Safety in Numbers

29 05 2008

By Karen Thome

I’ve always felt pretty safe in this country. Maybe it’s because I have always had the “it can’t happen to me” attitude, and so far “it” hasn’t, so why should I worry, right? Well, now I am worried. After living in South Africa for my whole life, I am finally worried. Now I can actually understand why people are willing to sacrifice the sunshine of S.A for the safety of another continent.

I was speaking to local Grahamstown inspector, Milanda Coetzee the other day, and she told me that there is a mere one policeman to every 570 people in Grahamstown. That is scary. She also informed me that when a case is reported the police investigate it for 24 hours, and if no suspect turns up, or if there’s not enough evidence, the case is put on file where it remains untouched- basically it’s scrapped. The shock doesn’t even end here though! Did you know that the police are so under- staffed that they are forced to prioritise specific crimes only if they have become a trend in a particular area. So basically, if your friend is murdered, but he is the only one for the month in his area, then his case isn’t seen as a priority, and the criminals will more than likely not be convicted. Inspector Coetzee put it in a very nice way when she said, “it’s not like Law and Order, or CSI where they spend months on a single case, and each murder is a priority, I wish it was. But it’s just not.”

The fact of the matter is that police can’t afford to value the individual. I was doing a story on a small pre- school which has been broken into seven times in fourteen months. The children of this school have had their mattresses, food, toys, tables, books, plates, spoons, oven and fridge taken from them! And guess what, not a thing has been done about it. The suspects from the first burglary were released without bail because the next court date they could get was over a year later. There’s just too much crime, and not enough court time.

I asked inspector Coetzee what she thought people could do to help the situation. She obviously was against people taking the law into their own hands, as this often gets the victim into more trouble than the criminal. She instead suggested that people report any criminal activity they are aware of so that police can see where the trends are and target the problem. But, once again, where does this leave the individual? Are people supposed to wait until their whole area is flooded with crime before any justice can take place?





Pension fraud

14 05 2008


By Nomawethu Solwandle


It is no lie that our grandparents are still suffering the consequences of the apartheid era, with little or no ability to read or write because they could not get the necessary education those many years ago. However, this is not the time to deal or talk about those issues because that is another story in itself. Pension fraud is a problem that the whole country is experiencing at the moment and Grahamstown is no exception to this.


The issue at hand now is that the elderly are suffering because they can not read or write and are thus being robbed of their money. This is either an inside job by our bank officials or family members of these pensioners. And sometimes by strangers that steal their identity documents. This means that the elderly either have to have a family member go with them for assistance and for explanations on how things such as ATM’s work because they are illiterate. Their signatures are so easy to forge because the only way they can sign is by placing an “x” or having their thumb print. I mean everyone can just come in and make and “x” and take all the money without the knowledge of the pensioner, sometimes in the presence of the pensioner because they are not aware why these sort of things have to take place.


This means that we have a crisis on our hands because many of these pensioners rely on their social grant for survival and sometimes the whole family is dependent on it. What are we doing to help them? Banks, certainly can not help us in this instance because some of their officials have stolen from these very people that need their help. Their own families can not be trusted as well and so the best thing left to do is for us to find a way to make these pensioners less independent. Our government has taken steps to help us in this case because a program known as Ka ri Gude was initiated by our Minister of Education Naledi Pandor. It is important to note that this program is not the same is ABET. This program takes the education to the elderly. This means that if necessary the educator will teach the pensioner in their home, garage or the nearest crèche as long as it is tidy. This program will teach the pensioners how to read and write, how to work with money and even how to use ATM’s.

This means that the pensioners will maybe have to travel long distances to get an education and to be aware of what is going on around them. With Ka ri Gude the education is taken to the nearest venue accessible to the pensioner.


I think that this is such a good initiative in the sense that, the educators are former grade twelve learners that are not studying. This program will thus also give them something to do and at the same time help other people. In some way or another all the factors involved will benefit. It is a volunteering program so the educators do not necessarily get a salary but they do receive money for food and transport. I think that what these educators are doing is so good, working hard to make South Africa a better place for all. Hopefully this initiative will combat bank fraud and other related crimes.