Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cry, the Beloved Country

At times, I am faced with the reality of crime in my dear country. I listen to the news, reporting that crime rates are down for the past year. In fact, a recent BBC article reported that murders and violent attacks are down to just 300 a day. [sic]

Only Columbia and Iraq has higher murder rates, BBC pointed out. The same story quoted the South African president, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, saying, "Nobody can show that the overwhelming majority of the 40 or 50 million South Africans think that crime is out of control."

Three hundred violent crimes, every single day. Not out of control. Wow. This is the same president that claims that HIV/AIDS isn't a problem in my country, while statistics show that we are the country with the highest AIDS rates in the world, with more than 30% of all pregnant women are HIV positive. The link between the high rape rates (151 reported cases a day) and high HIV rates seem obvious to me!

As the director of SA Tourism recently pointed out, "The problem of crime can be solved, but until there is general agreement that there is a problem, we cannot move forward."

Why the fuss? I received an e-mail tonight about a specific murder that has sort of shaken things up again at home. A famous historian, David Rattray, was murdered late January. He had done much for battlefield tourism in South Africa. His life revolved around promoting the Zulu culture. Despite that, he was violently killed.

The specific e-mail I received was written by a former teacher of David Rattray. I choose to post excerpts from it on my blog so you can simply be aware of the condition in my country.

I love that people like Oprah is reaching out and making a difference in my country. We need it. Badly.

"I was fortunate enough to teach a great body of [high school] boys at St Alban's College in the 1970's. Among them was David Rattray. It was not difficult to follow his career after school. Amongst many other things he became an academic by gaining an Honours Degree in Entomology and turned out to be a brilliant businessman, a historian of international repute, a friend of the [British] Royals, a fine husband, proud father, a Zulu linguist and [close friend] of many black South Africans.

"David became a raconteur of note and producer of The Day of the Dead Moon, a mind-blowing, stunning account of the Anglo-Zulu Wars. In this collection of CDs he reiterates time and time again how fine the Zulu people are as a nation.

Apart from Nelson Mandela, I can think of no one else who has done as much for reconciliation. David was an icon and an extremely valuable national asset. Imagine my horror and sadness on the morning of Saturday 27 January 2007, to be greeted a newspaper headlines which read "Historian David Rattray Murdered," only to be followed by the headlines of The Saturday Star - "Crime: What's all the Fuss?"

The Article in The Star goes on to quote some sayings by prominent politicians:

"Nobody can show that the overwhelming majority of the 40- to 50- million South Africans feel that crime is not under control, nobody can because it is not true".
- President Thabo Mbeki

"I don't know why there is a frenzy around this 2010 [World Cup Soccer]. I want to say now that 2010 will come and pass..."
- Head of Police Jackie Selebi

"They can continue to whinge until they're blue in the face... be as negative as they want to, or they can simply leave this country..."
- Charles Nqakula, Minister of Safety and Security

As I was listening to the above news clip on YouTube, the facts seem overwhelming.

A day in the life of South Africa
51 murders
151 rapes
347 robberies

But my president says it's not a problem.

Cry, my beloved country. Cry hard. We can but cry out to God for the future of South Africa.

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