Sunday, December 4, 2011

Great Walls of Shame

 Dear Minister of Police,
         In South Africa the very rich are ignoring history and it’s the fault of your Government.
         It teaches us that high, thick walls were a great means of defense in the days when the only weapons available were bows and arrows, swords and the like. Then with the advent of gunpowder and artillery the wall became obsolete.
         The most famous wall of all is the Great Wall of China. That was effective for centuries. Now it is nothing more than a tourist attraction.
        But South Africans are determined to turn the clock back by building thicker and higher walls to protect themselves from gangs of burglars, rapists and murderers, who are invading homes all over the place, often armed with up-to-date weapons. Put these walls end to end and who knows one day they could stretch as far that one in China.
         It all happened after the advent of your African National Congress Government in 1994 because you let crime get completely out of hand.  
         Nowhere are these walls more evident than in Johannesburg. There, as the crime levels have gone higher and higher, so have the walls. Up and up they go as money, bricks and cement gets poured into them at an astonishing rate. 
         Many have got one up on the one in China. A wall five meters high, higher than the average house, is not considered enough protection by itself, it still has to have an electric fence on the top.
         I’m sure there’s one round your house. And how much of our precious resources are going into these fortifications when they would be far better spent on uplifting the masses?
         The next logical step in the great fortify-your-home race would be to have a moat inside the boundary ramparts with a drawbridge at the gate. That would provide an extra obstacle for the cat burglar, who arrives with ropes and pitons or a grappling-iron.  
         In the morning the gardener could fish out the ones who could not swim. Think of all the prestige a moat could bring. For the slightly less, well healed owners it could double as a swimming pool.
         Everywhere the rich are barricading themselves like a tortoise going into its shell. But like the tortoise they have to come out some time and that’s when they are so vulnerable to predators.
         The predators are after their flashy limousines, their diamond rings, their big bucks, their cell phones and anything else of value. As you know they think nothing of killing to get what they want, or just for the thrill of it. It’s scary and the more you’ve got the scarier it gets.
         For every meter a boundary wall goes up those prying eyes on the outside are registering that as the owner has so much to protect, they will have be more ingenious or  more vicious to steal what’s inside. 
         So does it really pay to advertise wealth with those high walls in a land where the majority can not afford to build just one meter of one of them?  
         Some walls are so high that for the people inside and their neighbours sunrise in winter is close to mid-day with sunset around the middle of the afternoon. Talk about interfering with nature.
         And what’s worse is that an environmental impact study is not required before permission is granted to put one up. Protection is the new buzz word that over rides everything else.
         Of course people can have their 4X4 , their fancy BMW or Mercedes Benz armour plated, the equivalent of having a wall around their vehicle.  It will enable them to get in and out of their fortress without being hijacked or shot.
         But once they’ve left their home environment this moving safe deposit box only keeps them in one piece as long as they don’t get out of it.
         These high walls are already becoming obsolete as ingenious crooks have come up with a Trojan horse. They rent a home inside the ramparts of a posh townhouse complex and continue to rampage among the rich.
         Will the day ever come do you think Mr Minister, when the Great Walls of South Africa will be nothing more than tourist attractions?
         Will there be a time when a guide points to the walls and says, Those were built to keep invading hordes of thieving, murdering have-nots from plundering the homes of the haves. But fortunately these days they are no longer necessary. They remain just a reminder of our evil past.
         Sadly I don’t think I’ll live to see that day unless we get a new Government that can tackle the crime problem far more effectively than you and your colleagues are doing now.
Talk, talk and more talk without effective action will never get the job done.
Yours truly,
Jon, a Chinese trained wall builder of distinction. 

P.S. It doesn’t do much to discourage crime when our country’s overall Police Chief gets 15 years for corruption and his successor is suspended for much the same thing. 

Buy my book ‘Where have all the children gone?’ on Amazon Kindle  It’s a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.


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