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Is it a jungle out there? Edifying prayer for the Rainbow Nation

12 March 2013, 10:00
In the past two weeks the Bango family in Casteel, Bushbuckridge, suffered a double tragedy when a bull elephant trampled two relatives in separate incidents on a private game reserve in Hoedspruit. Their son William was trampled to death when the bull, which was in musth, charged him and fellow workers. The farm owner said it was an "indescribable way of dying". He said he had seen horrific accidents but had never anything like what he saw in the aftermath of the elephant’s attack on Bango. Unbelievably, his brother-in-law Nelson - a game ranger who returned to work a week later, was attacked on the same farm. Now the reeling family had to deal with two dead bodies that needed to be buried in the space of one month, causing massive financial strain. What do we say about such a tragedy? Well, all we can say, without disrespecting the bereaved, is that it is a jungle out there. You need to be extremely careful when in the wild.

Unfortunately, it is no longer just the wild that human beings have to worry about. Today, we also have to be careful when walking among our own kind. We have to be careful of the rotten cop, the crooked politician, the jealous lover, the cunning prophet and the angry neighbour. It’s a jungle on our streets too.

The footage exposing members of the South African Police Service (read Force) assaulting Mozambican Mido Marcia in Daveyton is enough proof that humans are no longer safe on the streets. Parking a taxi in the wrong spot can lead to the protectors of the public chaining you to a police bakkie and dragging you hundreds of metres until you sustain fatal injuries while merciless criminals get away with murder on a daily basis. (And what if Mido was facing a culpable homicide case? Does it mean all those facing culpable homicide cases should be tied to a bakkie and killed mob injustice-style?)

There are so many questions concerning police brutality (violence). If you embark on a strike and strip naked to perform an alleged ritual, for instance, do you deserve to be devastated by a hail of unrelenting bullets? Is it justified for cops to kill suspects of public violence with footage revealing the same cops laughing and bragging about pumping ten slugs into someone's body?

But say there was no footage of the Marikana Massacre or that Mido was still alive. Would that make our society less of a jungle? Would South Africa be less of a killing field? Would our levels of violence be any less than those meted out during apartheid? Hell no! Look at what our communities have become. Killing suspects without trial is fast becoming the culture in South Africa. Many who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty are being dragged before two-minute kangaroo courts and sentenced to death on the spot. In some photos of public violence or mob justice, children can be seen playing while men scream as they are burned to death. There are some villages right here in Mpumalanga where children were beaten to death for being caught stealing in a shop. Such violence makes the jungle look much safer to
live in than our own communities.

And what about the killing of Reeva Steenkamp? Reeva’s death is not about Oscar Pistorius’ guilty or not guilty verdict, but about violence in our country. Whatever way you look at it, if Oscar’s version of events is true, it means he killed her while trying to protect her from potential killers. If it isn’t true, it means he killed her in cold blood. It’s not only Reeva who died at the hands of someone she was in a relationship with. It is reported that three women die from relationship violence every day in our beloved country. In many instances there was no long bail applications and anticipated trials because the suspects happened to also kill themselves on the spot.

The fact remains that our society has become a killing field. Should I bother to mention how many politicians were murdered in Mpumalanga? Nearly 20 years into our democracy and the Constitutional commitment to protect and value human life, we find that what apartheid did pseudo-legally, we are doing between the frames of legality and illegality. We have become wild animals. We should be afraid of ourselves.

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