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Tue
4
Jan '11

Blog 12 – Buddy and Me – Project 3 (1st -12th December 2010)

Posted by Julia

Categories: Buddy and Me

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The PROPOSAL TO THE PRESIDENT for your perusal. 

To watch Buddy and Me in real time click here, select South Africa under “Global Fleet Logins:” in the left hand panel, enter cellphone number 0822549129 and password Buddy.

To make a donation to or information on any of the organisations involved in assisting victims of child rape and abuse, please click on one of the following links:

Beares
Lubners
Bobbi Bear Foundation (KwaZulu-Natal)
The Teddy Bear Clinic (Gauteng)
The TygerBear Foundation (Western Cape)
GRIP (Mpumalanga)
StepThru (Gauteng)

So welcome to blog 12 of ‘Buddy and Me’. This passed 12 days has been a real eye opener for me with regard to the rape and sexual abuse of children in the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast area as well as the goings on in the South Africa Police Service with regard to whether or not the so called ‘FCS’ unit has been ‘officially’ re-instated or not and the general crime situation in this area.

In my last blog I briefly mentioned my visit to the Umzinto town and the mob march that took place there. What I did not mention, due to the fact that my blog was longer than anticipated, was the story ‘behind the story’ related to my visit to the horrible and disgustingly dirty town of Umzinto.

Monday morning before heading to Umzinto, I experienced something really weird. I have often been asked “Have you had any problems while travelling all over Africa in Buddy”, and my answer has always been “Yes, one must expect problems when doing the kind of travelling ‘Buddy and Me’ do, but fortunately the ‘Big Boss’ upstairs seems to like ‘Buddy and Me’ and when we have experienced problems it has always been where somebody is at hand to help us and sort out the problem”. Well something happened on Monday morning that proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that ‘Buddy and Me’ do have a ‘Guardian Angel’ looking after us.

In the 5 years Buddy and Me’ have been together on this project I have never dreamt of Buddy or the project, but in the early hours of Monday morning I had a dream that ‘Buddy and Me’ visited a ‘place’ which involved me having to climb a large set of stairs to reach the front door of the place we were visiting; in fact when I woke and told Kathy (Kathy being my friend Stuart Knox’s wife who hosted me accommodation for the weekend) about it in the morning, I said it appeared to be a school of some sort. On telling Kathy about the dream I said it appeared to be rather a bad area and that I had parked Buddy on what appeared to be a sandy and generally grotty road of some sort. Soon after entering ‘the building’ in my dream, I heard a lot of shouting which sounded like a riot and on looking outside discovered to my horror that a large mob were attacking Buddy and ripping him to pieces and there were people shouting and running everywhere.

On entering Umzinto on Monday morning to visit the Beares store I was shocked at the mess the town was in. The streets and paving have been ripped up in order to repave them in an attempt to make the town more presentable but at present it is in a really bad way. I was forced to park Buddy on a muddy section of ‘road-side’ outside the store and made my way through the rubble to the stairs to reach the store.

While chatting to Wendy Naidoo, the Beares store manager and her friendly staff, a policeman entered the store and said that they were asking all the business’s in the town to close and to put in place any protective shutters they have, (fortunately Beares have such shutters) and to remove cars from the streets because they were expecting a demonstration march through the town and the police could not guarantee their safety. Wendy suggested I move Buddy from the front and park him in the ally next to the store, but when I looked at Buddy ‘at the bottom of the long flight of stairs’ in front of the store, parked in a ‘really bad area’ and the fact that the police were expecting a ‘really rowdy mob’, I could not help but think of my dream and wonder if it was not a premonition.

With this in mind I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I made the decision to make a very hasty retreat from the town of Umzinto and so bid Wendy and her staff a hasty farewell and departed. The front page of the newspaper the next morning confirmed that I had made the right decision because the heading of the paper said “Umzinto Burnsand the picture showed flames coming from numerous burning objects in the main street of the town. Later when I told Kathy what had happened she shook her head in wonder and said “Absolutely Steve, you have a ‘Guardian Angel’ looking after you”.

 

Umzinto Burns

For the duration of my stay in the Port Shepstone area I was kindly hosted by a friend from the Gem Bar in Lambton Germiston, Darren, who moved to the South Port – Port Shepstone area – a year ago and has been in Jo’burg for the passed three weeks and so I had the run of the house to myself, well not quite. His Malawian ‘houseman’, Fraction (believe me that is his name) was looking after the place and is fortunately a very good cook which made my life really easy, he has also become a pretty good fisherman in his short stay on the coast and took me to a few of his ‘not so well known’ fishing spots where although he caught a few fish I remained ‘fishless’.

