The Running Commentary

How we can all help fight crime

cape townThe letter below was written from Smiley to his wife Jane who was killed in their driveway. The letter speaks volumes and is an encouragement to us all to help, in the fight against crime by joining our local Neighbourhood watch groups. I am a member of the Plumstead Neighbourhood Watch (ps we carry torches and walkie-talkies)

Title: Open Letter from Smiley van Zyl, to his wife Jane..
Item Text:

By kind permission: –

To My Wife Jane

Dear Jane,

It has only been a few weeks but it truly feels like a life-time. I simply cannot accept that time will heal, because no matter if my life gets better or worse in future, the one thing is for sure – it will never ever be the same without you. From the time you were shot on Sunday 13th April, until they finally turned off your life-support system on Monday at lunch-time, my life changed forever.

Amazingly enough, I am now using all our “home-grown” little philosophies we so often discussed and laughed about around the fire, to find the answers in life :

Your favourite was always : Exchange your anger with love and forgiveness.

My favourite was always your pet hate : Concentrate on the solutions rather than the problem.

I have also discovered during the past three weeks that in every negative, one CAN find a positive. Sometimes the price you pay is bigger than anticipated, and you are expected to dig deeper than usual to find it. While I will never understand, nor be able to accept what happened to you, I have been forced circumstantially to try and find solutions, even if it is just for my own sanity. I have done more soul searching in the process than I ever thought possible.

It would have been incredibly easy to let the anger take control of my life, but being the peace-loving and forgiving person you were, I would never have been able to live with myself, especially knowing how hard you tried all these years to teach me this.

Several questions have repeatedly run through my mind regarding that Sunday fatal evening:

If only I . . . . . If only you . . . . If only we . . . . If only they . . . .

Well, we always lived our lives with a positive and no-regret-attitude as we both believed that no-one really makes mistakes intentionally. Together, we were decision makers and whenever we made one, at the time it was the right one in our minds, so how could it have been wrong? No matter how it turned out in the end, we lived with our decisions.

You will have to forgive me on one aspect, as I am really battling to understand what these criminals, who have more than a 150 charges against them, varying from attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, drive-way robberies and fraud, were doing out on bail at the time?

Well, as you so often reminded me – if you do not have in-depth knowledge of something, how can you criticize it? I have therefore accepted that I will never understand our justice system!

During the 40 years we knew each other, (and especially during our 32 years of marriage), we always made all our major decisions together. Well, I have just made my first one, all on my own:

I refuse to accept that your death will be classified as another (senseless) murder, and in the process allow you to become just another South African statistic. Although I totally disagree with the choice, I truly believe your murder have opened the eyes of the entire community. You did not die in vain. We have all been living in a dream world, while a small group of very dedicated people called the Neighbourhood Watch, were out there trying to protect us from evil.

The obvious question you will probably ask : “Where were they when I arrived home and got shot”?

The answer is simple: In order to be everywhere, all the time, they need everybody to get involved. Do you remember how we ignored their calls for assistance? I did not even know that we could have called them to meet you at home that night. I also did not know that, had we got involved, they would have made us more aware of the dangers in our neighbourhood and teach us how we could have perhaps avoided some of the mistakes we made. But this is all too negative for us, . . . . . remember !

We would have rather concentrate on the positive side. You will be proud of the fact that both you and I have now finally become actively involved with our local Neighbourhood Watch.

Your death has served as one of the biggest wake-up calls to the community, while I have taken on the role of creating awareness and recruitment. I am doing various talks, interviews and writing articles to tell the people of all the mistakes we made that fatal Sunday night and how they can all learn from it. I can only hope that they will listen and not ignore us, because no-one should ever be subjected to our circumstances.
I am sure you will find these two quotes to be very relevant to our current mission:

“Someone once said that it is not the violence of a few that scares me, but the silence of the many”. (Angus Buchan)

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. (Edmund Burke)
Our mission is to take Bergvliet back first. In the process we will also develop a “Blue Print” which could be used by other suburbs in future. This is exciting stuff !

It is important that we don’t try to run before we cannot even walk. The task therefore looks a lot more manageable once we can get ourselves to look past the “overall crime” in South Africa, and rather concentrate on cleaning up our own suburb first.

Jane, don’t feel embarrassed, but our first project was actually called “Operation Jane” and it was a huge success. We had road-blocks everywhere while others were patrolling the street. All we need now is the numbers to sustain this. There are even ladies driving around in the middle of the night serving us drinks and snacks. You would have really enjoyed doing that – pity you and I woke up so late.

They are the most amazing, amazing bunch of people. I will hopefully start my first patrol duties soon, but must first find my feet again. Trust me, I have never fallen so hard in my entire life!

Thank you for the wonderful years you gave me and all the great memories that will live with me forever – while you rest in peace.

I will love you forever,


communityCrimehelpneighbourhood watchSouth Africa

Mike • June 18, 2008

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