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Op-Ed

Crime, South Africa and the 2010 World Cup

Miriam Mannak, Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2007

While much of the crime monitored indeed happens away from the rich city center, it is also targeted by thieves, robbers, rapists and other crooks.

According to Andre Pruis, deputy national commissioner of the South African Police Service, crime levels are not to affect visitors who come to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. This because crime is concentrated in areas far away from the chosen venues, the head of event security explained at the International Sports Security Summit in London: "Where the soccer is going to take place, where the stadiums are, where the police are, there will be low crime levels." Clearly, Mr. Pruis has no idea what he is talking about.

While indeed a great percentage of crime happens in the townships, informal settlements and other marginalized areas across South Africa, which are situated far from city centers, crime also hits wealthier parts of South Africa. The reason behind this is plain and simple: It is here where the loot is.

Take Cape Town, my city of residence and the epicenter of the Cape World Cup experience. Here, muggings, robberies, thefts, hijackings, and more serious acts of violence happen on a regular basis. The situation in the Mother City is nothing compared to Johannesburg, but crime is certainly present like it is in most other major cities in South Africa. This is not a doom scenario; this is the hard reality. As monitoring events of crime in the Western Cape is part of my daily tasks, I unfortunately know what I am talking about.

While much of the crime monitored indeed happens away from the rich city center, it is also targeted by thieves, robbers, rapists and other crooks. Over the last months, we have had stabbings on Table Mountain, robberies on Lion's Head, muggings in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and knife-pointings on Lion's Head. In Greenpoint, the home of the future World Cup Stadium, a man drawing money at an ATM was shot. In Newlands, a young man was recently kicked until he is now paralyzed after returning home from a night out with friends. I recently was knife-pointed in the city center by a group of street kids, preying on my phone and wallet. Just to name a few incidents.

The same sad story unfortunately repeats itself in other South African tourist cities. On Durban's beach front, a French woman was brutally gang raped a month or two ago. In Johannesburg's more affluent neighborhoods, violent robberies and hijackings are reported every day. My sister-in-law was shot at while driving her car. Luckily she escaped unharmed.

I need to emphasize that despite all this, South Africa's affluent suburbs and neighborhoods remain a paradise compared to the crime ridden townships where problems as unemployment, lack of education, lack of chances and loss of dignity are a few of the causes of crime.

Yet, one can't simply promise that crime will not be a problem at the World Cup venues, simply because the stadiums are situated far away from the townships. Crime does not know borders, it flows — like water — where it wants to go and where it is directed to.

Mr. Pruis, I kindly ask you to please have a glance at the most recent crime statistics, and speak to your fellow South Africans from all layers of society about what they have experienced crime-wise. Or if that is too much effort, read a newspaper once in a while.

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