Guest Column

EDITORIAL: Who will lead us to recovery?

2017-05-21 06:06

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Continuing a tradition that stretches back to the darkest days of apartheid, the country’s clergy this week stood up for good and put themselves on the front line in the battle against corruption and state capture.

In the same way they were prepared to confront oppression and human rights violations in the past, they declared they would lead this new war in defence of South Africa’s values.

They used strong language, with South African Council of Churches secretary general Malusi Mpumlwana warning that the country “may be inches away from a mafia state, from which there could be no return”, and saying that what was happening under President Jacob Zuma’s administration was “a recipe for a failed state”.

Mpumlwana didn’t mince his words when he said the “current government has lost moral legitimacy” and that the country was in “desperate need of divine intervention” to rescue itself from “the national hurdle of misgoverning and chaos”.

The churches are to be commended for taking on this mission, which will earn them dangerous enemies in powerful places. As happened during apartheid, when they placed themselves in harm’s way, they must be prepared for an uncomfortable road ahead.

The clergy are well placed to lead this campaign as they enjoy an unmatched legitimacy in the eyes of their congregants and broader society.

However, the tragedy of our current state of affairs is that so much energy – including that of the religious leadership – is being diverted to a war we shouldn’t be fighting. In the process, other priorities, such as economic growth and keeping up with the rest of the world, take a back seat. And the war against social ills is not getting a fraction of the attention and focus it should receive. While saving the nation from rapacious state capturers, the catastrophe that is the violence against women and children is left off the to-do list.

A damaged nation

For the past fortnight, we have been witness to especially spine-chilling incidents of such violence. The levels of depravity that accompanied these attacks are mind-boggling. The stand-out incidents that moved the nation to express disgust at itself were the cold-blooded murder and incineration of Karabo Mokoena by her former lover, and the brutal killing and burial of little Courtney Pieters by a male relative. Not that the other incidents were less shocking. Not that what we have witnessed in the past two weeks is an aberration. This is everyday South Africa.

We are a damaged nation in which exists a chunk of the male species that believes the more vulnerable members of society are prey. In our self-diagnosis, we blame the corruption of the male psyche – both black and white – by apartheid and colonialism. We blame the apartheid-era conflict that created monsters of armed combatants and street fighters. We blame brutalisation of children who grew up in the shadow of violence. We blame unemployment, which has emasculated the male and robbed him of his alpha status. We blame patriarchy and socialisation. We blame the criminal justice system, which does not protect citizens, and fails to convict and punish perpetrators.

Whatever the causes, this is a calamity that requires urgent attention before it acquires the status of just another “normal” South African malaise and we become tolerant of it.

This is not just a simple policing issue; it is a societal problem. Statistics show that the perpetrators of these crimes are familiar with their targets through familial, intimate or community ties. The fact that their actions are motivated by power lust and the need to feed some beastly instinct calls for a deeper response.

Our country needs a major psychological repair job, where the male section undergoes an overhaul in their attitudes to women and to themselves. This must begin with a mass introspection by all men and boys, including those who believe they are beyond such behaviour. This must be followed by a programme of building a more humane male population that will not be driven by beliefs of dominance and superiority.

Educating boys and instilling in them proper values will be key. The adult abuser does not adopt his attitudes when he turns 18.

Women, the recipients of this violence, also need empowerment. Many women across classes feel a level of helplessness at the hands of men. And girls need to be part of this intervention so that we can develop a future population of women that is equipped to resist patriarchy and misogyny.

Which brings us to the question of leadership. Someone must lead this struggle. These leaders will not come from the political sector because, for the next five to 10 years, all politicians will be engaged in trench warfare for the control of the state and its resources. So, who will it be? Will it be you?

Read more on:    courtney pieters  |  karabo mokoena
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