Smart Thieves

FRASERBURG is a dorp with approximately 3000 coloured residents and 500 white residents. On my first visit there in 2009 to photograph the nearby dolerite koppies in the surrounding bleak landscape I noticed that most of the houses were protected with steel bars. In fact every house in Roussouw Street, Fraserburg has a burglar bar, bar one . . . This I found strange, as it’s not the most affluent of dorps – what was there to steal? I asked myself.

One afternoon while collecting my order of delicious local Karoo lamb from the Fraserburg butchery, I was told to beware of skelms – they watch you all the time, pretending faint offers of help. Our conversation went further. Here is one of the stories I was told.


Bootjie Greyling and Johnnie Jantjies considered themselves very smart skelms. It’s been fifteen years since they last appeared before the local magistrate for house breaking; they’d been stealing since they learnt to walk from the location to Fraserburg and back.