“South Africa is not a violent country – it is certain people in our country who are violent” said Jacob Zuma last Thursday. Referring to the recent outrage over violence in South Africa, Zuma proceeded to say that “people should not paint all South Africans as violent and brutal”. This speech was made after a wave of police action, protests and crime brought violence in South Africa into the international spotlight (http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-07-south-africa-not-a-violent-country-says-zuma.).
Recent events include the killing of 34 miners by police at Marikana last year, the arrest of eight police officers implicated in the death of Mido Macia, the rape and murder of teenager Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp in the Western Cape and the arrest of Paralympian and Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Maybe Mr Zuma is in denial or trying to hold onto a sense of optimism, either way, it is long past the time for that. People are sick and tired of hearing about yet another horrific murder or rape. And they are also sick of all talk and no action. All we ever seem to see on the front pages of newspapers, on TV, on the homepage of news sites, is the latest violent crimes. The worst part is the number of injustices, murders and crimes committed by our very own law enforcers. How do we implement justice if our police are corrupt? It needs to start from the top.
People really don’t want to hear that “South Africa is not a violent country”. Yes not everybody is violent and yes it IS individual people that are violent, but it is the PERCENTAGE of individuals that are violent, the number of crimes committed, that makes South Africa violent as a whole, especially when compared to many other parts of the world.
Zuma said that “as far as general crime was concerned, the levels decreased over the years”. General crime may have decreased, but it has only done so marginally in 2012, according to a mail and guardian report-only 3.1% decrease from last year, or 331 less murders. The murder rate is four and a half times more than the global average of 6.9 murders per 100 000. There was also an increase in drug-related crime, which was up 15.6% over the previous year (http://mg.co.za/article/2012-09-20-marginal-improvement-in-crime-stats.).
Gracia Michelle makes a good point when she says; “The level of anger and aggression is rising. This is an expression of deeper trouble from the past that has not been addressed. We have to be more cautious about how we deal with a society that is bleeding and breathing pain”(http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-03-12-violence-in-sa-wake-up-mr-president/#.UUFm8tb06S8.). The truth is, people are still very angry and things in South Africa are far from perfect, with so many unemployed and underpaid citizens who feel as if they have no power or voice. Hence the number of violent strikes taking place too.
So to me, comments like Jacob Zuma’s come across as more annoying, and attempting to side step the issue at hand than admitting it’s true catastrophic nature and therefore addressing it. In order to REALLY begin to solve a problem should one admit to the problem and it’s true gravity first and foremost, surely? South Africa IS one of the most violent countries in the world, this is common knowledge which no amount of clever wording can obscure. People will only start to think of South Africa and its people as peaceful when the number of devastating events drops, when the statistics show this to be so, when violent demonstrations and protests stop being a weekly event.