being south african at this moment in time comes with certain risks. recently my reaction to an incident brought this home.
i was on my way back to nelspruit from pretoria late at night. suddenly on a fairly deserted part of the road a small buck jumped out in front of my car. i didn't even have time to react before i hit it. hitting even a small buck at 140km/h does quite a bit of damage and this was no exception. the front of the car was smashed in. the radiator was ripped open and the bodywork was pushed up against the left front wheel.
i was far from anywhere so i soldiered on. fortunately i was just entering the lowveld so i turned the car off and free wheeled down the two passes. but quite soon i was forced to stop. in this time, while gently limping the car down the passes the necessary calls to insurance, and by implication, tow companies were made, so by the time i actually stopped, people had been mobilised.
when the car finally came to a stop it was in a totally deserted part of the road. there were no lights visible anywhere and an overcast sky hid any trace of the moon. i turned on my hazard lights and waited.
then i had a south african thought. what happens if someone comes past? would i be the victim of violent crime? this is a real consideration in the modern south africa and in no way reflects paranoia. on a regular basis we read about hapless victims of car breakdown who are attacked and often killed on the roadside. recently there was a criminal element that would patrol the very road i was on and pull cars over to rob the victims, quite often shooting at their cars or them. my concerns were real. suddenly the hazard lights were glaringly bright. they seemed to advertise the car's presence for miles around. i quickly turned them off. as the very occasional car drove past i used their headlights to scan the road in both directions looking for a would-be attacker. i didn't even bother trying to stop a car. south africans don't risk stopping for someone on the side of the road, ostensibly in trouble. it is too often a trap.
then i thought if i do see someone, if i jump out and run they will see me too and i'd be a lead magnet. to stay in the car wasn't safe. i turned the hazards back on and got out. i readied my knife, just in case, crossed the road and went into the veld just out of sight. there i was safe. if someone did come along i would just slip away. the hazard lights marked the car for the tow company and my friend who were on the way. when they arrived, i would join them.
the way i dealt with the situation, from flogging the nearly dead car to hiding in the veld and the thoughts that went trough my mind were typical for us south africans. in fact when i discussed it with my colleagues the next day at work there was no one that teased me or thought it strange. across the board everyone fully sympathised and agreed with my way of handling it.
once again i find myself in a reflective mood about staying in this crime-ridden society. what is a small disaster turns into a possible major catastrophe because of the serious risk of sudden violent death. does it really need to be like this? unfortunately that question would have to be directed at the government of the day who so far have shown no sign of addressing crime at all. on the contrary they have even disbanded the one effective crime fighting unit because of the danger they would also target corrupt officials. we just can't have that now can we?