St Helena’s last Boer war prisoner

The last Boer War prisoner - 75-year old Charles Smith
The last Boer War prisoner – 75-year old Charles Smith

Charles Smith, (1873 – 1958) St. Helena’s last surviving Boer War prisoner He was captured by the British in South Africa and had been shipped along with the Boer general, Piet Cronje and 512 other captives to St Helena. Liberated in 1903, but that, liking his insular prison, he had elected to stay there forever. He had married a native and for many years had run a bakery. Only once had he ventured into the outside world, and that was in 1912 when he travelled to Durban to see his ailing mother.

POWs on the way to St Helena
POWs on the way to St Helena

Perhaps the best known POW, who refused to return, not for political reasons, but because he took such a liking to the island and its peaceful way of life, was Charlie Smith. He was of Irish origin and presumably a member of the Irish Brigade. Being industrious and gifted with a keen sense of business, Smith soon found his feet and within a few years became a popular figure in the social life as well as in official circles.

St. Helena, Jackson Map,1903
St. Helena, Jackson Map,1903

He attained the rank of Captain in the St. Helena Regiment, became a member of the Legislative Council, a prominent business man and a property owner. The present bakery was founded by Smith who, as a leading citizen of the island, became a prosperous man. The death of his wife seems to have driven him off the rails, and he lost interest in business matters and eventually all his possessions. He died in 1958, virtually a pauper.…/Anglo-Boere-Oorlog-Boer-War-189…/14301…/st…/sthelenawhoswhoo00chapuoft_djvu.txt

Why crime pays in South Africa

South_african_police_may_2010We all know crime is totally out of control in South Africa. Government departments, political parties, NGO’s and the press are all speculating on the causes and the cures for this appalling state of affairs. Days are spent in think tanks discussing the socio political situation and how to reverse the moral decline of our society. Last year the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) boasted about their 88% conviction rate, further confusing the issue. They neglected to point out that their definition of conviction rates involve only those cases brought to court. The vast majority of criminals are never even caught.

The fact is that South Africa’s conviction rate is closer to 5.7%. A staggering 74% of all violent crimes do not even make it to court. More than 17,000 people are murdered each year. More than 90% of the criminals that commit murder are never convicted.

In South Africa you have a 94% chance of getting away with murder

The answer to the question of what causes our extraordinarily high crime rate is very simple. The world average conviction rate is more than 50%. This means that if you commit a crime in the rest of the world there is a 50% chance that you are going to be caught and convicted. In South Africa however you have a 94% chance of getting away with it.

The fact is that crime pays in South Africa. Yes, there are many socio economic issues and inequality drives the criminals to do what they do, but the real reason is that crime pays. It’s easier to make a living through crime than to do honest labour. There is no effective deterrent. Not with such a low conviction rate.

It’s not the fault of our police force either. They are overworked and underpaid. We need to re-energise our police force. We need to invest more in recruiting and training quality policemen and women. We need to reverse this horrific statistic and that can only be done by arresting and convicting more criminals. It’s really not that complicated.


South Africa Has Shockingly Low Murder Conviction Rates, New Stats Reveal

What the Dawie Roodt incident teaches us.

Dawie Roodt
Dawie Roodt

We have all heard about the economist Dawie Roodt and his family being attacked in his home in Pretoria. It’s a terrifying story and a reality for many South Africans that have fallen victim to mindless, ruthless and murderous gangsters.

Dawie was sitting in his study when his daughter entered the study accompanied by 3 intruders. Apparently one had a gun, one had a knife and the other had a panga. In the house was his wife and their three children. They were tied up, gagged and blindfolded and systematically robbed of their possessions. Eventually Dawie managed to convince the one with the knife to take him to his car under the auspices that he had money in the car. He managed to free his hands and overpower the robber, but not before being seriously wounded in the process. The power went off due to loadshedding and the robbers fled. Dawie was rushed to hospital. Thankfully no-one else was injured or killed.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Being secure requires effort.
Being secure requires effort.

