I wrote this on January 26, 2010, four days after the incident. It affected me decreasing amounts over about six months. Despite this incident I think that South Africa is a safer country than is often portrayed and that the paranoid often displayed about safety is detrimental to one’s life.
On Friday I got mugged. Walking home from a meet-up at a hotel bar not far from where I lived, three guys, probably around 18 or 20, pushed and held me up against a fence and went through my pockets. They took my debit card and a couple hundred Rand in cash. One who took my ID gave it back when he saw what it was. The street was one I’ve walked many times, both in dark and light. It’s not heavily trafficked, but it’s also not deserted.
Soon after they let me go and moved away, a car guard came up and asked if they’d taken anything. When I told him they had, he started chasing them down the street and around the corner. He came back after a few minutes saying the police caught them around the corner… Sure enough there were three undercover policemen with three guys and a crowd forming.
I suppose “cruel and unusual punishment” doesn’t mean much to those policemen. At least one suspect was hit (slapped) by a policeman. Two were put in the trunk of the unmarked car–a small Citi Golf sedan–for transport to the station. One policeman sparked off a taser repeatedly in the air as a threat. Another policeman told me how they once made a suspect run in front of the van the entire way from Vredehoek to the station–a distance of about two or three miles. I didn’t particularly have any love for the people who mugged me, but I immediately knew that at the very least they should be treated fairly and humanely.
I went down the the station to give my statement. In the end, I could positively identify one of the three people they picked up. Maybe he’ll go to jail or maybe he won’t. Cracking down on robbery is necessary, but not as necessary as creating situations where people in desperately poor situations can improve their lives.