History spells our current violence in South Africa

2013-03-14 11:43

The news “headline” is trending with bloody lines, detailed with grotesque drama and announcing the death that seems to mark the identity of our nation. The overwhelming number of stories competing to be the “biggest” announce the shame of our country. From gang rapes to police brutality we have seen a nation that is under the helm of gross violence and crime.

We are left with a dilemma; which story do we highlight to identify the real cause of our violence when there are so many stories?

There too many gunshot scenes, rape stories, court cases and  criminals in and outside our prisons. This leaves us with no choice but  to admit how violent we are. We are a country that seems to have violence flowing in our blood stream and it  runs in the veins of our identity.

The truth is violence is our inheritance. To deny this fact would be to reject the death of innocent citizens during apartheid. We cannot deny the raping which took after the white settler arrived to colonize the country. To contend with this would be to deny history therefore we might as well throw away our present.

Actually denying our violent history is something that we do so easily. Especially some South Africans who have adopted the rhetoric of denial using phrases like “it’s time to move on”, “the past is behind us” and “why are they still dwelling in the past?”.

Denialism is unhealthy for any country, however this is a philosophy so many of us have adopted to justify the fantasy called the “rainbow nation”.

What contributes to this “denial” is that we separate the violence that took place before, during and after apartheid. We think that the crimes of our democracy have nothing to do with our past. However, this “conventional” thinking would be to deny the problems we have today.

In her book State of Peril: Race and Rape in South Africa, Lucy Valerie Graham asserts that there is no statistical evidence to show that rape has increased since 1994. In fact the writer argues that “rape statistics have remained high but consistent for at least two decades” and that rape was  “hidden under apartheid”.

Another kind of violence that seems to be the ghost of our history is police brutality. The story of Mido Macia is one that troubled my dreams after watching the horrific video. This video, taken from a brave Daveyton citizen’s phone, revealed to us the haunting image of police forcibly handcuffing Mido to the back of the van and we watched as the man was dragged to his death. I can’t imagine the intensity of Mido’s cry and the weight of the pain as his flesh was grated against the street on the way to the police headquarters. I call this “Marikana” part 2.

Sadly this case is just one of the many where our policemen abuse their power and authority.  In 2011, a research paper was released by the Unit for Risk Analysis South African Institute which looked at serious and crimes which involved South Africa’s policemen.  In a week, they had a list of 100 cases confirming that the “men in blue” were involved in serious crimes. This had little to do with petty crimes but violent crimes such as murder, rapes, ATM bombings, murders and serious assaults. However, there is a clear link here to the apartheid police force which was responsible for horrid crimes such as abductions, tortures and killings.

So these two examples violence in South Africa don’t even scratch the surface of how violent we are. I wish I had the word count to continue.

So it’s a rare occasion that I agree with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. He recently used these words which have been reiterated by his spin doctor Mac Maharaj; “These incidents remind us that we come from an immensely violent culture. We survived a cruel system of governance, which was described as a crime against humanity by the United Nations. The apartheid system could only be sustained through violence, and violence became entrenched. When we correctly demanded freedom, equality, justice and human dignity, the response was violence, murder and mayhem.”

This acknowledgement is so important for us to tackle our violent culture.  I am sure there are those who will say that the president is playing “blame games”. I can’t validate this since the government has a tendency to blame almost “everything” to apartheid, so it’s difficult to validate their sincerity.

However, South Africa cannot pretend that their bloody past tainted with underground killings, mass killings (such as the Sharpeville massacre) and wars from the Anglo-Zulu war to the Maritz Rebellion have nothing to do with the crimes of today.

Let’s not act surprised. We have been violent for too long.

So stop the denial. Your mantra of “it’s time to move on”, “the past is behind us” and “why are “they still dwelling in the past” is not going to be our saving grace.

tweet me. your views are welcome: @jazz2ben


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