Strength in numbers, much! Or maybe not?

This past week in the Randburg CBD, a lady was on her cell phone when a man jumped from a car, snatched the phone and jumped back into the car. The lady must have screamed or some people saw what happened, because a mob started chasing the car.

I didn’t see the actual snatching of the phone, but I heard the loud screeching of tyres, followed by a loud bang. The car hit a pole and the pavement, and got extensively damaged as it tried to drive away from the mob baying for blood. As I saw so many people chase thieves to assist a helpless woman, my faith in humanity was renewed. I felt this was what ubuntu was made of – strength in numbers.

But then, something strange happened.

After the crash, three occupants came out of the car and showed the crowd a clean pair of heels. Curiously, no-one chased them. The cell phone thieves could have just strolled away.

Instead, the mob descended on the car and ransacked it. Jackets and other stuff were taken, I didn’t see everything. Within minutes, the police arrived. Lo and behold, some of the same people who had looted the car were giving very animated evidence, and the big crowd had miraculously vanished.

I’m sure the eye witnesses didn’t mention they also benefited from the incident by stealing from the muggers. They probably stole stolen property. I suspect even the vehicle was a stolen one too.

Soon, evidence technicians were at the scene with their blue protective wear and booties (to avoid contaminating a very contaminated crime scene). They dusted for fingerprints too. Bless them, they probably came up with a million. There was a near-stampede to loot the car and all those people pictured above, and more, touched the car before the police arrived. The whole drama took place in under 5 minutes – snatching, looting, disappearance of looters, arrival of the police.

I just stood in a corner to take pics – with my phone- which could also have been snatched because clearly I was surrounded by thieves and looters. It’s not wise to text in dodgy areas like Randburg. Or anywhere else. I don’t even wear earphones when I take a walk because I want to stay alert and aware of my surroundings.

So, I have mixed feelings. At first I thought these people were helping the lady. Now perhaps I think they were helping themselves.

I’m back to thinking there’s no hope for the human race. You could be surrounded by a crowd, but in reality you’re actually by yourself in this dog-eat-dog world.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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