I HAVE spent much time in the past week thinking about the rape, violence and murder that is ripping through and entrenching itself in South African society.
It has been impossible to ignore the senseless brutality of the recent rape and murder of Anene Booysen by a gang of men, followed, in the course of one week, by the appalling rapes of a grandmother, a disabled woman and a 12-year-old child in this province. And, certainly, there were others that did not make the news.
The incidence of rape is so overwhelming in our country that we are almost numb to it. I think we somehow block it from our consciousness. I know there have been many campaigns by government to educate society about the evil which is rape, yet South Africa remains one of the countries with the highest incidences of rape and murder.
What has gone wrong? And how can we change this?
If we live in a society where it is possible for a young girl like Anene to be raped, tortured, mutilated and killed, we and our children are not safe.
While talking about this case with a colleague, we touched on many aspects of human behaviour and social forces which lead to a moment – and sadly many other moments – when a human being decides to rape another human being, mutilate and kill him or her. But it is still difficult to understand why.
What is even more baffling is that often the perpetrator is known to the victim.
One of the conclusions we came to, was that South Africa is a brutalised and traumatised society. As I have suggested before, this brutality may stem from the past environments of legalised brutality, that had become commonplace and sanctioned by a government. This brutality is now manifesting itself mostly among groups who were brutalised and who are now brutalising each other.
Our second question was this: if the unemployment rate in South Africa was 5% or even less, would we still have the same kind of brutal crime, rape and murder that we have now?
It seems to me that if more people were gainfully employed they would attach more value to human life than they seem to now.
Linked to this is the importance of good governance and good leadership. In a country where quality education is as inaccessible as it is here, are we not likely to produce rapists and killers?
In a country where the unemployment rate hovers around the 25% mark officially, and around 40% unofficially, are we not likely to produce highly frustrated individuals who have no self- worth? In a country where poverty lurks around millions of homes, where ignorance is sometimes celebrated, are we not likely to produce rapists and killers?
We have to get this message through to our leaders: It is their role to lead this nation to become a truly developing nation. One that is developing economically, socially and even spiritually.
We have to impress it upon parents and families that they have a role to play in raising men of substance, citizens who are proud of who they are and what they represent. We have a responsibility to motivate communities to produce stand-up guys, who put their backs into acquiring the necessary knowledge and zeal to build families, communities and societies at large.
I think we need now more than ever to concentrate on producing quality citizens, so we can reduce or eliminate rape, murder and other violent behaviours.
Bantu Mniki is from Dutywa