WHO DESERVES THE FRONT PAGE?
I have decided to stay, in this country that has changed me. I will tell you why.
Sunday the 25th of September. Big fat letters all over the front page of the biggest newspaper in Norway and my picture next to it. Surreal, but true - I had a knife to my throat and was tied to the floor with a television cable during a house robbery outside Cape Town. Friends, family and people I had never met asked how I was doing. It warmed my heart, and I felt grateful for all the support. However, after living in South Africa for a few months, I felt like I almost did not deserve it. In Norway, robberies are rare, but not if you are born in a township in South Africa. Why did I get all this support, this attention, for something that happens to so many people so often here? Who cares when poor people are robbed?
Every night I sleep behind white metal burglar bars, in a white, rich neighborhood. There are those who do not have burglar bars, alarms or security personnel who come running if someone breaks into their homes. Betty is one of those people. She cleans my friend's apartment once a week. A while ago, my friend Heidi gave her some old Nike shoes. Betty was thrilled; they were the best shoes she had ever had. One day, someone broke into her house in the township. They stole her underpants and bras, and her dearest possessions, the Nike shoes. Betty did not end up on a front page, not even in a little corner of a South African newspaper.
Last time Betty came to clean, my friend Heidi let her sleep on the sofa for a while. Betty was recently diagnosed with depression. She tries to jog with her friends in the township to make herself feel better. But what if someone robs her house and steals her running shoes once again?
A few weeks ago, I met a psychologist who works in the township called Khayelitsha. When I told him I had been robbed, his eyes darkened: “The most common mental illness I treat in the township is posttraumatic stress disorder. Poor people experience more car accidents, robberies, rape and trauma than other people in this society. 90 per cent of the patients are women, while men don’t want to talk to psychologists. They deal with traumas by drinking and taking drugs.”
I am fortunate enough to be from a country where people have too many Nike shoes in their closet. In a country where we throw out the old, because we want “the new pink ones this season”, or because our closet just cannot fit more shoes. So what will I do as a rich person behind white burglar bars? Do I just sit here and feel grateful that I am safe?
I have decided to stay and learn more about this troubled, but beautiful country. I hope that one day, my job as a journalist will give me the opportunity to put people like Betty on the front page or on a television screen. Because people like her also deserve to be heard, supported and loved.