My visit to the Beares store in Port Shepstone provided me with a very interesting chat with an incredibly dedicated police official who on introducing herself said she was a member of – yes you guessed – that ever controversial unit “The FCS unit” of the SAPS.

She confirmed that the rape of children in the area, and believe me the area the Port Shepstone ‘FCS’ unit covers is a huge one, is absolutely rotten when it comes to the rape of children. She also confirmed that the ‘FCS’ unit has 15 ‘satellite’ police stations in it’s cluster to look after with a total staff of 17 staff members. On this subject I must say that I have never seen so many traffic cops as I saw on the streets of Port Shepstone. There were at least 4 or 5 of them on virtually every street – sorry what was that my guest told me, “17 ‘FCS’ unit members” to provide services to how many police stations in what size area? (See Blog 2 for more details on this subject)

To add to their woes, the unit suffers with the usual problem experienced by all police stations around South Africa, that being no vehicles, or rather not enough vehicles to handle the work load. The vehicles that are allocated to these station are completely the wrong kind of vehicles – mostly Golf’s and Toyota’s – due to the fact that the areas they have to contend with are very rough with dirt roads which require bakkies and in a lot of places 4X4’s. I have written extensively about my views on this topic, see my previous blogs regarding the huge amounts of money the government is spending on the Metro police to provide them with top notch vehicles in abundance to ‘catch traffic offenders’ after all this must be a far bigger priority than stopping the rape of children. 

The 15 stations which form the Port Shepstone cluster are in a radius of between 80 and 100 kilometres with the furthest station being 130 kilometres away. Obviously with only three police officials on call duty to respond to reports of child rape by the cluster stations, this makes it impossible to attend to reports and for proper attention to be given to obtaining statements and evidence which can lead to the arrest and successful conviction of the culprit. Hence the disastrous situation we find ourselves in when it comes to the effective handling of child rape cases by the South African Police Service in South Africa and hence our ridiculously low conviction rate of 4%. 

On this subject – the ridiculously low conviction rate issue – my guest from the ‘FCS’ unit confirmed that the reason for the low conviction rate is mainly attributed to the extremely lengthy time it takes for investigating officers to obtain DNA/forensic results from the labs, the average time being, according to her, anything from 2 to 4 years, which results in the suspect being released and because he knows he’s guilty makes ‘a duck’ so when the police eventually obtain the vital evidence he cannot be found.

The other main contributing factor to the low conviction rate is of course the fact that on average a child rape case takes 2-3 years to go to trial. My guest believes, and I concur, that all child rape cases should get precedence over any other case and should on completion of investigation be allocated to the top of the court list. The reason for this being that our courts expect a child, who has been raped and subjected to extreme trauma and who has subsequently been provided with counselling – by private NGO’s I might add – because the South African government/authorities only provides free counselling to convicted rapists – to remember in detail what happened anything up to three or four years down the line, hell most adults can’t remember what happened to them a few days ago, so how can it be expected of a child to recall, in detail, what happened so long ago.

Another topic we discussed was the fact that it appears that our judicial system, although doing a sterling job in handing down some really great sentences for child rape, is being over thrown by the ‘other system’ namely the Correctional Services and Parole Board who are insisting on releasing child rapists long before their sentences have been served.

During the last few weeks, which marked the ‘16 days of activism’, the newspapers have been inundated with articles concerning the rape of children and headlines have reflected sentences such as ‘life imprisonment’ etc being handed down by our courts. This is really great but when we see a savage like Devapragasen Munsamy who raped and brutally murdered little 10 year old Natasha Sukdeo (See blogs 10 and 11 for details of petition) being released after only having served 15 of his 60 year sentence, one wonders if our esteemed ‘authorities’ know what they are doing.

It is widely believed, and if our government questions my statement I am confident that a national poll in the form of a referendum would prove me right, that the far majority of South African citizens support a system of child rapists being jailed for the rest of their natural lives without the possibility of parole, the only ones I believe who would probably vote against it would be child rapists.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a Thuthuzela Care Centre was opened at the Port Shepstone provincial/Regional Hospital on the 1st of December 2010. Of course I had to pay the centre a visit and after a chat with a lady who specifically asked me not to mention her name as she could get into trouble for speaking to me, it was once again confirmed that although I believe that the Thuthuzela Care Centre’s are the roots of the solution of stopping the rape of children, the government, or rather the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) is handling the establishment of the centres all wrong.

