I love my country, and I love my city. They both have ways to surprise and there are always new things to be explored. South Africa, and mostly Cape Town regularly make it on the list of top destinations to visit. Granted the lists are many and very subjective. However, side by side with beauty, a rich history and heritage, and diverse cultures, we also have a crime problem. Cape Town is on the top ten of that list, making it the only non-latin American country there. And this list is not subjective! This is also contrary to popular belief that Johannesburg is the baddest and most notorious in our land. But before I freak out everyone who had plans to visit I will also put some perspective based on last year’s official national statistics of the Western Cape; most of these crimes occur in poorer neighbourhoods where law enforcement is poor, and less in affluent neighbourhoods where most tourists will be. A sad legacy of our past and general world injustice: less service for the many and poor, and more service to the few and rich.
Why am I talking about this? Well last week I needed cash to pay my contractor who was doing some work for me and had a family tragedy and he needed his wages pronto. And he needed them as cold hard cash. After I discovered that I my cash withdrawal limit was abysmally I had to make some calls to make that special situations increase. The funds were now available and I choose Cresta for the meet.
I was at the ATM 8am and with cold hard cash in my bag which felt more like heavy, hot, explosives. I felt like Carrie Mathison in the pretend streets of Afghanistan. I was navigating my way out of the mall to the parking lot and the panic and paranoia had set in. Luckily the distance was short and I was almost at my car when a few meters away, a young guy made his way towards me in a very erratic manner. Maximum panic set in. I changed directions and circled my car from like six cars away. I fumbled with my keys as he slowed down and looked around. I found the keys. Opened and shut myself in as quickly as I could. I turned to see if he was following me to the car when I see him shifting a few angles this way, then that way with his phone directed to his face to take a selfie.
I laughed! Out loud! I realised how insanely paranoid having that cash had made me. Under normal circumstances I would have been worried about whether to smile or not, or make eye contact or not because the guy was quite good-looking. But a few minutes before that my mind had just said, “criminals get modeling contracts these days”. Wa ha ha!
It got me thinking; how many of our fears are justified South Africans? Can we really not go for runs or go to parks? Do I really need to wear sweatpants and trainers when I go to the CBD because I fear looking nice will make me a target and I am ready to be chased down by a criminal? Which has never happened by the way. Are there areas we can relax? Or is it really better to be extra cautious and get palpitations for mostly no reason than risk those few unknown risks?