Trust Cape tabloid ‘The Voice’ – with its catchy sub head ons skrik vir niks (nothing scares us!) – to dish up unadulterated truth on murderous crime. Yes, the daily is sensationalist, but the in-your-face atrocity of cold blooded killing is brought home. Maybe it’s time we did catch a skrik.
The recent Weekend of death! headlines screamed:
Skollies kill lesbian! Victim Sihle Sikoji’s granny said, ‘Samora Machel men don’t like lesbians and that is why she was killed.’
‘Tokoloshe’ boy killed! One-year-old Luthando Mateta was beaten to death by his grandmother’s boyfriend who believed the child was under the influence of ‘evil forces’.
Kill or be killed! Bonteheuwel gangster Kheeran Gewelaar, 18, was shot in the face in a revenge attack after his botched attempt to wipe out rivals.
And the list goes on…when Gewelaar was gunned down, a 53-year-old woman was hit by a stray bullet and had to be rushed to hospital; in A Z Berman Drive, Mitchell’s Plain, security guard Simon Sonie was shot dead; in Buffalo Road, Delft, an unidentified 20- year-old man died from stab wounds to his back and sides…
One of the most heart-stopping stories told how, bizarrely, a woman breastfed her baby while holding a gun to Philippi resident Arnold Koch’s head, forcing him to watch his wife under attack. Three men took turns raping Hester, 62, before they strangled her to death. The criminals (and tragically the baby probably too) were high on tik.
‘The Voice’ puts it out there loud and clear: violent crime happens in our homes and spills out on to our streets. And we had better take notice.
Senseless killing is a scourge. According to South Africa’s 2012 crime statistics released in September ‘85% of the victims of violent crime know their attackers by name, and 60% of the victims are either drugged or drunk at the time of the attack’. Impulsive and cruel murder is a blot on our beautiful country and remains one of the greatest threats to the peace of our society.
And although it might reassure to know that the stats show the murder rate is coming down, Gareth Newham, head of the Crime and Justice Programme at the Pretoria Institute for Security Studies, is blunt about what this means in real terms. He writes: ‘The rate of decrease is very slow and slowed down further in the past year. At the current rate at which murder is decreasing it will take South Africa around 36 years before our murder rate reflects the international average of seven murders per 100 000.’
More significantly he notes that ‘as government has no clear strategy based on initiatives that are proven to reduce violent crime, it’s unlikely that we will see the kind of reductions possible with our available resources.’
These initiatives to combat violent crime include community education, youth programmes for those at risk, social support for struggling families. The emphasis must be on alternatives to violence. And along with education and support, police must be accountable to communities so desperately asking for maintenance of law and order.
Fed up with a largely lackadaisical and unstructured police service and a justice system that is unable to adequately deal with offenders, desperate communities too often take matters into their own hands and fall into the vicious cycle of becoming perpetrators themselves.
During the Weekend of death! Bonteheuwel residents marched on a suspected drug dealer’s home and petrol bombed the house. Three other houses were also vandalized as community members lost patience with ‘the system’. A 50-year-old woman interviewed said, ‘Those are all drug houses and we are tired of seeing our children become their victims. We are tired of living in fear.’ (In the Cape especially, the eroding influence of drugs on society at large must be taken seriously.)
We should every one of us feel fear, shock, then outrage, that violent crime, blatantly told in the tabloid, is so prevalent. It’s time we come out from under our duvets, from behind out electric fences and high walls and face the harsh fact that killing happens all too often. It’s time we teach that killing is wrong. And it’s time each of us put every effort into creating a more caring society.
With an increased incidence too of public protests turned violent, surely the writing is on the wall that society is in crisis. When it comes to Government, too much money and effort is expended in keeping only the inner circle looked after and protected.
It’s time Government placed more store in the well-being and safety of citizens and residents, as promised in the Constitution. Then perhaps there’d be fewer damaged and angry people out there. There’d be fewer people turning on each other and on the innocent, and fewer victims ending up as tabloid fodder.