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Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Crime doesn't pay (me)

In case you are not interested in my serious blog below on Crime in SA and Kenya, here is something to tickle all you aggressive technophiles...

The Lightwave LW-ETV-01 is a very portable TV tuner that plugs into just about anything. You can convert a VGA computer output to Composite Video and visa versa. You can take an RF aerial feed and output it as VGA or Video. This means that all you need for a carry along TV is a computer monitor and aerial! I am using it to convert my video out from our DVD player to a VGA into my PC Screen...Works like a bomb! Also processes the audio.

Now for the serious stuff!

OH NO! Not another blog about crime!!!! ARRGHH!!!

This time I have spent some energy doing good research so I cannot be accused of being another raving uninformed moaner.
I have decided to research and write again on the topic as I am now sick and tired of trying to explain to (1) South Africans that Nairobi is not a dangerous place to be and (2) to Kenyans and especially expats that South Africa IS a dengerous place to be.

I also hope to make it very clear that Crime has no intrinsic relationship to either Poverty or Ethnicity.

Finally I hope to prove that my statement that SA is 1000% more dangerous than Kenya is WRONG! (Sure enough, it is wrong!)


I have this little screen that pops up on my laptop whenever there is a news update from the South African Press Association.
This morning my eye caught the headline: Crime in SA not linked to poverty.

Ah! I thought, this is just what i was looking for. Yesterday the local Nairobi Security Firm KK came around to check our panic remotes. Having not switched on the alarm in months and living in what is for all purposes a crime free envronment in Nairobi, we had also lost the remotes. Whilst searching I had a chat with the technician. He was fascinated to hear from me about how safe I found Nairobi compared to South Africa. I has a similar conversation a fortnight ago, with an Italian expat friend who was equally aghast at my claims of Nairobi being safe. No, she said, but we have been warned by our United Nations friends not to go out after dark and to drive with an escort at night.
So, what is the truth? Is Nairobi and Kenya safe? or am I imagining things? Am I wrong to tell people that South Africa is 1000% more dangerous than Kenya?
Are my partner and I being reckless by going running in the evening?

Personal experience is one way to measure the truth. We live in a wooded suburb called Westlands. A new survey shows that this is the area with the highest crime rate, higher than many poorer suburbs.
We have been here 3 years, much of the time my partner has lived alone in a fairly large home in a street with no lamps. We have a resident helper but he is not always at the house and does not perform askari or security duties. When we first arrived we asked him what kind of crime was common in the area. he said he was unable to answer as he knew of no crime in the 2 years he had been on the property.
Despite leaving bicycles and washing and garden furniture out unlocked we have never lost anything. This is a virtual impossibility in South Africa.

Most evenings, my partner takes her laptop, bag and cellphone and in full sight, walks 4 block across the centre of downtown to get her car. In 3 years she has never even exerienced an aggressive moment.
She has had a cell phone snatched from the open car window in a busy intersection, but this is a far cry from the 4 times it happened in about a year in SA.

But really, these are all anecdotal. I was telling such stories at a hotel dinner one evening. An English traveller said that I was exagerating as she had walked from her hotel in Johannesburg to the market down the road and had not been robbed.
Lucky girl, I thought.

So, to quell the confusion let's look at the numbers.

After I read the report that shows how SA crime is not linked at all to poverty, I decided to have a look at all the crime reports on the news website called News 24. (

I looked ath a summary of crime reports from the beginning of this year, particularly February 2010. As I read I bemame fascinate and horrified at the story I was presented with and decided to cpy and paste the various reports to a word document. After an hour I relaized that I was almost ujable to copy them as fast as the new reports were coming in!
Here are some of the stats:
I copied over 210 stories on crime.
130 of these were about homicide, murder, rape, violent assault,violent hijackings, ritual killings, witchcraft murders or police violence.
9 were fraud related.
4 dealt with a single story of a drunk taximan who loaded 49 kids into a 16 seater.
3 were about illegal drug plantations.
3 described student unrest
9 were about fraud
18 told the ongoing story of the SA minister of Safety and Security's wife who has been arrested for international drug smuggling.
47 were assorted crime reports.

