Dangers of violence

2008-01-08 00:00

Recent events have re-minded us how quickly some societies have been able to collapse into turmoil, rioting and killing. Pakistan has been unstable for some time — indeed in its 60 years of existence it has had no period of solid democratic stability — but the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has almost torn the fabric of its society apart. Kenya, on the other hand, has been regarded as one of the most stable countries in the unstable continent of Africa — although the unsteadiness of some of its neighbours has perhaps made it seem somewhat more solid than it is — but the recent election, and what looks like the rigging of its result by the party of Mwai Kibaki, who got himself reproclaimed president with suspiciously unseemly haste, has produced effects which have unsettled not only Kenya but Africa as a whole and to some degree the whole world.

Fortunately other, wiser voices have been raised. Zuma has called for calm and has said specifically that South Africans must beware of doing anything that could replicate the situation in Kenya. And two of South Africa’s most distinguished jurists, Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos, both of them with strong and well-known anti-apartheid credentials, have issued a statement stressing the importance of respecting both the judiciary and the judicial process, and making it clear that, without that respect, the force of the law is seriously weakened, the very structures of democracy are undermined, and the country’s international reputation is besmirched. It is unusual for senior jurists to enter a public debate of this kind: they clearly recognise how disastrous it would be if voices like that of Luzipho became dominant.

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