Monday, July 03, 2006

What drives you Mr Watson?

Mr Watson

I read with alarm that you are launching Your stated aim is to "disillusion and disgust" foreigners. The website will be launched today and is aimed at discouraging foreigners from coming to South Africa because of the crime here.

You have said the website will insist on answers from the world soccer association, Fifa, "Fifa must explain to the international community why the murders of thousands of people were ignored when the 2010 Soccer World Cup was awarded to South Africa."

You have emphasised that the website will exceed all bounds, "We want to expose what the South African press finds sensitive."

I understand that you plan to publish hundreds of photos of gruesome murders - photos the press feel are too sensitive to publish.

Apparently you have not yet been affected by crime, but you feel it is inevitable that you will be.

I share your fears. I live in Johannesburg. When I moved here ten years ago, crime was of epidemic proportions. I have witnessed a gradual improvement and like many, felt that the police were winning the war on crime. Many shocking crimes this year have awakened fears that things are getting worse. I like you have escaped being a victim of crime, something I am profoundly grateful for.

I believe that it is foolish to bury one's head in the sand and pretend crime in South Africa does not exist. I am aware that I live in a society with an abnormally and unacceptably high rate of crime. I believe that our criminal justice system is hopelessly overloaded, inefficient and ineffective. I believe that our country has a culture of ducking accountability and denial of deep issues.

I have posted entries on my weblog, about some of the horrific crimes that have been committed over the last 6 months.

But I fundamentally disagree with your intentions. I love this country. I question whether you do.

I continue to witness the turnaround of this country from the one I grew up in.

In the early nineties, I together with many, wondered if this country would descend into civil war. I even lost friends to the terrorist attacks occurring at the time.

I chose to stay and contribute to our country's rebirth and have watched as the success of its turnaround has gathered pace. Few could have imagined the miracle. As we stood in the queue to vote in the referendum to give transformation our "yes". As we queued with millions voting for the first time. As we watched one of world's greatest sons forgive his captors and wear the rugby jersey of a white captain at the 1995 world cup. As we watched Joshua Thugwane win gold at the Olympics. As we have watched our swimmers rule the world. And as our economy has leapt to life growing at 6%.

I have watched people return to South Africa after having emigrated to other countries. I have employed these people and encouraged others to return, always honestly providing an assessment of the dangers and the benefits of such a move.

I have also encouraged family and friends who have left because of crime. I have seen the effects of crime on a family's psychology first hand as my cousin killed an intruder in his bedroom. I fully understood his emigration choice as he sought a new life where his family would feel safe again.

I also fully realise that should I one day be a victim of violent crime, I might also feel sufficiently threatened that I might seek the safety of foreign shores.

I encounter people daily on the internet who have left South Africa and feel bitter about having had to do so. I meet many more who are even more bitter that whilst they might wish to leave they are unable to do so.

But I also see those who have been victims of crime who have managed to move on and remain committed to this country. I hope that I manage to avoid crime, but should I not, I hope that I might exhibit their bravery.

This country will survive and prosper because of bravery, commitment and optimism. Of course honesty, accountability and consequence will also be crucial to that success.

But our country also requires much to be built. We require a moral regeneration. It will be built on education. Education will require wealth and wealth will require jobs.

This represents massive construction. More than that, a constructive spirit.

And that is what worries me about your project. It is by objective destructive. You wish to turn people away from South Africa. You might justify this as your means of attracting the government's attention through external pressure. But as considerable as your effort is, I believe you have chosen an easy path. For it is always easier to be destructive than play a constructive role.

Our country needs constructive contributions. Indeed perhaps because of the lack thereof, our problems are that much greater today.

There are many ways to play a constructive role. From merely contributing productively to our economy, to volunteering some small contribution to our police force.

In fact almost any contribution will be less than that of the lives that many of our policemen and women have given so tragically in defence of our safety. Some of those stories can also be found on my weblog.

I have wondered what other means you have attempted to engage the problem before your current effort? And I wonder if your considerable effort might not find a better role?




Anti-crime campaign may scare 2010 visitors
SA crime website 'must disgust'
IMC concerned about 'negative' crime website

New anti-crimeexpo sites / posts:

The Unbroken Barometer
Crime Site Gets A Rival - IoL


Dave said...

Great post! I however thinl that this website could be a good idea, I am going to reserve judgement until I actually see the published site!

One man has created such a stir about crime, imagine if we were all so motivated to do something about it! Most people do nothing other than try to protect themselves!

It is the question said...

I notice that a person who quite possibly not only believes that we should not hold the world cup because of crime, but because of poor organisational skills as well, has failed to lauch his website on the promised date.

It is the question said...

Dave: Thanks for stopping by and the compliment.

Yes imagine. Imagine if ordinary people were motivated enough to help our police out with assitance with administrative work that they freed up officers to go out on the streets.

Imagine if they were motivated enough to join community policing forums.

Imagine if they were motivated enough to provide volunteer assistance to Nicro.

Imagine if they were motivated enough...

I am sorry - I continue to believe that setting up a destructively critical website is an easy option. One that a number of people have already taken.

Being constructive is as simple as taking some hot soup to your local charge office and having a chat with the guys on duty.

Dave said...

Until such time as I contribute to reducing the crime problem, I won't critisize anybody else for making an effort.

I see the website hasn't been launched! Nice one!

BUDDESS said...

Very interesting. I am also one of those fighting the urge to leave. I have 2 very small children and I fear for what will be left of our country for them one day. I am not only thinking about crime, but also the land reforms. Are we going to end up another Zim? Yes, I think positive things can come from hosting the world cup, but I can also understand why someone would use it to make a point!! Either way, something has to be done but who will stand up and start it?

Mandy said...