Best of lot are:

At least 10 of the violent murder cases are linked to policemen, many of who were on duty at the time. The shooting of an Egyptian Trader in Jhb was allegedly by a squad car policeman on duty who robbed him of R150! (KES1500).
4 million Rands worth of jewelry stolen from University in Cape Town design department. Clearly an inside job as no loacks were forced. One person has failed the Lie Detector test.
The majority of items that were killed for are cell phones and in one case, a bed.

Particularly disturbing were several cases of pure cruelty. A 10 yr old girl was hung by her neck and then the stool under her kicked out during a house robbery.
A young girl was forced off the road, made to draw all the money from her ATM account and then thrown off a high motorway bridge. She fell more than 200 feet, landed in soft river sand and survived.
A male shopper was approached at lunch time in the car park of a major upmarket mall. He was forced into his car at gunpoint, taken to the bush, beaten and left for dead.
3 old age pensioners have been brutally murdered and raped in their retirement homes.
3 boys have been charged with rape of a 4 year old toddler. They are 5, 6 and 7 years old.
One of South Africa's premiere casinos, Sun City, is robbed by 5 men with guns who drive in, take the money and drive out.
Did I mention the teachers selling ephedrine and the pastor who raped a woman who came to him for marital advice...after asking the husband to leave the room?

But hold on! I'm still telling stories. Let's see the hard figures. I have compared 2008 stats from the SA and Kenyan police records. Whilst we all know that there is a tendency for negative stats to be massaged, the incredible disparity between SA and Kenya more than absorbs any significant inaccuracies.
See for yourself.

2008 Crime Stats.

Note: the restaurant attacks are since January 2010 and only include RASA (Restaurant Assoc. os SA) members)

The populations of KE and SA are 38.5 million and 48.5 million resp.
Based on the above figures the chances of being involved in a serious and violent crime in the 2 countries are as follows:
KE: 1 in 15000
SA: 1 in 500

There you have it: It is 30 times safer in Kenya than SA. That is 3000%. I was wrong! I have been telling people it is 1000%!

Are you convinced? Still want to go to SA for that luxury holiday? Think twice before you leave wonderful, friendly, peaceful, slightly chaotic Kenya.


Some useful links and references:

- (SA crime reports)
- (original report on Crime and Poverty - see summary below.)
- (USA advisory for travellors which I find accurate)
- (2001 New York Times article on Crime in Nairobi)

The last link shows how the crime situation in Kenya has been totally reversed. However, the reputation of Nairobi as being crime ridden continues with little effort to commend the Kenyan authorities for their success in this regard. the major guide books including The Lonely Planet continue to call Nairobi 'Nairobbery'. This is an indictment on their credibility.

Quote from New York Times Thursday November 29, 2001

"U.N. Study Shows Nairobi Is A Hotbed Of Crime

A U.N. Center for Human Settlements study released yesterday in Nairobi reveals that more than one-third of the city's residents were forcefully robbed in the course of the last year, half of residents regularly hear gunfire and the use of guns and knives is widespread. In addition, many crimes go unreported, and 98 percent of Nairobi residents polled said they believe the police system is corrupt.

The United Nations had already noted the precarious security conditions in the city in January, when it downgraded Nairobi's security status from B to C, ranking it more dangerous than Bogota or Beirut. Authors of the study concluded that Nairobi is as dangerous as Johannesburg, South Africa, where violence is a regular occurrence. The study says many criminals in Nairobi, lulled by an atmosphere of impunity, are no longer afraid of being caught or punished.

The situation has apparently become so serious that the local authorities have called on the United Nations to help combat the crime problem. Even if the face of such dramatic statistics, however, many Kenyan officials are reluctant to face up to the serious degree of crime and corruption in Nairobi. "I don't think that is a very serious problem," police spokesman Peter Kimanthi said of corruption. "We have some officers who may be thinking of actually taking bribes, but that is a small minority. The police are doing very well" (Marc Lacey, New York Times, Nov. 29)."


The final quote is from the report that got my attention in the first place:

Crime not linked to poverty
2010-02-08 13:01

Johannesburg - High levels of violent crime were not linked to poverty levels in municipalities across the country, a SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) study has found.

In a statement on Monday, the SAIRR said Eastern Cape municipalities had the highest murder rate, 54 murders per 100 000 people, and a poverty rate of 62%.

Limpopo municipalities, however, recorded the lowest murder rate but also had a poverty rate of 62%.

The findings form part of a local government study which assessed 80 indicators from each of the 52 metropolitan and district municipalities.

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