Saturday, July 29, 2006


Shortly before I left on my last Gomoto road trip the South African media highlighted an anti-crime weblog which really upset me. I agreed with the comments by many common South Africans and politicians that the site is un-patriotic and that it is excessively negative in its focus and destructive in its attempts to dissuade people from visiting the country.

I even dreamt up a scheme in which I would challenge bloggers and web-site owners to use the name of this anti-crime website, and its owner, Neil Watson in conjunction with words like "misguided hatemonger" in an attempt to let his blog reach top listings on Google for that particular description.

I don't feel strongly about such a strong activism right now, but I have been wondering about crime and personal safety in South Africa (and elsewhere for that matter. A colleague of mine was in Palestine on a middle-east tour just when the current war between Hesbollah and Israel erupted.)

I also have crime horror stories to tell. But I have also had a very positive experience of South Africa. An experience that I saw replicated as I travelled on my Gomoto.

Let me list some of these experiences:
I lived 8 km's outside of Heidelberg, Gauteng for 3 years. In those three years I hardly ever locked the doors of my house, not even if I was due to spend a whole day away from home. I was never robbed. It could just be luck. I know of roberries and other criminal incidents that occured around us at that time.

I'm now living for a second year in Somerset West, in the Cape province, and again I seldom lock the door to my house and I have a general sense of safety.

As I drove on my Gomoto I spoke to the lady in charge of the camp-site in Greyton. I was concerned about leaving all my belongings in a tent in a deserted camp-site. She told me that in the 8 years that she was living there, she had not experienced any crime.

The next day I arrived at the Backpackers in Struisbaai. The owner was not there. There was nobody in the guest house, but everything was open and there were big signs welcoming me in and requesting me to make myself at home.

I'm not trying to deny that there is crime in South Africa. But, I strongly believe that focussing only on the crime in a negative and pessimistic way causes us to sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are many accounts of high levels of personal safety as well.

Am I immune to crime? No. I've experienced it myself. But I am not prepared to let those experiences be the main determinant of my perspective of life and beauty in South Africa.

As I ride my Gomoto 125GT through the country I would love to focus on the beauty, the enjoyment, and the relative peace that is all over.

(I might post two more philosophical theories on this issue a bit later though.)

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