Khaya Dlanga

What the hell is wrong with us?

2010-11-10 14:55

I think that is a question that we ask ourselves after we see headlines about boys spiking a girl’s drink and then raping her. To top it off, some pupils even record the alleged rape on their cellphones while laughing. If you thought it ended there, what is even more shocking is the reaction of the teachers in the school when they saw the video of the girl being raped, they found it hilarious. There is something wrong with this picture.

There is something wrong with the teachers. What is happening in that school that causes teachers to laugh at an incident like this and not be indignant instead? Why is it that the pupils decided to record what they saw on their phones and not stop what they knew to be wrong? Do they not know the difference between right and wrong?

What is going on in that community that has children who think that it is okay to do such things? As often as this is said, all of the above is unAfrican. But it is not just unAfrican. It is against all human values and standards.

The events that happened in that school are far larger than what happened there. We need to look really deeply into ourselves and figure out what is wrong. What is this broken mess that we have and how can we fix it?

What is wrong?

According to a study, 31% of South African criminals are under 19 years old. These are the people who will be inheriting the country. The grownups have clearly done something wrong to create this condition. It is very apparent from the behaviour of the teachers who thought that a girl being raped was hilarious.

What is wrong? According to Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the reason South Africa suffers such exceptionally high rates of violence is because of the legacy of apartheid and colonialism, brutalisation and the culture of violence, the impact of apartheid on families and the education system and several other factors. There is some truth to this.

Having said that, we are not the only society in the world to have suffered under colonialism and postcolonial stresses. The reasons given by the CSVR are not sufficient. If anything, they almost appear lazy and far removed from what is going on today. Talking about colonialism and apartheid won’t help us solve these problems.

There are many unequal societies in the world too where one doesn’t experience the kind of violence we see in our country. Am I saying we must throw those reasons out of the window? No. They are contributors, but what I really want to know is what is going on today?

South Africa is not a violent country. Just because there are some violent people here doesn’t mean we are a bloodthirsty nation. The people of South Africa don’t just blame the legacy of colonialism and apartheid in order to commit crimes against each other. What they want are opportunities that show them that success through honest work is for them too.

Finding a way

There are far more people who have been affected by legacies of the past yet do not choose the path of violence. For every 100 000 people, 39 are killed in South Africa. That means there are far more people who are not violent than those who are.

I am not saying let’s wear blinkers and focus on the positive. My own father was a victim of murder. We need to find means and ways as a country to add humanity into our South African-ness. Maybe the loss of humanity is the greatest violence in this country. It is shown in many different ways. Some officials are corrupt instead of delivering services to the poor; these officials are committing a great violence upon this nation. There is no greater violence than the rich stealing from the poor.

We all know that South Africa is better than this. The question is how do we actually make it so? The sooner we make it our collective responsibility to bring back values (the simple ones that we were taught like respect for human life, the value of hard work, that if you work hard things will come your way, that violence doesn’t just violate the victim, but the perpetrator too), we will be on our way to solving many problems.

We need to go back to the simplest African truths like “umntu ngumntu ngabantu”. And “it takes a village a village to raise a child”. When these simple truths are practised, we will not have 31% of criminals being younger than age 19. The truth is there is nothing wrong with South Africa, there is something wrong with how we raise our children.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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