Fool On The Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

FOTHOh dear. It was two years ago exactly that the Fool on the Hill column was all about crime and keeping yourself safe inLusaka, and here we are again. Certainly in the New Kasama / Leopards Hill area there has been at least one armed robbery that due to good luck and cool heads concluded without serious violence, but this combined with the recent upsurge in rapes and murders in Lusaka, has spawned a great deal of speculation and trepidation in the neighbourhood.


With widespread unemployment a likely by-product of the enormous-one step hike in the minimum wage, especially in December when the agricultural workers collective agreement is renegotiated, there are going to be many more people with much less money in the semi-rural areas around our cities. In addition there will be resentment towards employers who have been forced into liquidation and down-sizing by the new laws. Many of the largest employers in the mining and agricultural sectors are foreign companies and now that racist and xenophobic rhetoric are fashionable in the media with statements like that of a railway expert “We don’t need whites to help us run this rail line” in the Post Online (13th Sept 2012) one can expect a large portion of blame and anger to be directed against foreigners rather than the Zambian civil servants who pass sweeping new laws without due diligence or consideration of their knock on effect.


Sadly, however that is just a small part of the problem as statistics from our nearest high crime rate neighbourSouth Africashow.  In 81.5% of murders, 75.9% of rapes, 89% of assaults with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and 89.3% of common assaults, the victims and perpetrators were related to each other. SAPS reports that most contact crimes take place in impoverished township areas, and according to the 2006 State of Cape Town report, the high crime rates are predominantly concentrated in certain township areas where there has been a rise in drug-related crime and where the gangs have taken over in the absence of adequate law enforcement. So when crime rates rise the majority of victims are the immediate family, friends and neighbours of the perpetrators and whilst the middle class elite sits behind electric fences with fingers poised on armed response panic buttons, a higher percentage of the majority of less fortunate people will be assaulted, raped or ripped off at home by their disgruntled and unemployed brothers-in-law.


The US State Department  the US Bureau  of Diplomatic Security  and the UK Foreign Office  websites all list carjackings, housebreaking and robbery, and date rape as the highest current risks in Zambia.


All give the same advice on the first threat namely; try to be especially alert in the last few minutes of your journey home, check your mirrors and if you think you are being followed or see an occupied car parked on the street go round the block to make sure. Be aware of strangers lurking on the road near your gate. Install an electric gate with motion sensing lights and a camera or fake CCTV housing so that anyone lingering there or attempting to tamper with it will feel exposed. Remove any shrubbery or features around the gate which could afford an attacker a hiding place. Stop on the road and wait for all traffic to pass before you activate your gate so that you can’t be boxed in on your driveway, don’t make the turn until you are sure you are not being watched, and when it’s open pass through the gate and close it immediately making sure nobody has slipped in on foot behind you. If you are visiting someone or don’t have a gate buzzer, don’t sit at the gate on the intercom (especially after dark); phone when you are five minutes away and stay on the road and beep your horn until the gate is opened.


Home security systems have changed in the last few years and many firms in Zambia now offer a cell phone based system which can be armed, disarmed and tweaked by sms, from your phone, allowing you to have a great deal of control remotely and to be notified immediately of any problems. Door magnets, motion sensors (PIR’s) and infrared beams allow houses to be zoned for total intrusion alert when you are absent or partial cover of sections of the property or building only when you are in residence.  Choose the company that has the closest response vehicle, check whether they are armed and also what measures they have for entering your property if your gate is locked and the intruders are already on the inside. You don’t want them to be phoning you to borrow a ladder while you are busy with a gun to your face. I was surprised that several of the companies I spoke to had no plan in place for this eventuality, which is surely quite common.


Also where I have previously advised NOT buying a gun for home defence unless you are already a legal, safe and competent gun owner I would now add the caveat that with the Leopards Hill Shooting Range in operation there is now a venue for expert training in use of firearms for self defence for corporate and private clients, which no new shooter should go without (contact With ammunition now available to shoot on the range there is no excuse for being a poor shot due to restrictions on what you can purchase on your firearm blue book.


Recent research conducted in South African jails with convicted criminals flagged several interesting points. Security guards are easily immobilised and are often used as informants especially where they are employed by an outside company rather than the property owner. A private security vehicle patrolling the area is a formidable deterrent in the absence of reliable policing, so join and support your local neighbourhood watch. Large guard dogs are not a problem to housebreakers who simply poison them a few minutes before entering the premises. Far more difficult to bypass are small dogs kept inside a house which will raise the alarm and are difficult to neutralise. Who would have thought a Maltese poodle would be a better bet than a Mastiff for protection? And take a leaf out of the criminals’ own book and have tinted windows installed on your vehicle like a gangster. Hijackers hate them as they don’t know if the car is occupied by a little old lady or five dopped up Boks supporters spoiling for a fight.


Finally the best protection is a state of consciousness. Being alert to the possibility of foul play and keeping that always in the back of your mind is not as negative or doom-laden as it sounds. You’ll find it makes you less anxious being observant and perhaps overcautious all of the time than allowing your feelings to ebb and flow according to the current crime rate. And it’s better to have discussed a safe plan and taken precautions in preparation for an event that will hopefully never occur than to be surprised and unprepared if it does, even if that means an uncomfortable conversation with your kids and wife and being laughed at by friends  for being paranoid or overly theatrical.


Every precaution you take should be about buying time. The longer it takes for an intruder to get you into the untenable position where you or your loved ones are at point blank; where all bets are off, all strong boxes are opened and all stashes revealed, the more chance you have of still being safe when the cavalry arrives.



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