Sibongile Mafu

Bad news limit

2013-03-06 10:36

Sibongile Mafu

We're only two months into 2013 and it already feels like South Africa has exhausted its bad news quota for the year. Everyday there is something shocking, and I definitely feel that something is brewing. It will get worse before it gets better.

I thought I could be one of those people who could easily avoid the news. Don't buy newspapers. Don't tweet or engage with the stuff that happens in the country. Oscar Pistorius didn't help. I was pulled into this news vortex. Buying Sunday newspapers for the first time on months, even considering a subscription to make sure I didn't miss a single issue.

But now that I'm regularly consuming news again, a great depression has sunk in. Reading about parents murdering their own two-month old baby, women gang-raped and left to die, human beings torching other human beings and teenagers stabbing each other can create a miserable dark cloud around someone. Something is seriously wrong. I'm well aware that things have not been okay for a long time, but surely something has to give. And soon.

There's a spotlight on South Africa, one that I think didn't just happen recently, but has been shining brightly, and sometimes not so brightly, on us for many years. There is rarely been a moment where nothing is happening here. Water cooler conversations never run out of topics, and greeting colleagues with a "Did you hear about..." has become the norm.

When there is an influx of bad things that happen, the debates around South Africans being desensitised to violence and bad news crop up again. You hear about the spousal abuse, you hear about a Mozambican man being dragged by a police van, you hear about a person being set alight. Ministers and people in charge continue to condemn violence, always condemning. There must be press releases already written in expectation of something happening.  You hear these stories every day, but there's a point when it switches, a point where it is no longer a story, but a real event, a real event that happens in your home, next door, to your friends and family, and to you.

In a mad world, where many things are coming at you at once, you realise that these horrific things are happening to real people. Behind all the gruesome headlines there was a life there. And the media factory that churns out these stories for us on a daily base, the bad news bearers so to speak, are in charge of making sure the stories of these people are told.

I've never been one to be too concerned what the perceptions that the outside world have of South Africa and its violent culture. Reputation isn’t the problem. The problem is that people are being killed, and perhaps people aren’t fiercely protective of what South Africa looks like to the rest of the world, but rather feel the need to protect what makes this country great to live in, for the most part.

We've read the statistics. South Africa is one the most violent countries to live in. <Insert huge number> people are raped and murdered a year. And numbers don't lie. But behind those numbers is something incredibly real. Lives being snuffed out so carelessly that you begin to wonder whether this life thing is all just a lottery.

I've personally never been a victim of any violent crime, but is it only just a matter of time? There is no longer a "you were at the wrong place, at the wrong time" argument anymore. Maybe this is just a fleeting feeling of paranoia, but things can't continue like this.

Lock your doors. Or don't.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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