Sunday, June 04, 2006

Adventures with petty criminals

South Africans love to complain about crime. With an almost morbid fascination, they will compare shocking stories of themselves, friends or family falling victim to criminals. Admitedly, South Africa has a high crime rate. It is certainly not the most dangerous country in the world (think of the DRC, Darfur or even Rio’s favellas) but it has the crime rate that you could expect with African slums and rich European-style suburbs being within a 20 minute walk of each other.

So, following in the South African tradition, here are my modest experiences with crime. As a rich white foreigner who likes to hang around central Cape Town, I seem to be targeted more than most people.

My first experience with crime was simply a smashed car window. Unfortunately for the thieves, there was nothing to steal- not even a car radio- so they stole nothing. The car was a fully insured rental (not Joanna), so all the only consequence for me was that I had to spend the morning in a South African police station. I spent almost an hour queing under a sign that said “Please be patient. We are understaffed.”

The second experience was less pleasant and more bizarre. In the middle of the day in crowded street of Cape Town, about 3 young teenagers walked up next to me and told me to give them all my money or they’d kill me. I turned around and saw three lightly-built 13 year-olds without anything even resembling a weapon. So I told them no. They continued trying to convince me until the end of the street, and then gave up.

The last time was similar. Except this time I was with Daniela and they actually bothered to show me a knife (and then immediately put it in their pocket again). I must say that they weren’t very convincing thieves (also in their early teans and not very confident). They got 30 Rand (about 5 Euros) off me.

Not bad for 3 months in the Western Cape. I guess I must have “stupid tourist” written all over me.


Vahan said...

Hi Maurice. Quite interesting adventures:-). I think, you have to keep a knife in your pocket:-). In that case situation will be equal. Or maybe a gun?, in that case they will give you everything what they have:-). So you have to decide. Have a nice day and take care.

Nina said...

hahaha, episode two is soooooooo you ;) I still have to meet someone with enough self confidence to defy a life threat :D Ever consider they may of had something in their pockets you couldn't see?
Your worried sister ;)

Maurice said...

I did consider that. But I had enough time to look at them properly, and they didn't look at all threatening. The thieves here really need to work on their image if they're going to be successful. ;-)

Nina said...

hmmmm, maybe there's money in that buisness: 'theft image consultant'.

Maurice said...

Maybe that would be a job for Vahan ;-)

Vahan said...

Maybe, Maybe:).Honestly, I've never had an experience in such an attractive area, but no problem i can be flexible:))

Joerg said...

If you think it's funny, consider the case of your remote cousin, a blackbelt, who fought a guy for her handbag in Pretoria and got stabbed millimeters from her heart. Dad :-(

Maurice said...

I never said it was funny.
But, I don't see any harm in joking about a situation that (unlike the tragic story of my distant cousin) wasn't actually very dangerous.
There is a big difference between desperate/aggressive criminals and a couple of 14 year olds trying their luck with every stupid tourist they come across.

jane doe said...

they just try their luck...hey threatening a few so called dumb tourist,getting money for a few minutes of not too hard work...lottery!