The hooligans must die

2015-07-09 16:42

The hooligans must die is not a title that I came up with for this blog. Those are the views expressed by people who saw a photo of young men being burnt alive in Site C, Khayelitsha. The photo was posted by China Mchinguana on his Facebook page.

The photo was taken at Nolungile Train Station in Site C, Khayelitsha where a mob, fed up with being targeted by skolis as they commute to and from work every day snapped and attacked the young men. It is alleged that the young men were robbing people in train carriages.

Lumka Nobula shared that skolis get into trains and start collecting wallets, cell phones and other valuables. And we have had such incidents happen on Golden Arrow buses too, especially around December.

Only one person who commented on the photo did not support the killing of ‘criminals’. The rest expressed their support and suggested that more of that is needed to curb crime in the Townships as the mob killings are believed to serve as a deterrent.

This is shocking if you consider that we actually have legal mechanisms in this country that are meant to deal with crime. It suggests that, although comments on a Facebook post cannot be considered to be research, they do however indicate that communities are fed up with crime and do not have faith in our policing and justice system which are meant to deal with it hence they resort to “people’s justice” which is also a crime.

More worrying is a comment by Ms Unathi Mtshizana who suggested that we should “set alight these idiots”. That is a comment which in reality may actually result in a mob killing because that is all it takes. For someone to say let’s kill the thugs, one person to throw the first stone, and before you know it, the ‘hooligan’ is on fire.

Having lived in Site B for more than a decade, I have observed these killings. As a young boy on my way to school, a skoli tried to rob a woman on her way to a nearby spaza shop. She screamed for help, people who were on their way to work responded to her cry.

Still in her pyjamas, she ran back to her house, came out with a kettle full of boiling water and threw it on the skoli’s face. The eyes of that young man popping out are an image I’ll never be able to erase from my memory.

As much as I am fed up with crime, and was at some stage a supporter of mob killings, I believe we could do better by strengthening our legally sound methods of fighting crime, and actually revive Community Policing Forums and Neighbourhood Watches across the Cape Flats.

My views changed because as Mandlakazi Talent put it, we will never be able to kill all the skolis. You kill one today, hundreds are being mentored in our prisons. Kill one in Site B, you open up an opportunity for one from Site C to have a spot from which they can rob people.

They do this because many young people have given up on life and have no hope of ever reaching their full potential. Thus addiction to drugs becomes the only way to cope with the hopelessness, and you need money to support that addiction so robbing people who work hard every day to support their families is the only option.

So instead of killing young people, we could, like the Art of Living Foundation did with its Prison Smart programme, and other stress management programmes, offer some rehabilitation to those young people. And there are many initiatives that are proven to rehabilitate these young people and get them on the ‘right’ path; pursuing the life they pictured when they were kids.

They did not just wake up and decide to be hooligans, but they live in a society that makes their lifestyle the only alternative because there are no job opportunities, many of them dropped out of school, and when you go deeper, sit with a ‘skoli’ for a minute and ask them to tell you their life story, you are likely to confirm that there is more to it than a naughty young man who just wants drugs to have fun.

So, we can choose to kill the skolis our society has created, or we can create a society that offers its young people opportunities to pursue their ambitions. Many would think that we have such opportunities and cite NSFAS which funds students at FET colleges or whatever they are called today, Technical Universities, and Research Universities.

But go to those institutions today you will find thousands of poor students who owe universities a lot of money. And in fact, research commissioned by the NSFAS showed that although there has been an increase on NSFAS allocation each year, there is not enough to support the growing number of students who need funding assistance *A separate blog on higher education funding will be published later this month*

So, if there is not enough money to support those who are already enrolled at institutions of learning, how do we encourage those who are not to keep pursuing their studies? While we have such initiatives, the challenge is to ensure that they reach everyone that needs them, and that other programmes such as apprenticeships are made available so that young people do not lose hope. The minute they lose hope, all other social ills inevitably follow.

Instead of condemning them to hell as many supporters of mob justice suggest, we should perhaps be engaging on how best do we create a society where young people have all the means they need in order to reach their full potential and to contribute positively to the development of this country. And they can, because a lot of the young people I met in incarceration while volunteering for the Art of Living are very talented. Throwing them in jail does not work because they come out of prison a much more skilled criminal if they do not partake in any rehabilitation programme.

Advocate for an improved criminal justice system, a society that offers opportunities for individuals to pursue their ambitions and contribute to the development of their communities, and not a society that kills its future.

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