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Dear President Zuma…

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and spirits, after a restful evening, sleeping in your heavily guarded homes and state of the art security systems.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my neighbours and I who were left reeling after a burglar scaled my property’s fence last night.

On a Sunday evening, when you’re supposed to be relaxing with your family or preparing for the work-week ahead, I had to literally stop my friends and family from beating this perpetrator to a pulp because in our society, the criminal has more rights than the victim.

I live in a suburb called Athlone, which forms part of the historical Cape Flats. According to an article by local researcher Margaux Bergman, “[the Cape Flats] was once a dumping ground of the previous apartheid regime … and where thousands of people fell victims of those atrocities … via the notorious Group Areas Act”.

Despite the challenges caused by the political situation, the community was tolerant of race, religion and culture. People united in their fight against apartheid. These days, you cannot leave your house alone for fear of being robbed while walking to the corner shop. The area is infested with drugs, gangsterism and prostitution.

In the last three weeks, we had four attempted burglaries at home. I am not sure what more I need to do to safeguard my possessions and loved ones because my house is already a fortress. We have gates, burglar bars, sensors on the outside walls, alarm triggers on the doors and windows and a very active neighbourhood watch.

Last night, I watched “gobsmacked” as my neighbours literally took the law into their own hands. They are not violent people. They don’t believe in vigilantism or mob justice but it was evident that they have reached boiling point.

They beat the crap out of the guy for their elderly mothers who are frail and afraid to stay alone at home while their children are at work and for their young children who are forced to lie face down in their classrooms as gangsters drive by shooting each other recklessly.

I am very frustrated and was even more so after I chatted to the detectives this morning who have been tasked to investigate this case. They reassured me that they will pursue the case but that I should be prepared for the prosecutor to drop the case. Apparently, there is no physical evidence that the guy had been on my property in the first place and the prosecutor will very likely see him coming to knock on the door for food.

So does my neighbour’s affidavit and bandaged hand — injured as he pulled the guy off the fence — not serve as evidence that this person was on my property? Is the screwdriver that we pulled off him not a possible tool or weapon? How about the blood on the barbed wire or his lacerated face where he cut himself? How about the entire road coming out to stop him as he tried to run away when he triggered the alarm?

I am not a racist. I am not xenophobic. I am not a violent person.

I am a law-abiding citizen that pays my rates and taxes and I’m an active participant in this society as a journalist and an NGO worker.

But last night has sparked a newfound anger and determination to rid my environment from any social evils that I believe is encroaching on my personal space.

So as you vie for my vote in the upcoming elections, let me reassure you about one thing: Right now, no one is getting it. Both local and national government has failed me as a citizen. I don’t feel safe and secure. I don’t feel like this government is working for me.

You need to start investing in the law-enforcement sector to try and curb the influx of illegal immigrants and the drug trade in slums like the Vygieskraal vlei. Bring in the army if you have to to address the gangsterism and violence in Kewtown, Heideveld and Manenberg.

This “I am DA. You are ANC” crap is not my problem. Get your house in order and help me take back the South Africa that we were promised in this quote from former president Nelson Mandela taken from his address at the National Day of Safety and Security in Vosloorus in 1994:

“Every community in our country has a fundamental right to be free from fear. Each and every South African has the right to feel secure in their home, to feel safe in the cities, towns and rural areas. People should not fear the night. They must be able to travel to work, to school and other places without danger. But these rights are being denied to many by criminals who do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their goals. However, we say to you all: Do not despair. Together we can root out crime from our communities.”

Yours Sincerely,

Shanaaz Ebrahim-Gire