Armed robbery at the monastery
On the night of 6-7 March 2014 armed robbers broke into the premises of the Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Gerardville, south-west of Pretoria, and shot Artemius Mangena, the caretaker. They robbed him of his clothes and cell phone, broke several windows, and took a few other things, and left.
After they shot him, Artemius stopped fighting the robbers, and lay on the floor bleeding, pretending to be dead. He was found the following morning by Victor, who was also staying there, and Victor ran to the neighbours for help, and they phoned the Neighbourhood Watch and the police. They learned that there had been several other robberies in the area that night, possibly by the same gang, and that in one of them someone had been shot and killed.
Artemius was taken to the Kalafong Hospital in Atteridgeville, and Fr Elias Palmos and I visited him this morning after the Divine Liturgy at the monastery church.
Artemius told us that there were about six robbers altogether, though he fought with only two of them who came into the room where he was sleeping and shot him, The others went around breaking windows. He said they were speaking Shona, which suggests that they were probably Zimbabweans. The broke one window in the church, but do not seem to have taken anything from it. The took food from the kitchen, however.
Artemius is being treated for bleeding in his lung, and is in considerable pain. He lost quite a lot of blood, and we are grateful that he is still alive and with us. He serves as a reader at the Atteridgeville mission congregation, when he is not looking after the monastery.
There is a lot of crime, and and so incidents like this are not all that unusual, and as I said, there were other robberies and a murder, probably by members of the same gang, on the same night. About a week earlier there was a hijacking of a bus at a spa not far away, and the passengers were robbed. This was not necessarily by the same gang, but it shows that there is a lot of crime in the area. There have been break-ins at the monastery before, but this is the first time anyone has been seriously hurt.
We have asked people to pray for Artemius, and for his recovery, and for safety of people staying at the monastery. There are no monks staying there now, though there have been in the past, and we hope there will be more in future.
Apart from its immediate effect, this incident also highlights some of the problems related to crime in South Africa, apart from the crime itself, which is a serious problem that needs to be tackled.
One problem is that the robbers were apparently Zimbabweans, which reinforces the perceptions of many South Africans that immigrants are responsible for the increase in crime. This is not peculiar to South Africa. Some years ago we stayed at a guest house in Mitikas, on the west coast of Greece, and the owner, locking the door for the night, brought his motorbike inside, “or else the Albanians will steal it”. We deplore the level of xenophobia in South Africa, and the violence that it sometimes leads to, but violent crime committed by foreigners also leads to an increase in xenophobia.
There is also something even more disturbing.
If Artemius had been white, he might have been added to the statistics collected by bodies like Genocide Watch, who publicise such incidents, but only when whites are the victims, to bolster their claims that there is genocide of white people in South Africa. Web pages like that one at Genocide Watch are clearly calculated to fan the flames of racism and racial hatred, and are used for that purpose.
So there is not only the harm caused by the crime itself, but also the racism and xenophobia that such crimes tend to stir up.