It’s been a difficult start to September in South Africa. The coming weeks are likely to be more difficult.
Soon, we should know if the body of a child found at Phoenix in Durban is that of the missing Sydenham boy – 9 year old Miguel Louw. Until police confirm this through DNA results, it is speculation.
There is no speculation however that another young life was snatched away by a ruthless criminal or criminals and that the body was dumped in bushes to decompose. This is the body of another child who will no longer light up the lives of loved ones with a smile and whose embrace they will no longer feel.
I am gutted. I know many of you are too.
I drove past the scene on last week on Monday night en-route to the temple. I didn’t plan to but I often use that road – Longbury Drive is a popular, busy road in Phoenix. It was only after I took the turn-off that I wished I could turn back. I trembled as I drove past. The massive crowd from earlier had dispersed but a police vehicle and about six cars were still there. Community members stood in disbelief. I could not believe this was happening again. Remember Shahiel Sewpujun? I could never forget.
Read my piece on Shahiel Sewpujun here – https://inmywords.co.za/?p=724
And so, that volcano of emotions that lay dormant erupted again.
Is this MY South Africa? Is this OUR South Africa?
This morning, my head was hanging in shame.
The latest crime statistics were released yesterday. They give us a sense of the severity of the situation. Figures are still being splashed across newspapers, flashed across screens and headlined across airwaves. Each number I came across appears more frightening than the previous one.
So, then, I stopped reading, listening and watching the news. Yes, those numbers were difficult to digest. But, what the numbers don’t tell us is impossible to digest. They don’t tell us about the horror and heartbreak of millions of families across South Africa, especially parents whose children have been murdered. Their pain remains forever raw. It is every parent’s worst nightmare come true.
The fact that it happens too often and under violent circumstances in South Africa has led to high levels of paranoia. I know parents who say they would rather not visit public places with the children, opting to stay at home. Others have begun taking down their social media profiles out of fear that their children could be identified and targetted by criminals. And then, do we look at every stranger who innocently smiles at our children as a potential kidnapper and child trafficker? Do we also become suspicious of family and friends?
This panic mode provides fertile ground for hysteria and hoax messages to flourish. From WhatsApp messages to voicenotes… they have gone viral, without being verified. It’s the work of alarmists, not journalists.
Clearly, parents need to be practical rather than paranoid. Let’s get onto the wave of community awareness and activism, starting at the breakfast tables. Sit down with your children and have a frank discussion about the dangers they could encounter and how to react. But be mindful; do not instill a sense of fear within them or a sense that South Africa, their home, is a bad place to live in.
As my son reminded me as we were about to embark on the morning commute to school, “My teacher says you must tell us good news, not only bad news.”
That’s just the motivation I needed to pick my head up.