Having spent most of my life in Cape Town, I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love with Jo’burg.
The vibe, the people and place itself are fun, friendly and exciting – the perfect place for an ambitious, wide-eyed 20-something to build a life. I moved here just over two years ago and, for about a week, was too paranoid even to leave my house – but only because my friends and family had told me about how “dangerous and hostile” Jo’burg could be.
I got over it very quickly, though, and for two years, was unaffected by crime. I had become too complacent too quickly to consider that it would ever happen to me.
They say bad things usually happen in threes and my first encounter with (Jo’burg) crime came almost two months ago. A guy smashed my car window and nearly took my phone. (I, stupidly, had been waving it about in broad daylight, in the middle of town.) I was freaked out, but learnt my lesson: Be more mindful of what is going on around me.
Both times, a gun was unceremoniously shoved in my face.
My initial reaction was anger, and then a lasting wave of fear. The problem is that I live, study, work and socialise this side of town and suddenly, I found myself wanting to retreat back to the other side of the highway, where I’d be surrounded by harmless old Jewish ladies and 24-hour security everywhere I went.
But, if I allow this incredibly bad stroke of luck to start defining me and controlling my life, then I’ll be going against everything I stand for. It would be easier to give up and admit defeat. I could no longer feel safe leaving the confines of home, walking to my car at night or leaving varsity late after covering a story. But I can’t and I won’t.
This isn’t because I believe in the greater good, positive energy and all that, but rather because I understand (but don’t condone) why crime is so prevalent throughout South Africa.
I could never imagine myself settling anywhere else in the world. This is my home and I love it, even when really bad things happen.
Were it not for such a massive gap between the rich and the poor, if inequality had not come to epitomise life in this country, then those three men who managed to make me feel so small and helpless would not have been so desperate to act out.
If we had politicians who cared about us and a more effective justice system, then murder, rape and theft would not be so typical of life in South Africa.
So while I hope never to bear the brunt of crime again, my perception of this country hasn’t changed and I’ll continue to (try to) fight the good fight.