Thursday, August 13, 2009

A "Shoot to Kill" Attitude

We interrupt our stream of football-related posts to bring you more news on the nature of South African society. Which seems depressingly familiar to someone from the United States.

To wit: A story from the Johannesburg Sunday Times relating a rash of violent mall robberies and the strong (very strong) language used by police as to how best they can fight back against the criminals. The Times describes it as a "shoot to kill" frame of mind.

The crime and violence is centered in the province of Gauteng, the economic heart of South Africa -- and also home to the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria -- and three of the 10 stadiums that will play host to 2010 World Cup matches. So, yes, these are issues that potential visitors to the World Cup might want to pay attention to.

The peg for this story, as we say in journalism, was the robbery of an armored car Tuesday and the shooting of two guards, both in the head, one fatally.

It seems to have provoked the local authorities into recognizing there is a problem crying for attention, and prompted this strong language from the provincial police chief, Khabisi Mosunkutu:

“[The police] must make sure they do not allow criminals the split second to aim their weapons at policemen and policewomen. I urge the members in blue to shoot if they feel threatened, and they must not miss.

“They must hit the target [so that] when the dust settles there should be no doubt as to who is in charge.”

Wow. Must be interesting to live in a country where cops can still talk like that and keep their jobs. Imagine a police chief of a major U.S. city (never mind a major European city) encouraging police to shoot sooner than later and "not miss." How long would that police chief keep his/her job?

Mosunkutu also is concerned that police are given "heavy-caliber automatic weapons" that will "match and outmatch the firepower of criminals." (Now that sounds more familiar, in the U.S.)

South Africa isn't the only dangerous country in the world, when it comes to what ought to be banal activities, like going to the mall. I live a few miles from South-Central Los Angeles, where violence seems endemic. And Long Beach isn't exactly as pacific as the nearby ocean.

But the U.S. has a worldwide reputation for violence. To a lot of us (say, sports fans), who haven't paid close attention to the daily life in South Africa, some of this may come as a surprise. In short, South Africa has at least as much violence (and apparently more) than the U.S.

Soccer fans who plan on visiting should know this before they decide to travel to the 2010 World Cup. "Forewarned is forearmed," and all.

No comments:

Post a Comment