The initial concept of the Thuthuzela Care Centres was to have qualified and properly trained police officials together with a doctor, forensic nurse and social worker based at the centres to provide a ‘one stop’ service to victims of child rape as well as victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, as has been the case with all the Thuthuzela Care Centres I have visited to date, there was no police, doctor, forensic nurse or social worker present at the centre on my visit and I was told that “they phone for these people when a victim arrives at the centre”. What a waist of an absolutely brilliant concept!!

My many talks with local residents along the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast during the passed two weeks has inspired me to write another message to our countries esteemed Minister of Tourism, Mr. Martinus Van Schalkwyk (See my last message to him in blog 6). As I said in the last message, “you frequently ask why South Africans are spending fortunes to travel over-seas for holidays when they should be spending their time and money touring South Africa”. Well after having spent sometime on the KZN South Coast I can answer that question for you quite easily.

Everywhere I have travelled on the coast and in every single conversation with the local residents, I have been warned not to go on the beaches to swim or fish due to the violent crime taking place on the beaches involving the rape of women, robbery and brutal murder of innocent holiday makers, residents and fishermen. The local papers have been full of horrific incidents involving the brutal rape and murder of women and children and senseless killing of innocent and peace loving men wanting to enjoy the splendour of the beaches while fishing. So my response to you is, maybe if you didn’t spend all your time in expensive hotels and other forms of accommodation, and experienced the ‘average South Africans’ holiday and was accosted and robbed or had a member of your family raped and brutally murdered while on a ‘lovely South African KZN South Coast beach’, maybe you would change your tune and rather encourage South Africans to rather go and holiday over-seas”.

I did however manage to get some fishing in, of course I listened to the local residents and ensured that Fraction (Darren’s Malawian ‘Houseman) accompanied me, together with my trusted friend Rasta, who is an incredible little pup who Fraction saved from the jaws of hell in a local township, but alas I still remained ‘fishless’. When Fraction saved him and arrived ‘home’ with Rasta he was a skinny little thing, just bones and skin, and was very timid and scared but by the time I left he had filled out and was bossing Daren’s other two larger dogs around like he was a fully grown Rottweiler.

 

The two, okay so I will include myself as well, the three great fishermen, Fraction, Rasta and me.

When it came time for me to leave, I searched all over for Rasta and eventually found him.

I think he was trying to tell me something – he was sleeping in my over night bag. I have to tell you that I make a concerted effort not to get attached to animals while on this project and have on a number of occasions fallen very close to breaking this rule and in the case of Rasta I failed miserably and so when I eventually left I left with a terrible ache in my chest, but Fraction has promised that he will look after Rasta in my absence and on my return to the area in January to commence with the third leg of the ‘Buddy and Me’ project 3 I hope to visit him and report to you all that he is doing fine, so stay tuned to the www.buddyandme.co.za website for more information on the life and times of Rasta.

To finish off this, my last blog for this leg of ‘Buddy and Me’ project 3, the next starting on the 12th January 2011, I would like to expand on a comment I made in my earlier blog (Blog 8) in which I wrote about the service issues I have with ‘Child Line’. In my interview with my ‘FCS’ unit member guest in Port Shepstone I asked her how many reports she had received, or heard of being reported to the police, of child rape or the sexual abuse of children by ‘Child Line’, and her answer was “never”. According to her she has never, in all the years that she has been associated with the South African Police Service, had a case of the rape or sexual abuse of a child reported by Child Line, and so I rest my case as far as my issues with ‘Child Line’ are concerned.

With that ‘Buddy and Me’ will bid you – all those people who avidly read the ‘Buddy and Me’ blogs on a regular basis, and that includes all of those people from so many different corners of the world – a very merry, blessed and happy Christmas and wish you all a safe and prosperous New Year.

                                                                                               

Caring regards from:

‘Buddy (The Beach Buggy)

and

Me (Steve Heath)’

Please note that all comments and opinions on this blog/website are those of Steve Heath and not those of the sponsors or supporters to the ‘Buddy and Me’ project.

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