Guest Column

When you become a crime statistic

2018-09-20 12:10
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Sibongile Khumalo

The all too familiar SMS notification beep rang out like any other. I casually fished out my mobile phone from my handbag, blissfully unaware of the contents of the message I was about to receive.

It read: "Mxolisi has died."

The eerily terse message threw me off balance. Further inquiries revealed that my 21-year-old nephew had been fatally stabbed in Umlazi, making him another statistic of our country's violent crime.

The news of his death has given me a new perspective about the country's crimes rates, following the release of the latest statistics.

The numbers read out in Parliament by decorated police chiefs suddenly had a human face – a young man who met his death at the hands of a knife-wielding man, whose intention was clearly to spill blood.

Every year, police deliver crime statistics, trying their best to convince the nation that they are winning the war against crime. But the real picture on the ground tells a different story. 

The scene of my nephew's killing was Umlazi, a township south of Durban - the area which recorded some of the highest crime rates in the country, according to the statistics.

Very often, poverty, inequality and unemployment are linked to the country's shockingly high murder rates.

Academics and social activists have argued that the unabating violence has something to do with the country's violent political past and the social instability that prevailed under the apartheid regime.

For me, this argument does not hold water. Many perpetrators of crime are young people who were toddlers or not yet born when political violence ravaged the townships. These youngsters know very little about apartheid in general. So, what is the source of the brutality seen today?

Another narrative being bandied about is that young black boys who are raised in single-parent households, harbour some kind of anger as a result of growing up without any male guidance.

In a country that was built on a migrant labour system, black women have for decades been heading households, while men have been away in cities eking out a living. Does this mean generations of males who were raised by women have all turned into marauding robbers and killers just because their fathers were not around?

I have come across many black males who speak fondly about being raised under the strict guidance of their mothers and grandmothers – the matriarchs who keep families together. These people are upright citizens and often owe their upbringing to women.

So, who are these merciless killers, what is behind their lack of morals and lack of value for human life?

These are the questions we need to ask ourselves, particularly in black communities. Police alone cannot end crime; prisons or even the death sentence can only do so much.

In my opinion, black people are the most affected by violent crimes, be it in overcrowded shanty towns, aboard buses and trains, even inside classrooms schools and universities.

It is about time that black communities stopped the overreliance on police to enforce morals and respect for fellow human beings.

The restoration of the country's broken moral psyche should be our collective responsibility. Law enforcement agencies must meet us halfway. No amount of policing will succeed in moulding better citizens. 

Taking a back seat will only mean that the criminals among us have free reign. Free reign to butcher, shoot, rape, maim and molest, adding our names to an endless pile of crime statistics to be read out next year.

As Nelson Mandela said: "It is in our hands."

- Khumalo is a journalist at Fin24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    crime  |  murder  |  crime statistics
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