Lush and beautiful, yet plagued by crime, why people stay despite the problems.
For over 40 years they’ve lived in this upscale beach community north of Durban, Kwazulu-Natal South Africa. Now in their seventies they spent a few moments reminiscing with us as we sat under a huge shade tree waiting for lunch.
Pristine white beaches, community like lawns between the homes, open windows and doors, children running in the streets and building sand castles without a care. That’s the life they lived and enjoyed while raising their children.
But no more.
With the rise in poverty and increase in lawlessness, this couple, their neighbors, and communities in most areas we’ve travelled, are a far cry from the Africa I grew up in. As I sit on a quiet balcony writing, I hear the gurgling fountain in the courtyard, the occasional bird singing and the periodic giggling of the servant women at work. However, all I need do is turn my head to see the guard shack, security gate and eight foot high electric fence.
All the spacious homes with lush foliage on the neighborhood street are secured like little prison camps with “Armed Response” signs posted visibly.
What happened to the open yards, the easy movement of children exploring their world and neighbors chatting over fence line bushes?
Sometime ago, the lady tells us, they were enjoying a meal at local eatery when they received a call, “Robbery in progress at your home”. In broad daylight the thieves had gotten over the fence forced open the louvered window, climbed in and grabbed their visiting daughter’s laptop. If theirs was an isolated incident it would be one thing, but sadly it is not, and they are now living in isolation like their neighbors, and like so many neighbors across this beautiful country.
Burglar bars, security windows and doors, and an electric fence and heavy controlled access gate now keep invaders at bay. Children no longer leave the yard without an adult, not even to go to the beach immediately below.
So why do they stay? South Africa, despite its struggles, remains home and enough of the good life; the climate, beautiful landscape and familiar places to eat, and friends remain. Its home!