No Xenophobia in Port Elizabeth, Just opportunists

Most of Port Elizabeth no doubt was shocked to hear the news of the Xenophobic attacks that occurred on Saturday. Well I would like to assure those living in PE that nothing of the sort happened. Here is the story that you didn’t read in the news paper.

I received the call at about 10am Saturday morning, it seemed that my colleagues who were called first didn’t want to get out of bed or answer their cellphones. A contact in the SAPS gave me the call and told me get my ass down to Zwide, as there were looters and rioters everywhere. My self and the girl friend quickly threw on something and headed out to the scene of all the action.

According to our source, the whole thing started about 7am that same day. When a local chap got into an argument with Somalian shop owner. The shop owner acted as any rational person does, drawing a 9mm pistol and shooting him between the eyes. He then went back inside his shop, gathered some personal belongings and food. He then walked up to the body of the local chap and shot him twice again. He fled the scene. Now police have been saying that something like this is all it would take for a joburg 2 happening in Port Elizabeth. Over the next couple of hours news spread around zwide of what the shop owner had down and crowds of at first angry people gathered in front of the shop to burn the building down.

Police were already on the scene and only had to call for backup from the ever increasing crowd. As the day wore on the criminal element came to the party. People were racing from one Somali shop to the next, trying to steal what ever they could. 12 people were arrested for looting.

As the first shops were being looted police swarmed into Zwide, at least 150 police officers from all the districts came to the party, a special mention to all the reservists that also came, with out their help I am sure that things would have got out of hand. All armed with shot guns loaded with rubber bullets they camped out side Somali shops protecting them from opportunists.

As one shop was starting to be looted some community members kept the police informed about what was going on. The police radio would crackle with the location of the latest shop being looted, police would pile into their cars and high tail it to where the action was. With us trailing behind them, through the mud and rocky roads of the location. Nothing like driving at high speeds, on mud, with people all around you and gun shots going off in the background.

We arrived at a shop we had been to a couple of hours before. A looter ran from the shop, a police officer chased after him. The officer was able to hit him twice with rubber bullets. The pics below should tell the story. On a personal note, I shot this picture while driving and putting the camera outside the window and letting the shutter fly.

Police also arrested a couple of looters while we were around. A couple that thought it would be great idea to take some maize and a very thin woman.

The police had gotten a call from community members that a woman had stolen some rice, the arrived in force to the scene. Community members pointed out the woman who fled into someones shack. As she was being arrested a man holding a baby chased after the police and handed over what I assume is the womans child. Just take a look at the womans and babies face, it will tell you everything you need to know.

Police guarded Somali owned shops for hours, as the rain came in the crowds became less and less, a help hopefuls hang around in the pouring rain hoping to be the first into the shop when police left the scene.

While the Somali shops were under police guard the owners and families that ran the shops backed up everything that they could into bakkies and fled to a safe house in Durban road, Korstan. Crowds of locals were shouting get out foreigner as they sped under police escort to the safe house.

By about 5pm the action had died down and most of the people were back inside their homes. The PE police ready did a great job with what could have gotten out of hand quickly.


Fire and water, my crazy day.

What a mad, bloody and smoke filled day.

I arrive at work, I have not even logged into my computer when the call comes in that 3 children had been burnt to death in a shack fire. I grab my camera and a note pad and head out. Arriving on the scene I’m welcome with the smell of burnt human. If you’ve never smelt it, count your self lucky, if you have you know that it stays with you the whole day.

The story goes like this.

A mother of three kids, aged 1, 3 and 5 years old, went to the shebeen (community members confirmed this) to go buy some booze at 7:30 in the morning, leaving her kids alone in the house. At some point one of the kids must have knocked over a paraffin lamp over starting a fire. Now being small children they had no clue what to do about the fire or that they must run away from it. The sadest thing for me, is that the 5 year old the only one that could have done anything was disabled and unable to walk. He burnt alive in his bed. The other two children, two girls, were found badly burnt lying on the ground next to each other. What a scene, I’ve gone to shack fires before, but when children are involved its something that is beyond words.

They took bodies away and the community started to pray, which was a mad sight for your average little white boy like me. Then things looked like it was about to get out of hand. People were getting louder and louder. Angry shouts and looks were coming to us as well as the mother. There was talk of them attacking the mother when everyone left. So I left, not wanting to make the news. I left this poor mother with no children left and a husband that not even she knows where to what ever fate the community chooses.