So here's the question as the ex-African (?) soon to return as tourist - do I send a message that what is happening in SA is ok by visiting - or does my visit aid the economy & hopefully positive change?

It is the question said...

Buddess: I understand the fear that comes with having a family in South Africa. Not so much with regards education, healthcare, etc - we still enjoy high standards there and for those willing to see the opportunities, employment and wealth are also available. But I do understand the impact of crime on a family and can imagine your thoughts. Good luck.

Mandy: Is one ever an ex-African? In my final year of varsity (now a long time ago in 1996) I went to see a Johnny Clegg show where he chatted to the audience about his experiences as a African. It was a fantastic experience and I decided to stay in SA rather than follow the majority of my friends to find work in London.

WRT your message - messages are attached to action by humans - both the sender and the receiver. While you might intend to send a message by withholding your tourism from South Africa, who will receive it? Even if thousands of tourists stay away, the only certainty is that thousands of poor South Africans will be denied jobs.

Have you ever spoken to a criminal? A poor person? It is very easy to say that if a poor person has the right morals they will never turn to crime. But if you or I slept in a shack and could pay for some dinners for our children by stealing a car from somebody who could probably afford to have it replaced (or insurance would), wouldn't we try and put food in our children's mouths?

I once worked as a crew member of a luxury yacht. We had a handlanger (labourer) who my Irish workmate had hired off the curb from a group who waited there every day. He was a nice guy called Adrian and as he grew to trust me, he told me he'd been in prison for attempted murder after being involved in a knife fight. After getting out, he waited on curbsides for months getting a day's work every few weeks. When Damien had selected him, oblivious to his past, Adrian had been too afraid to look up as he sat with his head bowed. He admitted he had been ready to give up his search for a job.

Most poor people just want jobs and security for their families. The message that Neil Watson is sending has consequences for them - and might not be received by his intended audience. They were never the intended audience. The question is, is his method the best way to reach the intended audience, the government? Or will it merely have consequence for those who can least afford it and ultimately turn desperate people to crime?

How about using an hour of your visit to speak to some of the people involved in the day to day fight against crime and find out what positive contributions can be made? I am sure they might be much more inclined to speak with you on that basis than listen to Mr Watson.

Mandy said...

Firstly - nope never an ex-African, I think it's in the blood. I should have said "not living in Africa..."

Secondly - I think you made the point I was hinting at (okay I admit rather vaguely), that the message Mr Watson is sending is not a useful one. Until my recent rather cushy teaching job, I have worked exclusively with 'at risk' (huh? you're asking - it's the term they use on the funding applications) young people. These yp are often/always engaged in criminal activity. And yes there is always a reason for it - hunger, fear, desperation. My friends still freak at me offering the 15 year old who I found in my house (after he broke in) a meal & shower.

So I will be contributing to various economies in Africa soon - & will talk to Africans, not other travellers. Part of the reason I need time in Africa is to absorb the changes & maybe find a place to contribute. Perhaps Mr Watson should spend all this energy dealing with the reasons why people may engage in crime?

ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

Loved the post.. thought it was brilliantly written and you raise an awareness on extremely important issues.
I am 100% with you on this.
Can we as South Africans (or Africans) truly afford to slag this country (continent) without realising just what it would to do the majority of ppl living here, including ourselves? How humane and civilised is that on any level?

It is the question said...

Mandy: Ah! Well, god luck on your journey. Try talking with the guys at NICRO - they work with ex-criminals and try and rehabilitate them.

Chitty: Thank you for the compliment. There are many people who have reacted against the site and put up countering messages. Poor young Addy at has taken some abuse but really shows why there is much room to be positive - young people with his attitude.

Len said...

What great commentary. I love my country, though I am frustrated by many things that happen. Like you, I see the positives in my fellow human beings. We often hurt each other without knowing, but those who hurt us intentionally should be dealt with. Asking FIFA to take away the World Cup is playing to the hands of those that wish to intentionally hurt us. I have written to Mr Watson several times, and have had my letters to him published in the Cape and Johannesburg papers. In essence, my challenge to Neil Watson is whether he believes his option is the best or the only one.
So far, it has been proven that some of the headlines and photos are out of context. This is not to imply there is no crime that needs a strong response from us. Indeed there is, but I suspect that the majority of people in this country would prefer a way that does not punish the people of this country.
Taking jobs away from the people does very litte good.
Neil Watson is now making money and does not seem keen to debate or engage in any debate about what the best response is.
I suppose he is using our new found democracy and capitalism to effect.

It is the question said...

Len: Thanks for stopping by.

While the title of my post questions Mr Watson's intentions / drive, I am loathe to accuse him of ulterior motives. I have preferred to assume that his intentions are noble but his execution flawed.

However, you mention that some of his pictures have been found to be shown out of context. The truth is far more sad than that. He has been found to have used pictures from to fraudulently show the effects of crime in South Africa.

Nathan Blows said...

Anonymous said...

Hi people! I also started a website against Crime Expo SA. Go to WWW.TRUECRIMEXPO.CO.ZA !!

I’m only 17 years old… but really did some research on this topic. I came to the conclusion that Crime Expo SA is totally one-sided… it’s also a fact that there’s many lies on it!… and I exposed some of it!

I also think that it’s totally irresponsible for Watson to damage SA’s tourism industry. If you look at the facts, you’ll see that very little tourists are victims of crime in SA. Watson is also unrealistic. He says he’ll only stop with his campaign when the murder rate drop by 75% (or to 5000 per year). Will SA accomplish that in the next 10 years? I doubt it. So are we going to tell people not to invest in SA for 10+ years? It’ll only lead to more poverty and more crime. I don’t see Watson’s site as a solution!

Please visit my site and tell me what you think: !