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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April 2004, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Fighting for justice in the new South Africa
Crime was one of the key issues during this week's South African elections, with President Thabo Mbeki's ANC government widely criticised for high levels of violence across the country.

Black South Africans are still the main victims, but whites including BBC News Online reader Heather Mortimer also find themselves caught up in the bloodshed.

My husband David and I moved from Zimbabwe to Durban, South Africa, in 1992.

David (L) and Heather (R) Mortimer
David Mortimer (left, with wife Heather) was killed in 2002
We celebrated those first incredible and historic elections in 1994 and rejoiced with the new rainbow nation.

In 2002 David was murdered while carrying out his job as a mechanic in Durban.

There was a small strike on at his workplace involving about 100 workers, and he was shot dead to force the company, one of the largest in South Africa, to end its refusal to negotiate and settle the dispute a few days after his murder.

David, who was 54, didn't take sides. He wasn't involved with either union or management, he just carried on working because I was a housewife and he was the breadwinner who needed his job.

I have never given up the struggle for justice in South Africa
In doing so, he became a victim of that unfinished business in post-apartheid South Africa which is still ongoing - the struggle between the forces of labour and the mainly white-controlled institutions of economic power.

Unspeakable anguish

I left South Africa at the end of 2002 to move to England where my only son lives. My husband was originally from England and I was born in Zimbabwe.

But I have never given up the struggle for justice in South Africa.

I represent all those others, working-class like my husband, of all colours of the rainbow nation who face similar heartbreak
Needless to say after two years I have failed. No-one has been asked to account for what happened to my husband.

The election was on Wednesday 13 April, while the second anniversary of my husband's murder is just three days later.

For me personally, life changed in those 10 years from ordinary contentment with our life in South Africa into unspeakable anguish and loss when my husband paid with his life.

And the payment goes on. His murder has gone unchallenged.

From an outright denial by his employers that his murder was connected to the strike, despite overwhelming evidence I have gathered myself to the contrary, to the silence and apathy I have encountered from all those who hold the reins of power in South Africa today.

One of many

Whether government, trade union or big business, there is no concern over the murder of a mechanic of whatever ethnicity.

I have been told the police have no resources and that 40% of murders in South Africa remain unsolved and I am just one of many who are suffering in this way.

In other words, forget it.

My story is an individual one, but I also represent all those others, working-class like my husband, of all colours of the rainbow nation who face similar heartbreak and a lack of justice.

That's why I am telling you how my life changed since those first elections 10 years ago in South Africa even though, because of this murder, I am not there today.

Your comments:

Virtually every family I know in South Africa has been hijacked, burgled or has had a loved one killed
Clare, UK
Deepest sympathies clearly go to Mrs Mortimer after such a horrific experience. Like so many others say, such attacks seem rife and virtually every family I know in South Africa has been hijacked, burgled or has had a loved one killed. Being British such a way of life seems alien to the relative security we enjoy over here. I am married to a South African whose only desire is to return home. It seems some South Africans are immune to the violence and consider it simply a part of life.
Clare, UK

My heartfelt sympathies go out to you. These stories are a part of life in South Africa and are the reason I too took my three-month-old daughter and wife from the country we loved. After a string of burglaries and muggings, the last straw was when they scaled the outside of a three-story block of flats using the satellite dishes to rob us while we were sleeping. If we had woken up during the event we would be dead. Personally I feel the whole "proudly South African" and "Rainbow Nation" propaganda is perpetuated by big business that has substantial financial interests in mind and not that of the people of South Africa.
Brett, Hertfordshire, England

I too packed up my wife and four-month-old daughter almost four years ago to move back to the UK. Having emigrated in 1976 with my parents, I felt that I could not bring up a child there. My brother had been burgled twice and nothing was done. The second time he handcuffed the burglar in his house, the police took the burglar away. With the overcrowded prisons, who knows what was done with him. My family still lives there. I have no intention of considering moving back over there, for myself or for my daughter who has had tremendous opportunity here.
Paul, Cambridge, England

Yes, crime is bad and I am sorry for those who have lost loved ones. Let us not forget our journey to this point. The majority were completely neglected and exploited by a small minority that lived off their cheap labour. Any sudden change will be accompanied by some terrific challenges - crime is one. Why is this so surprising? Earlier crime was only in the black townships since the white areas were "white night" areas. Today, people are free to move so crime has spread everywhere.
John Rhodes, South Africa

I feel for all people in South Africa irrespective of race, colour or creed
Danny, Chatham, UK
I love SA. Yet the thought of living in a land where violence is rife is unfair on my family. I was hijacked in my home eight years ago. We were petrified after that. I feel for all people in South Africa irrespective of race, colour or creed. If only there was no violence. South Africa would be an example of a utopia.
Danny, Chatham, UK

