The South Africa that nobody talks about… and they should.
This blog post is not meant to scare people from coming to South Africa. I’ve read so many posts about “Why I left the country and am never turning back” or “This is why I’m staying in South Africa” but I find them all quite vague and void of emotion. For me, I want to share an occurrence that happened last night that is a normal occurrence in the day of the life of a South African. I’ve recently returned home from my last 4-month stint in South East Asia and I’ve found my bum in the butter in terms of clients and I look forward to a solid 6 months at home before maybe venturing out into the great beyond again.
My goal with this post is to make people understand why I have my doubts about staying in this country for the next decade, I get a lot of heat from readers claiming that I hate my country because I always leave and seem to enjoy my time elsewhere. Not everyone is the same, perhaps they don’t feel the same level of fear I felt or the same level of bravery, we’re all different and our adrenaline involuntarily surges from different stimuli.
My mate and I set-up a time to meet, twilight was just ending and it was nearly full-blown darkness. We have a set of stairs that we need to take in order to get to our garage where my car was parked inside. When I got to the top of the stairs, I noticed a large twin-cab truck at the top of the driveway brandishing a foreign number plate. I couldn’t see if there were any occupants in the car and I sat frozen trying to decide what to do. Here’re the scenarios that were going on in my mind:
- Is this a getaway car? The entire ground floor of our house was in complete darkness and we have another staircase on the other side of our property facing the empty plot next door. We’ve been broken into before using this route; empty plot makes for an easy entry and exit when breaking into houses.
- This is a stolen car that has now been abandoned.
- This is a trap. Nobody parks there and they would know that it would raise warning bells and perhaps encourage someone to take a closer look where they would then be mugged. Since I was standing there with car keys and house keys in hand, I was the perfect target.
I was standing frozen for a good 20 seconds before running back inside and locking the door behind me. My dad is an active member of the Ballito Neighbourhood Watch and I immediately sent him a text explaining what was happening. He gave me the number of a Chubb (security company) supervisor who I called and said they would be over immediately and that I should lock the house.
My mom was upstairs in her room and I had no idea if the perimeter was clear, I descended the stairs literally hearing my heart pound as I looked into the complete darkness. I could see nothing out the ground floor windows and one by one I switched on the lights, fully expecting to see someone at the window or worse, in my house. The final door (which has been used in a break-in before) had zero visibility, and I couldn’t bring myself to walk closer and switch on the lights, I was terrified. I thought I saw a flashlight near the door and I completely lost my cool and doubled back upstairs.
To their credit, Chubb was outside within 3 minutes, but I swear, it felt like an hour. I reopened the front door and met him on the steps, it was just one guy and I didn’t feel complete relief knowing he could be easily overpowered if there was more than one assailant. My mom came out onto the landing and I knew that if there were more than one burglar, I would be the only person standing between them and my 60-year-old mother. Dumb bravery overtook me and I moved closer to the security guard as he started to inspect the vehicle and then the neighboring property. He disappeared for a couple of minutes trying to survey the area, I was standing in the driveway now, and I was vulnerable. I had nowhere to hide and no means to defend myself if someone were to come running out, but I knew that I couldn’t give them a clear passage to my mother at the bottom of the stairs. My heart still pounding, I count the seconds until our hero reemerges from the dark plot next door.
He can’t find anyone but agrees the vehicle is incredibly suspicious and calls in the plates. Realising I’m now late to meet my friend, I ask if he can stay here until this is resolved so my mother has someone protecting her. He calmly stands with his hand on his firearm as I reversed my little car out and drove off. After running the plates, they realize the car was stolen and a removal truck came to remove it within the hour. My mom sat inside cooking dinner and drinking a glass of wine, as the top of our driveway became a temporary crime scene.
The entire incident was over within the hour and I had a great night with my friends. I realized as frightened as I was, the incident wasn’t enough to even warrant a Facebook status. Over Whatsapp later, I chatted to a mate from England who said she would literally have lost her marbles over the incident, but to me, it hardly disrupted my day. I was terrified, but it didn’t stop me from following through with my evening plans and I calmly walked to my car in total darkness at the end of the night to head home.
Am I numb to it? Absolutely not. Do I understand that these things happen and I have zero control over them? Absolutely. I feel that every South African has a horror story, but those that don’t end in horror would probably still shake others from around the world, although, an abandoned car wouldn’t raise an eyebrow elsewhere – but this is South Africa.
A big thanks to Chubb Security for handling everything so efficiently, our hero congratulated me and suggested I encourage my friends to be as vigilant as I was, and now I have. Stay safe x