I used to roll my eyes whenever I heard the somewhat infamous line: “I’m emigrating”. I thought people who said that were most likely racists, blaming all of South Africa’s ills on our current democracy and the fact that more and more black people were moving into higher ranks of leadership. Albeit, with the exception of a few who were moving abroad for other reasons. The most popular reason, when asked “why are you leaving SA?” was: “the crime rate is too high”. Indeed crime is high in South Africa, however I always thought they were trying to escape to an illusive Utopia and would be disappointed to find that crime exists everywhere in the world. I believed people who fled to Australia, the UK and everywhere else were cop outs, until I actually had the opportunity to live in another country. I’ve always had a keen interest in traveling and exploring different cultures, so I jumped at the opportunity to live and work in South Korea for one year- as a new experience, as opposed to an opportunity to flea. However, when I arrived in South Korea I was completely taken aback by the drastic contrast between my temporary home and the home where my heart resides. I can walk around freely in any neighborhood in my city at 2am alone and actually feel safe. I can leave my bag on the table at a restaurant or bar and still find it there when I return an hour later. The strangers I have met have genuinely assisted me in finding my way; offered me food that I can eat without the fear of it being laced and I do not have to clutch my handbag and hide my cell phone when taking public transport. Certainly this is not Utopia and I have heard of a few incidents, such as domestic violence and various other assaults. However, I have come to appreciate the quality of life and drastic lift in peace of mind. I still glance over my shoulder once in a while and ensure my doors are locked before I sleep, but this experience has highlighted just how bad and unfair the quality of life is in Mzansi. We’ve come to accept that we will all experience some level of crime at some point and we all know someone who’s experienced a tragic or near death attack in SA. We learn to be constantly alert and almost always consciously prepare for an attack- while you’re driving; while you’re walking; while you’re out with friends; while you’re at home sleeping. One can argue that South Africa is a developing country with high poverty and unemployment rates and hence one would expect a high crime rate as a result. However, when compared to other developing countries – South Africa’s crime rate far exceeds that of several African countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania, particularly in cases of rape, murder and violent crime. What is the solution? Some say that security guards, traffic officers, police officers and domestic workers should get paid more in order to reduce the temptation of corruption as well as insider crime. But how much is enough? Even if police officers salaries were tripled, they could still make more money through corruption. I believe we need to learn from other countries and systems that have worked elsewhere, modify these solutions to our local context in order to achieve significant improvement. No, I am not emigrating any time soon. No, I have not given up on South Africa or Africa at large. Yes, I will continue to travel and explore. Yes, I believe we can reduce crime, corruption and poverty. Yes, I choose to be part of the solution. Yes, South Africa still has so much to be proud of, it’s a beautiful country and has come a long way- however, we need to work to ensure we improve the safety and quality of life of all who live in it.
- More Suarez, Less Gyan Please!
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