i was riding my bike near khayamandi, township for which bmx track i worked on the songo.info project, and while i was slowly climbing a hill i noticed four kids. the tallest one with huge sunglasses ran behind me and started pulling me left pocket. in confusion i yelled: hey! and started riding harder. i honestly thought he was playing a prank on me, like its some kind of a joke they do on cyclists. for some reason cyclists are often an object of pranks and i am used to it – that when i ride i will meet an occasional prankster who will yell at me or do something like that.
so he was pulling me for few seconds and i was going forward making sure i do not fall. i think he too was very careful that i do not fall. if he wanted he could have pushed me over easy but he did not. then he stopped with the pulling and i continued cycling. suddenly i realized that he might have taken something from my pocket, i checked and my cellphone was gone. i looked back at them and i even thought of stopping but than i just rode on. i really did not feel like fighting four township kids over a 30 euro cellphone.
i did not get upset or scared. just continued with my training. i mean i wanted to donate some stuff to khayamandi anyway so i guess this was it, at least part of it. khayamandi looks like an interesting place, just few days ago i entered it for a bit and there was nice music and bunch of people walking around etc… looks cool.
also this robber, i mean, really amazing guy. he was so professional, he did not hurt me, he knew exactly what to get, he was so diligent and professional. amazing level of skill and daring. if he would only channel that into something more productive, maybe he will later on, maybe taking my cell phone was something productive for them. who knows…
when i told the story to some other guys who cycle there they spoke about taking some pepper spray. i am not an expert on personal security but i strongly suggest against anything aggressive. when i was in brasov, romania, i ran in the night there, and there are lots of bears who dig around the garbage. i did not meet any bears but i was told that bears attack when they are scared of people, when they are surprised. you get my point. if you are robbed by suggestion is to give what you have and look down and let it finish as smooth and quick as possible. smart thing is to have something to give like maybe 50 euros or a cheap cell phone.
if you have nothing to give or you have something to give but you do not want to give it than the problem starts and it can go bad. you have to understand these kids are twice as scared as you are and also kids are kids, they are cruel and angry at the world. all teenagers are. do not provoke them, give them some basic emotional satisfaction of them having power over you, they will enjoy that, will look in front of friends, and will soon move on. be smart.
one hit in your eye can blind you, one hit in your mouth can make you loose your teeth. a lot of these kids have aids and if you get a bit of their blood on your blood thats quite more serious than loosing little money.
also forget having expensive cell phones and ipods and jewelry. these are like magnets for trouble.
bottom line is the tsotsi culture owes me a 30 euro cellphone which is nothing. however a seapoint millinaire robbed me of some 400 euros and that i can do nothing about. also some cycling trading guy robbed me in a much more aggressive way and he still operates with most cape town cyclists. and i was scammed by a port elizabeth bnb place. so tsotsis are somewhat at only few % of what south african scam artists have stolen from me in past years.
i am not so much worried about tsotsi as much as i am worried by white collar crime in south africa – land lords, tourist agents and such. substantial amount of business agents in south africa are scam artist – not only according to my experiences but also to a lot of my friends who live here for decades. criminal turnover and damage these scam artists cause is probably far greater than 10 times what township kids achieve, and they are feel very safe and very arrogant as it seems they are never prosecuted.
so i can respect the tsotsi who robbed me today, took my cell phone, he took very little and he did it in a safe way. maybe that was luck but still it felt ok. if he asked i might have given it to him anyway, it costs as much as i spend on coffee in 3 days. what i can not do is respect those who can not resist robbing tourists through internet schemes and bullshit exchange rates and such crap. scam artists. fuckem!