“Twenty years of democracy,” Vetfaan sighs, “and still some people consider the value of a cellphone or a wallet to be worth more than a human life.” He points at the lead article in The Upington Post about the murder of Senzo Meyiwa, the captain of the national soccer team.
“There’s something fishy about that.” Gertruida reads the article with a creased brow. “Why is this policeman – Norman Taioe – so quick to say that the motive was robbery? I mean, have they concluded their investigations? I think he’s far too anxious to tell the public that it wasn’t a hit or an assassination.” She drops her shoulders in helpless protest: “I suppose South Africa is the only country where a botched hijack or robbery is accepted as a cause of death. An almost-natural cause of death, I may add; as if it were something like cancer or old-age. Oh you know old So-and-so? Ja, it’s sad, man. They got him at the intersection. Nothing you can do about it, hey? Life goes on…” Her tone contains equal amounts of sarcasm and sadness.
“Well, no police force can cope with 17,000 murders per year. That’s about 50 cases per day!” Nothing gets Sersant Dreyer so upset as the crime statistics in the country. “It is an impossible situation. Take the Pistorius trial – it took the state eighteen month’s worth of investigation and almost a year in court – and 15 million Rands – to decide to jail him for five years. And let me remind you: his situation was simpler – because there was no question about who pulled the trigger. And the Dewani case? It started in 2010, didn’t it? Now – add 50 new murder dockets per day to the overworked and understaffed police force’s workload, and think about it. How, in heaven’s name, can they hope to cope? I’m not even talking about the 65,000 sexual offences per year. A woman gets raped every four minutes in this country… Heaven help us if we manage to convict even just half of those offenders – we’ll have to build prisons, train a whole new generation of warders and drain the Reserve Bank in trying to rehabilitate the unrehabitable.”
“It’s the moral fibre in the country. It’s decayed beyond the point of repair.” From under the gathered bushy brow, Servaas surveys the group at the bar. “And let me tell you: a country is only governable when the leadership is healthy and strong. Why do you think we have such horrible statistics regarding abuse, molestation and murder? It’s of no use to blame the policemen or the prosecuting authorities – although the commissioner has repeatedly stated that even here you’d find corrupt officials. No, my friends, if the government started acting, we’d see some changes.”
“So, what do you suggest? That some minister says something about enough being enough? That the parliament issues a statement? Or that the president starts growling at the populace?” Kleinpiet’s cynical laugh is completely without humour.
“Well, that would be a start. But, let me remind you of the old saying: a fish starts rotting from the head downwards. Look at central government – how many more scandals do we need to live through? And what about municipalities? There was an article in June that stated: ‘ governance in most municipalities in the country is in shambles and is worsened by the political interference in administration.‘” Gertruida’s ability to quote verbatim is sometimes shocking. “And then you look at schools, hospitals, service delivery…only to realise we live in a country where the downhill slope has become too steep. We simply can’t hold on to the Mandela’s utopia any longer. We’ve lost the war with crime, and now we have to live in this mess.”
“And still, after twenty years, they blame Apartheid! It doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, I feel very sorry for the Meyiwa family, for Bafana and for all of us who admired the goal keeper so much. While we can blame the system, it is always the individuals who suffer. And don’t think the media will be kind: they’ll keep on digging into the poor man’s private life to find sordid allegations to scream from the headlines. The fact is: nothing will bring Anni Dewani, Reeva Steenkamp or Senzo Meyiwa back. The country is bleeding, people are dying…and the fish is rotting away quietly.”
At Oudoom’s suggestion, the observe a moment of silence, praying for the relatives of a great sportsman and all the victims of the wave of senseless crimes that has engulfed the country. And then, in a hushed and almost inaudible whisper, Oudoom asks that the The Great Fisherman bless us with a net full of healthy fish for a change…please…
“….Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown…”