‘Wake up, Len, my laptop is gone’.


‘And my phone is gone too’.

‘Nah, you are dreaming’.

‘I’m not dreaming, they are gone and your phone too’.

‘But my new laptop is still there on the desk. Are you sure?’

‘I’m sure and your backpack is also gone’.

I quickly dressed, while Lotta sought help from our downstairs neighbours. While they phoned the police (we had no phones left) and put an urgent message on the in-house Whatsapp group, we found that the small amount of cash and my local bankcard was also gone from beside my notebook, together with Lotta’s good camera from her bedside table and her expensive sunglasses were also missing. Fortunately, the thief had not taken Lotta’s handbag or its contents. Our passports were safely stowed in a cupboard.

Two policemen soon arrived and they concurred with my suspicion; that the reason that the thief had not taken my notebook nor the contents of Lotta’s handbag was that one of us had probably started to stir and the thief had fled, not knowing whether or not I had a gun under my pillow, as is not unusual in South Africa. If one of us had woken up and unarmed, tried to confront the thief, the outcome could have been very different. My first and lasting reaction to the discovery was relief that nobody got hurt.

But how had the thief entered a second floor apartment in the first place, when there was an electric fence to overcome? Electric fences protecting property in South Africa don’t give a mild shock like cattle fences in Europe; in South Africa they deliver a massive punch. It turned out that the fence was either not turned on or had somehow been remotely turned off. Perhaps we shall never know how it happened.

The thief must have climbed this wall to the second floor and around the column to the balcony
Similar signs are displayed all around the fence

Two days later, two forensic police spent a couple of hours interviewing me and taking fingerprints from any part of the apartment that the thief may have touched. I found it very interesting to witness how they operate. Unfortunately there was a heavy rain storm not long after the robbery and any external fingerprints would have been smudged. And if the thief had worn gloves, no fingerprints would have been left in any case.

So most of the week was spent in buying a new notebook and two new phones and making them all operational, never a simple process. Affidavits had to be obtained from the local police station and the old telephone numbers ported to our new phones.

As we can no longer have faith in the infallibility of the electric fence, we have fully shuttered our balcony. Now our apartment is as secure as a South African Fort Knox. And we have welcome shade from the fierce summer afternoon sun.

And there has been an important outcome from this whole experience; our experience with the local police has been a very positive one. The four officers who handled our case were, without exception, professional, compassionate and extremely helpful and supportive. The local police have the reputation of being lazy, corrupt and unresponsive. I saw none of that. I just saw good people doing a great job. They may be poorly paid, understaffed, and over worked, but on the whole, they are doing the best they can.

I salute them.