Sunday, 20 September 2009

Why am I coming home?

September 14 2009 at 03:57PM

By Alex Eliseev

Despite all the terror, Alan Paterson decided to give South Africa another chance.

The decision to emigrate was taken two years ago after the Paterson family was terrorised by the notorious Razor gang.

During their attack the thugs raped Paterson's daughter, Jamie, then 17, and stabbed his wife Bronwyn, with a pair of scissors.

They also broke three of her ribs, smashed her nose and tore off a piece of her ear.

So Alan Paterson, then a professor of pathology at Wits university, went to Britain to pave the way for the family to emigrate.

But gradually the family's attitude changed.

The Razor gang was behind bars and the family decided they wanted to live in South Africa even though Paterson had set up a new life.

Last Monday he resigned from his consulting job in Newcastle and planned to return to Joburg in early December.

Four days later he received terrible news: the Razor Gang was on the run, having escaped from the Alexandra Magistrate's Court.

Like the vicious Sandton Knife Gang in 2006, the alleged leader of the gang "known as Razor" and one of his most violent accomplices were among nine men who burst to freedom last week Thursday.

Four were rearrested, one surrendered and four remain at large.

After hearing the news at around 4.30pm on Friday, Paterson sat down to write a letter to President Jacob Zuma.

He has vowed not to rest until he receives a response.

He has not cancelled his plans to return and reunite with his family (who were due to join him in Britain), but the escape has forced him to question returning to a country in which such horror befell his loved ones.

This is his letter to the President:

Dear Mr President,

On the evening of 2nd October 2007 my family was attacked by a group of men subsequently labelled the "Razor Gang".

My wife was beaten and stabbed and my then 17-year-old daughter was raped.

My department wrote a letter to the Ministry of Safety and Security condemning the attack. A reply was sent that it was receiving the attention of the Commissioner of Police, who was promptly suspended.

We heard no more.

In the meantime the gang was caught. We endured bungled identity parades and generally indifferent performance from police and public prosecutors (not all fortunately).

We also heard of "turf warfare" between the two police stations involved. We were told the case was a priority due to be heard in the High Court, but it ends up in Alexandra Magistrate's Court!

Yesterday the entire gang escaped from the court cells, you may read the details in The Star today. In addition there are details of the disrepair of the magistrate's court and general disarray within the justice system.

In the wake of our attack, I retired and decided to leave the country, planning to move my family when I was established.

A year later, after much soulsearching, my family and I decided that as proud South Africans we would rescind our decision and give the country another chance.

I resigned my post on Monday and am due to return in early December to share invaluable newly acquired skills with colleagues and students back home.

But now we come face to face with more massive incompetence.

My family are devastated and my colleagues here are asking why I want to return. This is something
I must now ask myself.

I would ask that you give this your attention, Mr President. The original attack attracted considerable local and international media attention and, as we approach 2010, an issue such as this will have widespread implications in terms of the perception that South Africa cannot handle security for our own citizens let alone crowds of international football supporters.

Yours sincerely,
Alan Paterson.

Last year, the main prisoner entrance gate at the Alexandra court crashed to the ground. The broken gate was not repaired for two months.

Dangerous prisoners were led through a gap in the wall and not driven into the secure yard. The court's electric fencing is torn and there have been problems with phone lines, electricity, water supply, recording devices, locks, doors and plumbing.

Razor's name is Raymond Zulu while his accomplice is Sibusiso Mashinini. Police officers fear they will be difficult to track down as they do not hold high profiles in the Alexandra township.


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