How can I write about polo games and Paris trips and forget to comment on the terrible event causing the deaths of 34 people?
How can I begin to explain. Yes, I live in a bubble. I can drive from shopping mall to shopping mall and pretend that everything is easy and the sky is always blue. Not only do I try my best to avoid everything that is dangerous, electrical fences, high walls, bars on all windows, no driving at night, but I can even pretend that it doesn’t exist. And that is probably what I do most of the time. A friend told me – you can’t walk around being scared all the time. Make a plan and trust your ability to stick to that plan if something happens.
So I have plans; a plan for hijacking, a plan for robbery and a plan for house break-in. They more or less ends with me giving everything away without hesitating, securing the life of my son, my husband, myself and my dogs (if possible).
Where am I heading? What does this have to do with the terrible death of 34 people in a South African mine? Well I am trying to figure out how I could just ignore it and write about everything else. Conclusion – I think I made a plan.
During my one and a half years in Johannesburg, I have heard a lot! Everything from fingers being bitten off to get ring off the finger, to shooting in broad daylight. House break-in, hijacking, etc. Always one friend away or sometimes closer, which means that the facts are probably correct. I listen to the stories and then I say, can this teach me anything? Should I change my routines? Should I change my plans? If the answer is no, I put the story behind me and try to forget it.
Things I hear on the radio, like abuse on children, abuse on women, policemen that are using their authority to threaten, manipulate and deceive. Well that makes me shit scared. But I must adjust and at the end of the day, the news flash gets blurry and my mind puts it in the box – “What I know but don’t want to think about”
This is probably what I did when I heard about the killings. It is crazy, but I can’t explain it any other way.
So what happened?
Armed policemen shot right into a crowd of unarmed men. Well of course the discussions are all about how the police thought the crowd was armed and that they got scared. And listen to this – the 270 miners that were arrested are now being charged with murder, using some apartheid –era law to accuse the miners of provoking the police to open fire. I think they just dropped the charges but even so, how could this even happen?
For me it is crystal clear. If the police force (and now I mean the people in charge) had some ability to plan ahead combined with good management skills, this would never have happened.
Well, SA has a long way to go. And now you are asking – if she feels this way, how can she live there? I have only one answer. I truly love this country, and most of all I love the people. Nowhere else do I feel more welcome than in Johannesburg. Nowhere else do I have a smile on my face most of the time. It’s the small things, like the man who is raking leaves, who gives me the biggest smile in the world and wishes me a great day, just because I am walking by. Or the man I meet when I’m walking Max and Svea in the pouring rain, who smiles and complements me on my dogs. Or the people working on 4th avenue (close to where we live) who I know by name and who wouldn’t hesitate to help me if I was in trouble. I even know the names of the car guards on my street: Tony, Lindiwe and Joyce. It is not because of me, it is because these people are genuinely interested and kind.
When I travel back to Europe, the difference strikes me every time. Even if I am the first to say hello to a stranger, I would never get a big smile back, nor kind word.
This is just an example amongst many. South Africa is an amazing country with a tough history. But as I always say, if there is one country that can make it and use its history to build a stronger future. I believe it is South Africa