South Africa’s Violence Deeply Rooted From Its Apartheid Era

Despite South Africa’s Apartheid ending over 20 years ago, criminality has embedded itself in the fabric of its society. Discrimination, murder, and rape are common; its President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country is one of “the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman.” The country is struggling to deal with the growing crisis, with efforts seeking to understand the roots of its violence.

The African Centre for Migration and Society spokesperson Loren Landau said: “This level of violence has been going on, but I think it’s going up more because it’s being reported than it was… [it] should have been addressed a long time ago”. Violence has been a lasting theme throughout the countries history, extreme inequality plagues its society, the majority living in tin shacks whilst rich neighborhoods build up massive fortresses. Violence has been driven through inequality; Landua arguing that the population is still traumatized from its Apartheid era, violence remains never-ending; being built into the public consciousness.

Bongani Ngomane, Chief Director for Gauteng Department of Social Development, explains that violence is learned, and it has grown socially acceptable within the community; he urges for intervention within schools to eliminate violent behavior. Concluding that “If this culture is not stopped, we will be a nation that is at war with itself.” South Africa needs to ‘unlearn violence.’ Summarising his argument, the culture of today’s youth is a by-product of historical injustice; physical violence, especially within schools, homes, and courts, remains widespread. The public’s confidence in law enforcement remains fragile; the police often blamed for not doing enough to catch perpetrators despite being overworked, outnumbered and ill-equipped to deal with the violence. Crime investigations are shallow at best with the judicial law system rotten to its core. Politicians seamlessly avoid arrest for crimes well aware by the people. Crime is normalized, the countries’ poorest remain defenseless with people taking measures into their own hands; resulting in waves of vigilantes killings. Rounding it all together, the country suffers a high unemployment rate compounded by a failing education system that has left the majority of its youth trapped in poverty.

Changing the culture requires intervention through public policy, Ngomane proposes that the education system must promote peace in its studies. Furthermore asking the community to participate in establishing peer and mentoring programs which hastens the development of a stronger community. Well established communities automatically enforce civil order, violence being correlated with disorganized communities; current efforts focus too much on the justice system; which although combat the issue coincidently doesn’t tackle the source of the violence. Changing culture requires consistent and long-term effort, ensuring success demands setting out economic and social issues and rebuilding civil society.

Jonno McPike