Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

Knock knock. Who's there?

The world right now is a mess, from the refugee exodus into northern Europe, to the threat of the Americans and the Russians going head-to-head over the Syrian problem. Yes, it’s a mess, so much so that a Muslim friend recently remarked, “All these events could be a sign that Jesus is coming”. A Muslim believes Jesus is coming?

[Yup, it says so in the Quran.Ed.]

Of course South Africa has its share of trials and tribulations: Hitachi, ANC, Eskom, alleged scandal revelations; marches against corruption – albeit with unexpected toyi-toying – which is why this scribe looked at the news footage of the protestors and said, Yeah right, I have a better chance of breaking bread with Jesus than do these protests of making any real difference.

But for me, the most worrying current issue is that of the youth gangs that have virtually taken over Mzansi’s townships, resulting in unprecedented mob justice,  just as in Daveyton and subsequently in other townships.

Their modus operandi is to move like a pack of dogs, armed with anything from hand guns to pangas, as happened here in Barberton with a group dubbed the Panga Gang. And they are vicious, whether carrying out a home invasion or a street mugging, though you can hardly call their brutal assaults muggings – more likely murder than mugging. Early last month during a gang house-invasion in Barberton they are said to have shot a man in a wheelchair. Those who call this “taking the law into your own hands”, I would ask, what law? If only the law – in this case the police – and the judiciary would deal with this menace to society with an iron fist, we would not have mob justice.

Barberton residents were outraged not too long ago when our magistrate’s court gave a derisory sentence to Panga Gang members – punishment that cannot even be described as a slap on the wrist.

Why were they let off so lightly? Supposedly because some were first-time offenders. These barbarians assaulted a score of residents, leaving them scarred for life. The miscreants are said to range in age from 14 to 18, so they are kids. When I was that age kids’ crimes were limited to the odd shop-lifting incident or stealing a bicycle etc. And when we wanted money we played spinning, while our elders played dice.

Please, for those of you in Mzansi who like to attribute the behaviour of these so-called kids to some psychological problem and – as usual – point to apartheid, I say, spare me the bullshit.

If this menace can be attributed to anything, it is first and foremost ineffective if not non-existent policing. The new crop of our “Keystone Cops” won’t even stop and search these so-called kids when they see them in their packs – and carrying open bottles of beer, for crying out loud.

Second, it is nothing more than booze, drugs and material possessions that motivate these packs of miscreants – and certainly not poverty. Seeing the gogos crying on the news broadcast of the Daveyton funerals of some of these “better-off-dead” kids, one can tell that they came from loving homes. Yet, how many other South Africans, especially black, were brought up by Gogo and did not become part of a marauding teenage group of heartless thieves, robbers, rapists and murderers?

Like the Daveyton residents, blacks in townships are now living in fear of these so-called kids. But is it just township residents? Heck no, this writer lives on a farm, and nowadays at the weekends when I am without staff, I venture outside, or to inspect the farm, with serious caution.

One Sunday not too long ago I was making breakfast when I heard voices outside and my first reaction was, Oh shit! Who the hell is that?

Unexpected visitors

I peeked out the kitchen window and saw an old white gentleman with what appeared to be his wife. My reaction at seeing them was, Oh thank God! It’s some old white guy!

I step out and have a lovely chat with them and their family. They once lived on the farm and were visiting Barberton from Pretoria and wanted to see what the old homestead looked like now.

“Thank God it’s some old white guy”? Go figure. This is what these miscreants have done to my psyche. In a society where we once feared the presence of a white man at our family homesteads, I now rejoice at their visit. What happened?

That morning I happened to be wearing a Noseweek T-shirt and the old man said, I like your T-shirt. I said, So I take it you are a Noseweek fan?

He said, I love the magazine – and I happen to know Martin Welz, the editor.

Do you ever read the column by that Bheki Mashile? I asked. To which he responded, It’s the first thing I read and I love it. Take note, Ed!

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