The Law and Order Referendum

and other related issues in New Zealand


South Africa

This story is by a British journalist, Ross Benson, and originally appeared in an English newspaper, the Daily Mail of London on the 30th of October last year. It paints an undeniably grim, nightmarish picture of a living hell on earth, a place surpassed only by the likes of North Korea as a depressing place to live....or die, regardless of race. We can all be thankful that we dont live there. Our problems are manageable by comparison.

In South Africa: a woman is raped every 28 seconds; doctors are leaving in droves; beggars live in the marble foyers of derelict banks; farmers are butchered in their fields; the parks and beaches have become killing fields; car-jackings are a daily occurrence; the murder rate is running at 27,000 a year. South Africa today has become a nation on the edge of self-destruction.

Law and order have to all intents and purposes broken down in South Africa. The horrifying statistics for rape breed the kind of fear that has you leaping at shadows, jumping red lights and climbing out of bed in the middle of the night to check, yet again, that you have double-locked the doors. To protect your home even halfway adequately, it now seems that you need to pay an 'armed response' security firm.

But whatever you do is never enough. One Black businessman said he had lost count of the numbers of his friends who had been mugged. Everyone is in the firing line. No social gathering can take place without horror stories being exchanged. But at this point we get some hint of the censorship that hitherto has been mobilised to keep as much as possible of the truth from the public gaze (presumably an increasingly difficult task in the ever-worsening crisis engulfing the country).

A White security man commented on the criminal mayhem: "It's happening to your friends, your brother, his wife, your sister, your mother, but it isn't something you read in the papers or hear about on the television news any more." He carried a gun, but he wasn't fooling himself. He knew it could happen to him.

In Mandela's 'Rainbow Nation' the dream is running blood red. Clearly South Africa's new ANC Government is almost neurotically aware that the legitimacy of its rule is at stake here. Nowhere is the situation worse than in Johannesburg, where it is exemplified in all its worst manifestations.

Built on the largest seam of gold ever discovered, this was once the richest city in Africa, a gleaming steel-and-glass citadel rising out of the brown ocean of the Veld, a testiment to the economic power of the White community that built it, but also a example of what can be achieved by hard work and individual enterprise. And now? The skyscrapers are still there, but the people who gave them life and prosperity have gone, driven out by hordes of squatters, beggars and illegal traders who bought Mandela's promise of a 'better life for all' - and demanded instant delivery.

Oil cans blaze in the marble foyers of what used to be the headquarters of banks and airlines. There are goats tethered in hallways. Corrugated iron huts have sprung up on the once-manicured lawns. This is not an environment in which any respectable business person, be they Black or White, can live or work - and most have fled. The country's flag carrier, South African Airways, has taken refuge in the distant outer suburbs. The big mining houses (which practically built the town) and even the Stock Exchange are to follow suit.

It is evident they can hardly remain in a city centre in which it is unsafe for their employees to travel to and from work. The Carlton Hotel has closed and sold all its contents, and the Holiday Inn is a deserted fortress, its 800 empty rooms protested by reinforced steel shutters. All this is the tale of one of the world's major cities crumbling into chaos and dereliction, perhaps one day in the not too distant future to become as defunct as ancient Babylon.

It is now impossible even to walk in any degree of safety to the South African Supreme Court building to get one's case heard. The alleyways leading to it are prowled by muggers who 'are not open to appeal'. 'Affirmative action' has led to the colonisation of the bench by magistrates who are illiterate, incompetent, corrupt and racially and politically biased, and routinely bail murderers and rapists back into the community to re-offend. Cases are never dealt with, crime explodes - no law, no order!

As dusk falls the streets start filling with prostitutes and criminals pushing drugs, and pills that turn a black skin white - before eventually killing you (if AIDS hasn't claimed you first; up to 10% of the population is carrying the virus and three-quarters of the entire health budget will soon be spent on treating the incurable). You hear the occasional sound of gunfire rolling down from Hillbrow, by cruel coincidence Johannesburg's first integrated neighbourhood.

To many this does not seem so much of a coincidence. The police keep promising to move in and clean the place up; they never do, and if they did it probably wouldn't make any difference; the Minister in charge of so-called security recently admitted to parliament that a policeman is three times more likely to commit a serious crime than an average member of the public.

- Daily Mail, October 30th, 2000

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