Whenever I hear another story like this one I realise what a good decision I had made leaving South Africa. I left South Africa in 1997 after just leaving school. I have always been a bit cynical and pessimistic about the way South Africa would go and I was sure that England would provide a much better life for me. It has. Every year a horror story like this one gets a lot closer to home. Just two years ago a close family friend of mine was shot in the head - she was barely 21 and was coming out of her bible studies group. Her father was in the car and witnessed the whole episode. God bless Africa and its good people. I do hope that one day it will come right, for the sake of its people and for all those who love it. As for Mrs Mortimer - I am sure that everyone sympathises with you and we all wish you the best.
Warren, Southampton, UK

A sad story, and like many others one that is familiar to me. After living 35 very happy years in SA, the last straw was a break-in and the removal of all tools and computers from my home based business. The cherry on the top was a hand written note left in the now empty office on the desk stating 'We will be back for the goods in the house and your cars next time'. We were fortunate that I have a UK passport and had the choice. I feel for the other folk that have no choice and just have to live with the crime from day to day.
Jimmy Swindells, Ulm, Germany

There is no quick and easy government fix as the whole problem is cyclic
Guy Dormehl, Cape Town, South Africa
As a white S African who returned to live in SA eight years ago after living for many years in Australia, UK, Italy, Canada and Europe, I feel the issue of crime in SA is being viewed too simplistically. It is always tragic when someone is killed and one does not want to diminish that fact or deny that crime is too high in SA. But the crime here is the product of a violent past, poverty and social ills. There is no quick and easy government fix as the whole problem is cyclic. Much as I admire a lot of what has been done by the ANC, I feel that they have neglected the poor and the related social blight.
Guy Dormehl, Cape Town, South Africa

My deepest sympathies to you and your family. I too was born in Zimbabwe but emigrated to South Africa with my family at the age of one year. At the earliest opportunity I left the country that I grew up in and grew to love. However I do not regret making the decision to leave three years ago. Being a victim of crime myself I could no longer stand around and see such a wonderful country with wonderful people deteriorate into a cesspool of violence, hate, corruption and racism.
Ryan, UK

I am sorry to hear about this terrible atrocious act that took your husband from you. President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC government will have to work hard to clean up crime within SA. It's a tough job considering the legacy of apartheid which taught some South Africans to fight in order to gain, just like they fought to gain their independence or liberation from the apartheid regime. I think we need to strike bit of balance here, and stop demonising one side. The problem is much more serious than you think. There are deep-seated issues of old in the hearts of South Africans that need to be dealt with. In a way what we are beholding now is the ramification of wrong policies that's been perpetuated for centuries. If the ANC is not going to be serious about these issues, it is going to fail the people.
Ndola, USA,

Crime is a problem. My brother, who thank God, survived being shot in the chest at point-blank with a .38 special, has now also left SA as a result. Will I ever leave? I love the country of my birth and really enjoy the 'new' South Africa but the crime is a cause for concern. My brother's case was closed with little if any investigation taking place.
Richard H, Kempton Park, South Africa

I lived over 10 years in Southern Africa and in my experience this story is fairly typical, especially amongst moderate blacks. From what I saw it was the way that people like Mugabe and Mandela got to power and the way many of their supporters still operate. They are happy to appear democratic in the beginning shortly after independence, then the mismanagement and corruption takes hold and the money starts running out and it is inevitable that this kind of 'unfinished business' becomes more prevalent. Unfortunately I feel the rainbow nation propaganda is just a smokescreen, I think you made the right decision to leave.
Mike, Edmonton AB Canada

I am sorry to hear your story. To achieve justice we have to leave no stone unturned. Of course, one day justice will prevail. I wish you all the best for as well as the wellbeing of South Africa. I hope President Thabo Mbeki's ANC government will find the solution to all these challenges.
Chandra Sing Gurung , GC, Singapore

This is a similar story to that of my sister-in-law who moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa in 1981. Her husband was murdered by four assailants while working on his late brother-in-laws small holding at Klipriver, south of Johannesburg in 1998. The police at Sharpville said the only way they would capture the murderers is if they handed themselves in at the Police Station. True to their word no one even questioned about the murder of my brother-in-law. After two home invasions I left my homeland Azania to move to Aotearoa. God Bless Africa whose politicians have let their people down in their haste to live the high life of Mercedes Benz's, cell-phones, credit cards, flash clothes and nice houses in the formally white areas.
O Osborne, Wellington, Aotearoa

My heart-felt sympathies. Indeed, one does feel powerless in those circumstances: it was the violence that in the end persuaded me to take my family from the sunny sores of Africa. None of my close family experienced such violence, but we knew that it was merely a matter of time before we did. We were lucky we had the skills to allow us to migrate, I feel for the countless others who have no choice.
Joe Mandebvu, Australia

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