One thing stuck by me reading his account of the horrific incident. Dawie said that he didn’t know if attacking the robber was the right thing to do. He’s an economist, well versed in accounting but not in the martial arts.

What should he have done? Do you know what you need to do in such an event? Can it be prevented? What can we learn from this?

I have been trained in unarmed combat and was a instructor in the national defence force and South African police. I have been practising and teaching self-defence for the past 30 years and I would like to share some thoughts that could save your life and the lives of your family. Hindsight is a perfect art as they say, but that is how we learn. Through our own experiences and the experiences of others. Let us not allow this opportunity to learn escape us.

You are never safe.

Don’t think because you live in a security estate that you are safe. Yes, you are safer, but not immune. Don’t think that because the estate has an electric fence and cameras that you are properly protected. You are not. Few people that live in security estates have proper security. Dawie Roodt also though he was safe in a secure estate. We know how that turned out. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Invest in proper security.

Many people have security. They have burglar bars that are not burglar proof. They have electric fences that are easily scaled by intruders. They have cameras that mean nothing, because identifying a criminal after the fact is too late. They have dogs that can be easily poisoned. They own guns but don’t know how to use them, or keep them locked up in a safe.

Don’t think that standard burglar bars are adequate. I have seen criminals crawl through burglar bars that would seem impossible. There is also no point in burglar bars if your doors are constantly open.

Get decent perimeter security and early warning detection system. Early detection could be in the form of beams around the perimeter of your property. Make sure your security is serviced regularly and in good working order. Make sure your family knows how to operate your security systems.

If you can afford it, employ a guard at night. I know there are people that are going to say that it’s an overkill, but I can’t put a cost on the lives of my family. Get a guard from a reputable security company. It will be the best investment you can ever make for your family.

Prevention is better than cure. If the criminals find your property too difficult to breach, they will move their attentions elsewhere. Make sure you are not regarded as an easy target.

Health and fitness

If you are unhealthy, unfit and overweight you can’t protect your family. Look after your body and exercise regularly.

Self defence

Invest in self defence training for your family. If you have practised scenarios where you are attacked in your home you will be better prepared to deal with it. Importantly, your family will know what to do and will react instinctively in a crisis situation, increasing your chances of survival ten fold. By self-defence I don’t mean the local Karate school. Karate is about as helpful as a plastic knife. Learn self-defence from ex military or police trainers.

Submit or fight?

Every house invasion is different and your reaction will depend on a number of situations. Suffice to say that by not resisting you will have a better chance of survival. This is not necessarily true in a farm setup because robbers have much more time on a farm. It is likely that they will take their time to torture and hurt you and your family. In a residential area they have to be very quick. They don’t have time. The longer they stay the more dangerous it becomes. You have to get them out as soon as possible. Give them what they want – all of it. Don’t even think about it. Don’t try and be clever and waste their time. If they get irritated then you are in trouble.

You can only consider to resist if you KNOW that you are going to win. You can’t gamble with the lives of your family. This means that you must have a clear opportunity to overpower them. Given the right opportunity it is possible, but the odds in Dawie’s case of 3-1 were not good.

Always target the most dangerous one first. The guy with the gun is your first target. If you are able to overpower him and take the gun, you will have the upper hand. In Dawie’s case this could work, but not if the other guys also had guns.

Never split them up. Don’t separate the bad guys because you will be leaving your family alone. Even if you manage to overpower one bad guy, the others will still be with your family and that’s very dangerous. Stick with your family at all times. Stay close to the most dangerous guy. Wait for the right opportunity. You have to get your hands on the firearm in order to deal with the other bad guys. If they are any good, you won’t be able to. Resign yourself to your fate by submitting. Only attack if you KNOW you are going to succeed, because failure can cause the death of your entire family. Knowing when to attack and how to disarm someone requires training.