Arriving back at the office i get another call, a man has drowned after falling from a bridge into a river. Racing to the scene my self and a photographer wait around to see if they pull up the body. They were still looking when we left the scene


Back at the office, coffee, smoke and check email.

When a fax comes across my desk that the body of a 2 year old boy was found badly burnt inside a plastic packet.

The story was that this boy went missing last Sunday. His father started looking for him the same day, but only called the police on Tuesday for help in the search. The Search and Rescue dog unit was called in to help. After day of looking and finding nothing they gave up for the day. But began the search again today. While searching a farm in the Patensie area their dogs found the body of the boy. Two people had been arrested in connection with the murder a 58 year old male and 54 year old female married couple are to appear in court on Friday.

That was my day, I hope tomorrow is as action packed

Phones never stop ringing at busy 10111 call centre

IT‘S Saturday night and, with a trained operator at my side, I‘m getting to experience first hand what it is to be a 10111 call centre operator. Tonight I‘m the voice at the end of the line that people reach out to in their time of need – and reach out they do.
“Please, please you‘ve got to help me, they‘re beating up my husband, please send someone, please!”
This is the frantic plea I‘m confronted with as I pick up the phone. The woman is screaming down the phone for help. In the background I hear a little girl crying, shouting out: “Why are you doing that to my daddy?”
As I frantically try to capture the information, the realisation hits me: This is not as easy as people think.
The calls flood in all evening, averaging about 230 an hour – a call every 15 seconds. And apparently this is a slow night.
Early in the evening, however, it becomes clear to me that the bulk of the calls are people calling the 10111 centre for their own amusement. One man in particular calls more than 40 times in one hour. He‘s well known to the operators.
After an hour or so I feel I have the call answering thing cracked. Then the clock ticks over to 10pm and suddenly all hell seems to break loose. The call centre becomes a hive of activity. Calls come in from all over town: attempted house robberies, shootings in progress, reports of a hijacking, too many assaults and fights to even begin to write about.
It seems that come the weekend, especially at the end of the month when everyone‘s been paid and can buy drink, the rate at which people cause each other harm skyrockets.
My phone rings. On the line is a man sitting in his car in Park Drive, reporting that someone is shooting in the area. I can hear the shots in the background.
It is my first priority one call (where police need to respond as soon as possible), and feeling a bit out of my league, I hand the phone over to the professionals and listen on the speaker phone.
As the man is talking, the operator pushes a button next to her phone, triggering an alarm in the dispatch area, alerting the dispatchers that something important is happening.
They in turn begin contacting police officers in the field over the radio, ready to direct them as soon as they know more.
Back at my terminal, the operator is punching the information from the caller into the system, then clicks “report” on her computer screen.
The information appears on all the dispatchers‘ screens immediately. Radios crackle to life and orders are given about what is happening and where.
There is little to no feedback from the dispatcher back to the call operator about whether the complaint has been resolved. There simply isn‘t time. By the time you put the phone down, it‘s already ringing again.
Remember this when you get angry and spit venom down the line at the operator. They are there to get your information and pass that on to the dispatchers, who prioritise the incidents and dispatch the vehicles accordingly.
For instance, when a complaint comes in from the Mill Park area, complaining about kids in the street making a noise by setting off firecrackers, followed shortly after by a report of a gang shooting and a report of mob justice, the limited police resources will be sent to deal with the shooting first.
It is amazing to experience first hand how one Mill Park soccer mom in particular completely lost it, demanding that we do something about the fireworks “right now”.
Not having the proper training to deal with this irate woman, I hand the headset over to the operator and turn on the speaker phone. She is rude and abusive.
Not only am I surprised by the pettiness of some of the complaints I field. I am also surprised at the distinct difference in the way people from different income brackets address me. It seems the wealthy have no concept of what speaking in a civilised manner means.
In comparison, a woman from Motherwell calls in to report, in a polite manner, that there is a drunk man covered in blood banging on her door, and that she is one of three women in the house. She gives us the necessary details, then hangs up. She calls back 30 minutes later, asking if we have dispatched a van. Not once does she scream or shout, not once does she call the police useless.
I realise that the operators at 10111 have a high-stress job that brings little reward.
The little girl‘s pleas for help still haunt me, and I was only there for three hours. How much more so are the full-time operators haunted by the calls they have had to answer?
But they also have to field those abusive and prank calls, from kids playing with pay phones to irate callers screaming obscenities down the line.