A tale of two South Africas

I recently had to do a journalism newspaper assignment that required an opinion piece on various topics. One of the topics was President Jacob Zuma’s statement regarding the violence in South Africa, where he stated that South Africa is not a violent country but just has violent people. I don’t particularly agree. I speculate that maybe Jacob Zuma does not live in the same South Africa that we do.

Currently, I live in a South Africa that is rife with all kinds of violence that occur on a daily basis in all parts of our country. The numbers of violent incidences that have taken place in the past year alone are horrific.

I live in a South Africa where 34 miners and two policemen were killed in a tug-of-war between the miners and police at the Marikana mine in Lonmin. I live in a South Africa that was the stage for 17-year-old Anene Booysen’s brutal gang rape and murder. I live in a South Africa where a few weeks later, model and actress, Reeva Steenkamp was killed by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorious on Valentine’s Day. I live in a South Africa where taxi-driver Mido Macia was tied to a police van and dragged along the road by policemen. I live in a South Africa where advocate Dali Mpofu was mugged and stabbed while minding his own business and enjoying a stroll on an Eastern Cape beach. This is the South Africa that I know of.

A Pistorius-ügy - mi történt valójában?
A Pistorius-ügy – mi történt valójában? (Photo credit: lwpkommunikacio)

Anene Booysen

Our country has always been strewn in violence, after all, it was violence of sorts that led to our liberation as a country and afforded us the freedoms that we are all enjoying and even abusing today. That violence, however, had a good cause attached to it and was also in retaliation to the violence that was being inflicted on the indigenous people of South Africa by its oppressors. It was a sort of violence that people were advocates of and were proudly associated with as it served the greater good. The kind of violence that is occurring today, however, is haphazard, unjustifiable and completely heart-breaking.

Just yesterday, The Daily Sun posted a video of an old lady being brutally beaten by two young men because she had been caught shop-lifting. The level of violence bestowed upon her is really unnecessary and absolutely inhumane, in my opinion. Yes, a crime was committed and, yes, she should be punished for that but not in the manner in which she was. The kind of beating that this woman received was fit for a hardened criminal who had done something truly sinister. My heart, compassion and sense of justice went out to this woman and sided with her, rather than her abusers who thought they were bringing justice to their community.

Another thing that really bothers me about this particular incident, as well as the state of South Africa, is the inhumanity of it all. The fact that people are capable of such cruelty disturbs me but what really breaks my heart is the fact that this video of this woman being beaten up even exists, and more so, the fact that the person recording this is laughing at this woman’s pain and misery as she is being beaten with a belt and a mallet and being stepped on. Is this really who and what we have become?

The thing that makes matters worse is the fact that our President not only does not live in this South Africa, but seems to be unaware of it, if he can makes statements such as these. The President knows of and lives in a South Africa where he can renovate his home for R200-million and not bat an eyelid; a South Africa where he travels with bodyguards and an impressive security detail to protect him from the kind of violence he’s claiming does not exist. He lives in his own South Africa, detached from the people of society and the issues that they are facing. This is the only explanation that can satisfactorily explain how he could make such a bold and untrue statement.

I understand President Jacob Zuma’s philosophical stance that it is not the country that is bad but people in it, but what is a country if it is not its people? What defines society if it is not the people of that society and their actions? Granted, it is not everyone that is morally crippled and capable of heinous crimes and violence, but it is a significant portion of this country. Also, the nature and extent of the violence is too ugly and brutal to ignore, regardless of the fact that it is not necessarily everyone in the country. The fact that most of the news regarding South Africa lately has been linked to violence is enough for me to say that Jacob Zuma’s statement was untrue, outrageous and irresponsible to an extent.

We would all love to live in a society and South Africa that is devoid of violence and especially violence of such a gruesome and horrific nature. We all have hopes, aspirations and ideals for the kind of people we want to be and for the way that we want the world to see us and to think of us, however, these ideals should not blind us to the current realities. Our leader is not one who should be acting oblivious to the obvious social and moral decay of our society because until such time as we can admit to our social ills, it will only get progressively worse. If we are to begin to change and fix this, we need to first accept and admit this about our country and society, because in the words of psychologist Dr. Phil, you cannot change what you do not acknowledge and it’s time for our President to sit up and pay attention.

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