So what can we learn from the Dawie Roodt incident? As I said, hindsight is a perfect art, but there are lessons. This doesn’t mean that Dawie did anything wrong either. He did the best he could at the time. Perhaps you can do better by learning from his experience.

  • Don’t have a false sense of security. Invest in security even if you stay in a security estate. No-one is safe.
  • Be healthy and fit.
  • Learn self defence from a reputable instructor.
  • Fight only if the odds are in your favour.

Some more of my articles about security and crime:

The Abandoned Millionaire’s Resort


St. Tropez, Miami Beach, the Bahamas; imagine if the world’s most glamorous seaside resorts were abandoned overnight; the luxury hotels emptied of their guests and left to slowly decay, the boutiques, bars and nightclubs reclaimed by nature, sunbathers replaced by sea turtles nesting on the deserted beaches and the once vibrant holiday spirit silenced; nothing more than a whisper in the wind.On the western coast of the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean sea, such a place exists. This is the story of Varosha, once regarded as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations during the early 1970s, surrounded by turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches, it was enjoyed by millionaires and movie stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor, who were regular guests at the grand high rise hotels. Varosha was home to over 39,000 residents but today the holiday town is completely fenced off, forbidding anyone from entering. No tourists roam the streets except for the rare brave explorer who dares find a way in.

In the summer of 1974, without warning and in the middle of the highest season for tourists, Varosha fell victim to the ongoing war between the Greeks and the Turks. A full-scale Turkish invasion took place with air strikes and ground forces.


While the seaside resort was being bombed and buildings toppled, tourists and residents were fleeing their homes and hotel rooms, leaving behind everything, never to return. The Turkish military quickly gained control and began to seal off the area with patrolled fences, banning anyone and everyone except Turkish military or UN personnel.


Varosha’s reputation as one of the most idyllic holiday destinations was destroyed overnight. Over thirty years later, the sun still shines on the once bustling luxury shopping boulevard and the waves still stroke the sands of the old beach clubs but Varosha remains desolate.


Bursting with nature’s overgrowth, the only humans to walk Varosha’s streets are the occasional Turkish soldiers on routine patrols looking for trespassers. They are authorized to imprison or even execute anyone they may find. For this reason, photographs of Varosha are rare to come by.


The photographs of those who have ventured over the fences, such as these, courtesy of Sometimes Interesting, are unlike most of the derelict photography we often see of abandoned places such as the dark and dismal aftermath of Tchernobyl or poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Detroit. Varosha’s remains are bathed in sunlight and what is left behind shows a place that was thriving and full of joy when it’s soul was snatched away.


Homes are still filled with residents’ furniture and clothes, tables are still set for dinner. A Swedish journalist who visited the town with the Swedish UN battalion in 1977 said he saw laundry still hanging and light bulbs still burning through windows in buildings.


A construction crane still appears in Varosha’s skyline above a new hotel that it never finished building. Car dealerships still house brand new cars straight out of the factory from the year of invasion; like automotive time capsules. The whole town is literally one big sun-drenched time capsule.


You can’t help but be baffled at how such a place has been allowed to rot for almost 40 years. There is no simple explanation, but I’m going to leave the political history behind the Greek and Turkish conflict (which goes back for centuries) for a rainy day. In a nutshell, Varosha’s neglect is a case of ‘if I can’t have it, then nobody can’. A UN resolution in 1984 ruled that Varosha should only be resettled by the original inhabitants who lived there before the invasion. This prevented Turkey from re-opening the resort but they never gave it back to the Greeks. Why hold on to a ghost town? The Turkish government probably figure it could come in useful one day as a political bargaining tool.


But even if, by some unexpected act of rational behavior, an agreement was to be reached, Varosha is now a big old mess. The buildings have been left to decay for so long that experts say the entire town would have to be demolished in order to rebuild and bring people back– a very costly revival that no one is in any great haste to undertake. Nature’s elements have been very busy since 1974 and they are the only true rulers of Varosha today.