Twenty years of democracy: fighting against social ills.

2013-09-30 19:45

Though greater strides have been made toward uniting South Africans, divisions between racial groups still exist. We remain a divided nation, both socially and economically, and inequalities are a dominant feature in our society.

These social divides linger on almost twenty years later, after the official demise of the apartheid regime and the inception of democracy in 1994, and obviously this lingering has huge social implications. For example, it can be argued that the crime rate in South Africa (especially economic-related crimes) is a direct byproduct of the societal economic divides and unacceptable levels of poverty in the land of plenty.

Corresponding to this, the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa recently reported the increase of some crime rates in South Africa. Some of the increases reported include a 1.2 percent rise in violent property crimes, -- increase of street robbery, 3.6 percent more aggravated house robbery, 5.4 percent increase in carjacking, 14.9 percent increase in truck hijacking, and 0.6 percent increase in business robbery. Resident burglary has increased by 3.3 percent, business burglary by 1.7 percent, and motor vehicle theft by 3.6 percent.

This reported increase is alarming, and it is happening amidst higher levels of security measures and significant amounts of money paid to security companies. Again, this can only suggest that there is no return on investment (at both the individual and government levels) for security measures. As the old adage suggests, doing the same thing while expecting different results equates to insanity.

Therefore, the need exists for a shift towards new ways of doing things. Migration discourse may offer some insight in this regard. Within this migration discourse is the notion of “push factors” and “pull factors.” Pull factors are the social factors that attract people from their home countries to destination countries in search of a better life. Individuals choose their destination countries based on that country’s potential to offer social stability and economic growth that the country of origin is not able to offer. In contrast, push factors are the opposite of what is desirable to an individual, such as a lack of economic opportunities, lacking prospects of a better future, or social instability.

In other words, human actions are always inspired by something. It is not a natural process, but a phenomenon that is founded upon a desire for something better. In this regard, one might argue that there are push factors into criminal activities, and poverty might be one of them. Specifically, poverty in South Africa seems to be inextricably related to unjust past policies. If this is the case, logic suggests that one must eradicate push factors into these criminal activities to deal with the factors that may push people into those activities.

Such a project of eradicating push factors or poverty is not only in the interest of government and political parties, but also in the interest of both crime victims and potential crime victims. In other words, there is a need for collaborative efforts if we are to see the eradication of both poverty and crime in our lifetime.

Therefore, I encourage positive selfishness; the selfishness that functions in the interest of the self as well as the collective that one might not necessarily care about. In other words, instead of spending most of one's money paying security companies, contribute some of this hard-earned cash to poverty eradication efforts. Additionally, instead of complaining about the influx of foreign nationals into South Africa, support government efforts for regional peace and stability. Instead of worshiping one's skills and boasting about how much one knows, share this knowledge and skill with under-skilled communities.

May this sharing posture dominate our daily thoughts and actions as we build up towards the celebration of twenty years of democracy. Let us give back, not only in the interest of social justice, but also for our individual security and a peaceful nation.

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