Sunday, October 30, 2011

A violent event in a Woolworths parking lot

Today, I'm breaking the trend of fairly idyllic imagery on this blog to share a rather violent story that we witnessed a few weeks back. I've been a little torn over how (and whether) to present it but I finally decided to give it a try, because a blog that shows only birdhouses and lawn bowling in Johannesburg wouldn't be telling the whole story.

As we watched the South Africa vs. Australia rugby game a few Sundays back, a commotion broke out in the parking lot. A group of men had pulled another man out of a moving car and were hitting him pretty hard. Rumors circulated that the man being attacked had tried to steal a car and had been caught by the parking lot guards. The general consensus was disbelief - I've been told that in general, parking lot guards tend to be rather disengaged from their job, mainly hanging around parking lots and collecting the occasional rand for helping drivers find a free space. To most present, it appeared to be beyond belief that a guard would step in front of a moving car to stop a theft.

The police arrived just minutes later in full force, followed shortly after by ambulances. They packed the man into the back of the police truck.

As the game ended and distraught Springbok fans headed for their cars to go home, more details about the commotion emerged. The guards had responded so brutally not in response to a car theft, but rather to stop a man who had moments earlier stabbed a woman - thought to be his girlfriend - in front of the Woolworths supermarket.

To be clear, violence like this isn't a uniquely South African thing - even in my home town in Connecticut, a former classmate was killed by gunfire just last year. But to witness such violence, no matter where, leaves a sick feeling in one's stomach. I haven't been able to find any coverage of the event in the papers, so I'm unsure how the woman is doing. I can only hope for the best.

Many joked about the guards finally doing something worthwhile, but really - these very ordinary, very low-paid guys literally stepped in front of a vehicle driven by a man known to be violent. Wow. They also laid into him with a ferocity that would likely have landed themselves into trouble in the states. I'm told this is typical of the self-policing mentality in many communities here. 

I hope never to witness such a tragic event again.


  1. How horrible. But the guards did a good job by catching the suspect.

  2. There are incidents like this everywhere, and it is unsettling. I have shared your dilemma about the range of subject matters to include in my photo blog. I have not witnessed any crime or violence, so I have not faced your precise decision, but I respect your approach to dealing with the range of potential subjects.

  3. Well done, Susie. Yes, violence happens everywhere. And, yes, it was impressive that the parking attendants stood up to the criminal. Like many others, I tilt my blog to the positive, but my basic rule is to show what interests me and to assume that it will also interest others.

  4. What a tragic event to have to witness. I've had the same thoughts about posting events with a darker side to them. You did this very well.

  5. "...a blog that shows only birdhouses and lawn bowling in Johannesburg wouldn't be telling the whole story." Thank you for telling the whole story - because I am a firm believer that these daily photo blogs have the potential to be more than pretty postcards.

  6. Like Jack, I have long since decided to go with the generally positive outlook on my blog. Here in the UK these days the police are mostly seen as ineffective, not likely to actually catch any criminal that may cross your daily life. The courts are viewed as so skewed towards their clients that the victim is very much an afterthought. So I can well understand the stance taken by these guards.