Our society is broken and needs fixing

2018-09-23 06:02
Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images

Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images

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A few days ago, our energetic minister of police released the annual crime statistics, giving us a picture of how we are doing as a nation in this area of life.

What Minister Bheki Cele came up with was depressing. Every day 57 people are butchered in this country – 57 people! This is a big and worrying number. These are not just numbers. These are ordinary people … men, women and children who are killed every day. Mind you, we have not factored in the number of people we kill on our roads because of our bad conduct.

In January next year Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande will release “statistics” detailing the number of people who will have died between the beginning of December and early January next year.

In your editorial at the weekend you ask a simple, yet troubling, question: “What is wrong with us?” Well, perhaps there is not much wrong with us as humans. What is wrong is the structure of our society. The levels of inequality are just too much.

Poverty is such a terrible scar on our face and the legacy of apartheid continues to haunt us. Yes, apartheid was a violent socioeconomic and political policy which destroyed our social fabric, tearing families apart through separating father from son and mother from daughter.

A quarter of a century later we are still faced with the effects of this political, social and economic engineering.

An unknown rural town in North West’s platinum mining belt shot into prominence a few years ago when scores of mine workers were gunned down following a bloody stand-off between employees of Lonmin and police. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

But let me come back to the crime statistics released by our energetic minister and your editorial this past weekend. There is no way anyone can expect a stable and generally decent society amid the high levels of poverty and inequality with which we are faced.

Why are we pretending to be surprised that more people are being killed in Nyanga in the Western Cape than anywhere in the country? This township is just one example of a settlement in one of the richest metropolitan areas in our country. But the people of Nyanga face the most devastating effects of poverty. The majority of people there do not have jobs. The family structures are broken. Basic services, such as sanitation, are missing. There is no sense of decency and human dignity. Why should we expect Nyanga to be normal? Why do we expect the young men who are born in Nyanga to be peace-loving and compassionate humans when our society has consigned them to a life of worthlessness?

Every child deserves to grow up in a loving and nurturing environment where there is predictability and stability. Predictability is vital in the life of young children. It develops routine and provides some sense of comfort.

Nyanga is only a symptom of what is wrong with our society. What our society needs as a matter of urgency is a growing and “equitable economy” where all people get a fair share.

We need to redesign industries and human settlements to get people to work as close as possible to where they live.

Where people work and live now continues the old apartheid end game of destroying black families – parents leave home at the crack of dawn to go to work and return only late in the evening, leaving very little or no time at all for parents to interact with their children, let alone help with schoolwork.

For as long as this system persists, we are likely to be confronted by these shocking statistics. You asked what was wrong with us? Well, there is nothing wrong with us per se. Our society is broken and it needs fixing. Our teenage boys in Nyanga, Alexandra, Tlhabane and Umlazi need rescuing and this we can do only through social
re-engineering. They come from broken families and communities. They are not blood-thirsty, rampaging little beasts who enjoy killing. They are capable of loving and being compassionate. We should not treat them as psychologically abnormal.

- Hadebe is an independent communication and public policy adviser

Read more on:    crime  |  economy

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