take what they can.

South Africa has failed its poor. South Africa’s political leadership is directly responsible for the rapid increase in crime over the past couple of decades.

The police’s top brass present faceless statistics once a year and give themselves high praise.

The Public Works Department will sing from the highest mountain about how many RDP houses have been built in the last fiscal year, or how many people now have access to electricity and running water.

The truth hides behind these figures. The truth is that the economy has not been grown sufficiently over the last 20 years. The truth is that the money that has been around has not been used optimally.

Mismanagement, corruption and a culture of cadre deployment have been ingrained so deeply in our public service culture that to reverse the tide seems almost impossible.

If our young Oliver had found himself in a well-run, well-funded, safe orphanage, he would not have to look to the Artful Dodger to clothe and feed him. Instead, the orphanage’s money is spent on building homesteads and navy vessels that rust away in a dry dock.

– Pelser is the Deputy Editor of The Citizen. Follow him on twitter: @HendriPelser


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