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SOWETAN | Reality of crime strikes home

Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/BUSINESS DAY
Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/BUSINESS DAY

It would be naive to believe that the robbery of transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on the highway on Monday will, as some suggest, shock our law enforcement machinery enough to get its act together to create a safer SA. 

Chikunga was robbed by armed men while travelling with her VIP protectors on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg. 

Their car had a puncture, and her guards were changing a tyre when attackers appeared, demanding money and other valuables. 

Thankfully, no one was harmed, and the robbers made off with some gadgets and firearms. 

Predictably, many South Africans have had little sympathy for the fact that a government minister, with all her state sponsored protection, was for a moment as vulnerable as ordinary folk who do not have the luxury of such protection. 

We must be clear that what happened to the minister is deeply unfortunate and should not have happened, to her or anyone else for that matter. 

However, it remains the reality of daily life in SA, where crime is so rife that the majority of us have become so traumatised, fearful and psychologically wired to live in perpetual awareness of our mortality.

Public anger over crime is further intensified by a sentiment that not only are authorities not doing enough to protect us, but they are disconnected to our reality and the nuanced nature of the threats around us.

Interestingly, when telling her story, Chikunga repeatedly referred to her attackers as normally dressed, presentable people, who were multilingual. 

This suggests that her attackers were somewhat different to what she understands to be the profile of a criminal in SA – one that is identifiable by a particular appearance. 

It is such small, yet significant, differences in perception that indicate just how insulated authorities are from the sobering experience of ordinary people. 

Many have viewed this incident as one that ought to be a wakeup call for those in power to recognise our vulnerability and to do more to protect us from thugs who terrorise us. 

It may certainly drive the message that all of us are vulnerable to crime.

But it will take a lot more than an unfortunate, embarrassing incident to fix the deeply structural problems in our national security. 

Ultimately what we need is more police trained to combat organised crime, a much more sophisticated crime fighting strategy, investment in basic policing infrastructure especially at community level and a better prosecutions authority to win this fight in the courts for all of us. 

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