My usual week is pretty relaxed, perhaps a tennis ball flying at my nether regions being the event most responsible for any surge in adrenaline. This week upped the ante a little.
1) Driving to Blouberg along Koeberg Road, I see a cat haring across the oncoming traffic. There’s an island between the two directions and the cat isn’t stopping, running right in front of my car. Time slows down as I slam on the brakes, the cat’s head turns in slow motion, it’s eyes go wide as we close in on each other. Thankfully, between the cat’s inhuman agility and me being at the sweet spot between not driving so fast anymore, but still having good reactions, we avoid each other. The car behind me is caught by surprise and slams on its brakes, swerving at the last second into the left lane.
The tyre fumes settle, and all is well. The cat lives to tell the tale, two drivers are unhurt and two cars unscratched.
2) Walking along the Sea Point promenade at sunset, I approach the car park by the Shell garage/putt-putt, and hear a loud commotion, people shouting and screaming. Two car guards are fighting. One is barely moving, while the other repeatedly pounds him with his fists. The victim is cut in multiple places, face covered in blood, while the attacker just keeps hitting. The car park is full, and there’s a crowd watching, many shouts, but no-one has intervened. The details always get hazy in these kind of situations, but I intervene in the fight. The attacker still keeps trying to get some more blows in, shouting at the victim, but he can’t get close, and eventually walks off. I phone an emergency number, as the victim is quite badly hurt. Apparently the national numbers have become unreliable and a waste of time, so I’ve saved the Cape Town emergency number, 107, in my phone, which is supposedly the best one to try.
After a large number of unsuccessful attempts to get through, I eventually give up. The attacker has long gone, but at least the victim is now getting help.
It’s the third car guard fight I’ve seen in Sea Point, by far the worst. I have a vague recollection that the same attacker was involved in one of the others, at the Sea Point pool parking lot. I have no idea of the context – car guarding is known for physical attempts to muscle in on new turf, and the Sea Point parking lots must be some of the most lucrative. Perhaps the attacker was muscling in, maybe they were defending their turf, or it was something else entirely. But I’m disturbed at the apparent lack of consequence of such a vicious fight in full view of multiple witnesses. By the state of the victim, it had been going on a while, and no one else seemed to have intervened.
3) The next day, around sunset, I’m walking to the Labia theatre from Mouille Point. I can already see a few eyebrows raised. Walking through dodgy parts of town, after dark? In my mind, I was missing out on a promenade walk, so I wanted to get some steps in. Part of me is wondering whether “comes in threes” would apply here. Walking along Green Point main road, looking towards the city centre, the buildings were a soft golden in the sunset. Cape Town’s architecture is usually overshadowed by its natural beauty, but a with a bit of help from the sunset, they can put on a show.
As I got to the city centre, it became dark, and I headed up Loop Street, my phone in my pocket (I was Google Mapping, so I had it available for easy access), and my backpack with wallet on my back.
It may not seem like it, but I’m not completely naive, and I’m walking fast, well aware of people around me. At one point, passing by a club, there’s a young child, perhaps two year’s old, and their mother, partially blocking the pavement. I slow down, and that moment, I feel my phone being removed from my pocket. I have to credit the skill, as I was still moving, and the pickpocket had not been conspicuous at all as I passed.
Still, I noticed the phone sliding out my pocket, turned and confronted the thief, who claimed innocence. I grabbed him and started looking through his pockets to find the phone. He threw the phone to an accomplice, again, remarkably skillfully; I only just caught the movement out the corner of my eye. I grabbed the accomplice, he threw the phone onto the ground. All three of us went for it, but I emerged with the phone. I can be thankful we were in front of a busy club, and that at this point the two thieves just casually walked off. I went on my way, to helpful advice from a bystander telling me I should always carry a knife when walking there.
Generally, in the face of a threat, most of us have one of a fight, flight or freeze default response. It’s often quite instinctive. Mine is undoubtedly fight, very clearly, which will probably get me into more trouble some day. But so far, in other cases, as well as these two, it’s luckily had a positive impact.
The second observation was how I have no expectations of the police doing anything. When calling the number on the promenade, my motivation was primarily to get medical attention for the victim. The attacker and the pickpockets both clearly felt this too, just walking away, with no expectation, or likelihood, of any consequences.
Even the clearest of clear cases, and a victim following all the processes correctly, can lead nowhere, such as the case of the rape victim who, after five years of fruitless effort, finally dropped the case. This kind of lack of consequence permeates society, from petty crime, to violent assaults, to the corruption of our leaders, and the growing frustration is what leads to mobs taking things into their own hands, and the tragedy of Tuesday’s vigilante killing.
It’s a long road to turn that around, both in reality and in perception.