Primarashni Gower
Primarashni Gower

Sure we believe you, Mr President

As I lay face down next to my husband, David, with our hands and feet tied up, I thanked him for six years of marriage and three children. My knees felt like jelly and I had the urge to lose my dinner.

Despite pleading with Thabang* not to harm my family, I feared he would still shoot my three-year-old son, who was sleeping on the bed, and my mother and my five-year-old twins, whom I could see.

Thabang, still wielding his silver gun, told his friend Jabu* where to find our bank cards while he dialled a number on his cellphone. “Where is your plasma TV? Where is your laptop? Where are your fucking firearms?” he barked. “Give me the correct PIN numbers or my friend who is staying behind will kill you!”

On repeating for the third time that we did not have firearms and that we had an LCD TV, he demanded to know the size of it. While Jabu went to locate it, Thabang conveyed to his contact on the phone that the LCD TV was 37 inches, not 40, and that there was a desktop computer.

He enquired whether his contact was interested in our black Peugeot 206 convertible and blue Toyota Verso, and provided the registration details.

Stamping on David’s back and kicking at him, he demanded that David say hello to his contact as he bashed the phone against his ear.

They had stripped my fingers of my wedding rings earlier on, and at gunpoint I had led Thabang to the cupboard containing valuable jewellery, cameras and cash. As compensation for not having firearms, I had pointed out my cellphone and digital camera, as well as the valuable jewellery.

I was terrified that they would rape my daughters, my mother and even me. While Thabang raided my cupboard, I figured that if he raped me, I would not scream or put up a big struggle; I did not want David to try to rescue me — we could all be killed. I prepared myself psychologically to be raped and knew that I could access the AZT anti-HIV cocktail at one of the private hospitals nearby. Many women survive rape in this country. Luckily, Thabang did not touch me.

The robbers had struck as David drove into our property on his return from the gym. After punching him and beating him up with the gun, they had demanded that he unlock the garage door and lead them into the house. Faced with the choice of being shot dead or complying, David grudgingly went for the latter choice, detesting the fact that, either way, his family was at risk.

“Do your vehicles have trackers and have you pressed the panic button?” asked Thabang as he continued to talk to his friend on the cellphone. He howled with laughter when we said no. This young-looking robber was on a tight deadline — he had Jabu collect most of the items on his list, leaving behind three old TVs but taking our computer hard drive with my memory stick in it.

These career criminals in their latex gloves and red takkies then drove off to Soweto in our cars, leaving behind messed-up lives, no fingerprints and our burning desire to kill them.

However, you see, we have a government that believes that crime is a mere fallacy and that the foolish citizenry complains for nothing. So, technically, Thabang and Jabu do not physically exist in the eyes of President Thabo Mbeki and his honorable Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula. They exist merely in my imagination and that of other victims, while the country theoretically celebrates having the most liberal Constitution in the world. A Constitution that, in reality, favours criminals.

How do you bring a spiralling crime problem under control if, in your head, it does not exist and things are just dandy in this sunny country? You just continue living in your high-security residence with several bodyguards, wishing the media would just shut the hell up and that the whiners would leave the country. And if you bullshit the people on the ground about the difference your government has made, maybe you will get to be president of the ruling party again — or even serve a third term as president of the country.

Can Mbeki see that things have fallen apart, as criminals run riot? Is he not concerned about the shameful legacy he will leave behind for allowing this country to plunge into anarchy? Does he have any self-respect?

I used to be scornful towards people who fled the country due to crime. I saw them as traitors. Now I understand their desire for safe, peaceful lives. I want my children to have the safety and security to make mud cakes in the garden without any fear of being harmed by robbers.

I want to continue with my dream job and not pack off to some strange country and start a job on the bottom of the corporate ladder. I don’t want to learn to use a gun, but if I had one, I would kill to protect my family.

Our miracle nation is dying because of crime, and there is no doubt that race relations are being damaged. Our rainbow nation is under threat.

Mbeki could save the last shred of his dignity by turning around the situation: he could introduce capital punishment for criminals involved in armed robbery, rape and murder. He could make the tackling of crime a priority. He could declare a state of emergency and call the army in to help him regain control of the country from the criminals to whom he has lost it.

And he could plough resources into the existing national DNA criminal intelligence database and relax restrictions to allow for all South Africans’ information to be processed and entered on to the database. This will make it easy for criminals to be traced.

If only he would.

All of these actions would take the fear out of the hearts of crime victims who, like me, would like to continue living in this country. Instead, we’re now considering selling our spacious property and could move into a poky little townhouse complex that supposedly has more security.

And, like many other crime victims, we’re considering whether it is worthwhile to buy another property when this country is already in the stinky sewers when one considers how crime is handled. Maybe we should keep money in the kitty for when things get really bad and we need to flee for our lives.

Maybe, like many others, we should wait to see who becomes the next president — and what the consequences are — before we reinvest our hard-earned money in this country.

Maybe I deserve the government I’ve got. I voted for it.

* The names of the criminals are real