Saturday, January 17, 2009

South Africa trip, Week 3, part 2. The crime report (group beating)

And I needed to tell someone and everyone back home is sleep or out or whatever at this time. I'm in South Africa right now. I have written a few blog posts about it, but I'm behind now. Will update soon with posts about crime and, of course, hair. Anyway, I'm in Durban and in a really rough neighborhood (the first blog tells how I ended up here). I feel like the past couple of days have been so close to crime, it just keeps coming up, muggings, car jacking, anti-rape and molestation rallies, which I'll go into when I finally update my blog. But today was the awful climax.

First, because it's the southern hemisphere this is early summer. So the sun rises around 5am and I don't know if they do that daylight savings thing here. So I wake up really early cuz I wake with the sun. I was lying in bed watching Spongebob on my laptop (yeah, I brought cartoon comfort from home) when I hear yelling out the window. I am right across the street from a park, which is almost right next to the water, the harbour. Lots of homeless people sleep there, many foreigners as this is one of the places foreigners fled to during the xenophobic attack flare-ups. So I was lying in bed and I hear yelling like "woza la" (come here). I look out the window and I see a guy chasing a couple other younger guys, maybe teens, but it looks like they got away and they were carrying stuff which I assumed they stole. This was the second mugging I've witnessed in 24 hours. But wait, that's not the story. I just brought it up because, dang, this happened the same morning in the same spot.

So I went back to bed figuring that I might skip breakfast because what they serve us here at the YMCA is sometimes not even worth getting up for. Well, I fell asleep with Spongebob playing and was awakened again about 2 hours later by a loud commotion. I went to my window again and I hear the shouting of "woza la" again and also English "come here, n*gg*" (yes, they use that word here, too). But there are trees in the park so at first I couldn't see and couldn't tell where it was coming from. Then it was like chaos and it's hard to remember exactly what happened (now I understand why witnesses give such different accounts). But the next thing I knew a group had gathered and they were pulling and dragging this guy into the street. He looked like a homeless guy. He had long unkempt dirty looking dreadlocks (the kind mostly seen on the homeless) and dirty, raggedy clothes. Someone hit him in the head with something and he was falling down. They had picked up random stuff, shovels, their belts, stick-looking things with cords on the end (i swear, that one could have doubled as a whip) and they were yelling at him and would hit him or punch him or kick him. There were other people who seemed to be trying to stop it. At this point a couple people had him under the arms and were trying to drag him away and I wasn't sure whether they were trying to help him or drag him away from his protectors. Others were trying to pull him back the other way and would occasionally grab at his legs. I remember yelling but I was confused and didn't even understand who I was yelling at. Other people were yelling too. People were watching it from the windows, also passersby. Somebody pulled out a gun, he was on the side (physically at least) of people who were pulling at his legs. The beaten guy's clothes were torn and he was bleeding from the mouth. The guy with the gun was pointing it at people's heads. Some of them stepped back but some of them seemed not too threatened. I don't know how or why that was. They would still yell and occasionally whip or kick the guy.

The police finally came. They were not very forceful. I heard the people yell something about "criminal". That's when it occured to me, half the people yelling, beating, whatever, were wearing church clothes. Like slacks and button up shirts and ties and women around are wearing dresses. There's a big (and loud) chuch nearby and it's Sunday morning. People are still worked up and still trying to kick the guy while the police push them away. They put the guy in the back of the paddy wagon and take him away and at some point, I can't even remember when, one officer is spraying some of the church folk in the eyes with something. A couple of the church guys are holding up another guy (also in slacks) who seems to be hurt that I didn't notice before and they are slowly walking him away somewhere. Afterwards people stay and discuss it in the street, loudly. They seem to be telling the police what happened. They seem to be complaining to the police. One woman is yelling "the police always tell us . . .". The best I can guess, the homeless guy robbed or somehow attacked one of the church-goers and they caught him and beat him.

Sorry for the long story but I had to tell someone and don't want to wake my family and the two friends I feel comfortable waking are not answering the phone.

1 comment:

Annickamiles said...

Wow that is so crazy! I totally get how it would be tough to determine whats really going on while all of the commotion is happening!