By: Murray Williams
It’s Friday afternoon and my 13-year-old daughter asks me: “Dad, may we walk to the shop?” She and two same-aged friends. I wonder, then say yes.
Why would I say that? Why take that risk?
Because I have trust.
Not in the police, or any other security agency. But in my community.
A year ago, almost to the day, my son, 14, got up at 3am to use the bathroom, and came across a man leopard-crawling down our bedroom passage.
Terrified, he let out a primordial scream, in a split-second armed himself with a hockey stick.
The man fled, back out the lounge window he had meticulously, silently removed.
In the weeks that followed, our neighbours were targeted too.
Until enough was enough, and a core of us met, and thrashed out a plan.
The impact has been dramatic.
The message to those who had targeted us has been clear: First of all, I don’t hate you.
I understand there are probably many authentic reasons why you have walked the path you have. Terrible voids and injustices which may explain your descent into crime. No hope.
Indeed, we must work tirelessly together to try to improve all our children’s life-chances. Your and my children have a common future.
But the moment you threaten my family, or my neighbours, or my community, the game changes. Because, as a father, husband, neighbour, my primary, fundamental responsibility is to protect them.
I will mobilise my entire community around you. And be clear: we radically outnumber you.
And we do not fear you.
We sure did. The knowledge of a burglar in our houses in the dark of night terrorised us. You ruled our hearts with fear.
But in the past year, we have traded in our fear. For unity, purpose.
To be clear: I am not a vigilante. I am not going to break the law. I am not going to hurt you. I will earnestly, non-violently, neutralise the threat you pose using my eyes, my ears, my relentless effort.
We are not tough, or Liam Neesons in Taken, or Rambos or Harry Joshuas – remember him? Far from it.
We’re far scarier than them. To anyone with ill-intent: We’re your worst nightmare because we’re highly active, committed citizens. We have built a united resilience against you.
Against anything which may come to threaten us. We have reclaimed our spaces without lifting a hand in anger.
As a community, we are building a movement of precious common care.
Proactively, jointly, determinedly.
So, to my daughter: Yes, you may walk to the shop. Because I have complete confidence in my neighbours. Just as they trust me.
* Murray Williams’ column ’Shooting from the Lip’ appears in the Cape Argus every Monday.