Crime – South African Style
Sitting on our deck up the beach house on Sunday enjoying some early summer sun my wife and I were jolted from our dozing by a car pulling into the driveway. Not expecting visitors we hauled ourselves off our loungers to see who it was. A good friend had clambered out of his car and was cussing and cursing. Turns out he and his wife had been at an ‘open (show) home’ that was for sale an hour or so further up the coast. Having poked their noses into all corners of the property they had set off for a walk along the sheltered and picturesque beach.
When they got back to their car my friend realised that he had lost his wallet. Mildly concerned but not too worried because there weren’t many people about he retraced his steps feeling confident he’d find it. Given however there had been some leaping over rocks on an incoming tide when he couldn’t find it he assumed it had been washed away. Credit cards, cash, driver’s license – the whole caboodle.
I asked him if he had been in touch with the credit card companies and cancelled his cards.
‘Nah’ he said ‘I’m pretty sure someone will find it and hand it in’.
‘Yeah’ I replied, ‘You are probably right’ (not really believing it).
A cup of coffee later and a wander around our property with us we all returned to the sun drenched deck to catch up.
Within ten minutes of sitting down his cellphone rang.
Is that Grant? asked the caller.
Yes it is, he replied.
Lost your wallet?
I’ve got it. You still in the area?
No, I’m halfway back to Auckland.
No problem, I’m the local Constable. I’ll courier it down to your local police station in the morning and it’ll be there by lunch time…..
Wallet and all it contained now back in Auckland.
Now this could happen anywhere. I know that. It just seems these things have a much higher chance of happening here in New Zealand.
It would have been very tempting for someone to have held on to that wallet or taken the cash and credit card and dumped it. But they didn’t. They did the right thing.
I reflected on this while scanning the latest crime statistics out of South Africa earlier this week kindly sent to me by a client just before I pack a bag and fly back there. I leave tomorrow morning to give another series of seminars in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – the aim of which is to try and help people understand what sort of country New Zealand is if they are allowed to come and live here and spend time with those that want it to assess their eligibility to do so.
Crime is sometimes high on South Africans reasons for wanting to emigrate but it isn’t usually number one which beggars belief for me as a Kiwi.
I always talk about crime in New Zealand when I present seminars in South Africa as part of a desire to paint a realistic picture of life here – it ain’t all peaches and cream if it isn’t obvious.
When I talk about crime I am quick to remind audiences we are not crime free. I have been burgled. Recently one of my sons had a car window smashed (he wasn’t in it) to gain entry to steal whatever he had in the car (which was nothing). So we have crime but overwhelmingly it is crime against property and not people.
Crime in New Zealand across every category has been falling for over a decade – fewer murders, fewer robberies, fewer burglaries and less violent crime. Safer streets. The one exception is sexual assaults which are statistically increasing – explained however by those that analyse these things to be less of an increase in actual criminal offending and more a willingness to report it by victims. Nothing to be proud of to be sure, one is too many – but if the rate of actual offending isn’t going up, simply more people are willing to report it, it is not a situation getting worse.
South Africa on the other hand is off the charts. The population of South Africa is estimated to be around 55 million (no one really knows). The population of New Zealand has just gone through 4.6 million (we do know). So in rough numbers their population is maybe 11 times our own.
In the past 12 months South Africa reported:
- Murders – 17,500 (up 4.6%). That is no typo. New Zealand had 38.
- Attempted murder – 17,500.
- Sexual offences – 53,000 (down 5.4% – less reporting?)
- Total assaults – 340,000
- Robbery – 55,000
- Carjacking – 12,700 (up 14%). I don’t think NZ had one.
- Robbery of premises 20,000 (up 5%)
To put that murder figure into some perspective, if New Zealanders murdered one another on a similar per capita rate to South Africans we would kill about 1,500 Kiwis a year. A bad year here is 50. A typical year is 35-40.
Got to paint a picture about your odds of being a victim of serious crime here.
Or to put it, another way in the decade the US had troops in Iraq fighting a war they lost about 4400 servicemen and women killed in battle. That people, was a war. And over almost a decade. South Africa (not a war apparently) kills around four times as many of its own citizens on their streets and in their homes as the US lost in a decade long war, every single year.
Quite horrifying numbers, yet there are still plenty of South Africans who live in their houses on the golf estates (protected by armed security) looking out of their windows (burglar guarded and barred) to their lovely gardens (surrounded by 2 metre concrete plastered walls topped with electrified razor wire) wondering why anyone leaves.
My advice is to get out more . Out of the country.
I am amazed how many people tell me that they lead great lives and they aren’t really affected by crime. Where I live we describe such living conditions as a ‘prison’. A guilded cage perhaps, but a cage nonetheless.
And so I return tomorrow to the South African ‘war zone’ for the last trip for me of 2015.
Packing my Kevlar when I finish writing this. Not really but I do sometimes wonder….
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