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Sentenced twice over
(Media Articles)

Five years after the demise of apartheid, Vincent, a young, fresh-faced man arrived in remand detention in a Western Cape facility.

Vincent had never been to prison before, and when he arrived he was thrown into an overcrowded cell that held first-time inmates and long-standing gang members. He was scared to death and, sadly, his fears were confirmed: on his first night, he was raped – by two different inmates.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016
More than gangsterism, structural violence is the issue
(Media Articles)

Jasmina BrankovicAnnouncing that President Zuma would not deploy the army to intervene in Cape Flats gang wars, his spokesman Mac Maharaj noted that the president “has directed ministers in the social and economic sectors to study the situation and look for long-term solutions that promote sustainable development and stable communities.” The president should be held to this commitment to look beyond short-term responses to gang violence and identify policy solutions that address the poverty and inequality that drive everyday violence in poor urban areas. As part of a study on the relationship of violence and transition, I looked at how a group of young men under 23 in Gugulethu and Mfuleni describe their experiences of and participation in the violence in their areas. These life stories show that both members of informal neighbourhood gangs and young men who have never joined a gang are exposed to violence every day, especially beatings and stabbings by other young men from rival informal gangs or different neighbourhoods who nonetheless know each other. The young men talk about participation in violence as almost unavoidable and link it to their sense of self, to being socially visible in the neighbourhood and to rites of passage associated with becoming an adult man. The stories suggest that these young men have been turned inward on their neighbourhoods since boyhood, rarely leaving them and disconnected from the rest of the city. One young man says he has not left Gugulethu in the past three years while another speaks about the centre of Cape Town as a separate city. While neighbourhood life offers comfort and a sense of belonging, it also opens the young men to physical violence from other young men as well as neighbours and police suspicious of their lifestyles. Spending days on the corner, young men serve as role models to boys who grow up watching them, including as they daily engage in serious violence. The stories indicate that this dynamic has been reproduced from generation to generation of young men since well before the transition to democracy. A central root of this violence is the historical and ongoing exclusion of people living in poor urban areas from the country’s mainstream economic life. The geographical marginalisation, inadequate education and limited skills and employment opportunities institutionalised under apartheid continue almost 20 years after the transition. Indeed, they are entrenched by current economic policies that sideline people with low education levels and skills in seeking to generate high-paying and high-productivity jobs in capital- and skills-intensive industries.Research shows that constraints on a family’s education and acquisition of skills, combined with living far from urban economic centres in areas with limited public services as well as having social networks with similar constraints, not only undermine their chances of finding work but also negatively affect their children’s life opportunities. Many parents are forced to work in the informal sector, without the protections of predictable hours and personal leave usually offered by formal employment, which, along with poor access to more structured activities, contributes to boys and young men in particular spending days in the neighbourhood with little oversight, watching and often modelling violent behaviour. The past and present socioeconomic exclusion that fosters poverty and inequality is therefore intimately linked to everyday physical violence among the young men, whether gangster or not. The international and local literature supports the connection between violence and poverty and inequality that has emerged from the young men’s stories. While this calls for more discussion in South Africa, where inequality has only increased since the transition and violence levels remain both high and a point of widespread public interest, the stories call for going a step further and identifying the poverty and inequality as violence in itself. The concept of “structural violence” is useful in this regard because it describes the institutionalisation and legitimisation of power inequalities while also highlighting this institutionalisation as violence. Structural violence is so normalised that it is usually accepted as a fact of life but it is perpetrated by individuals and institutions at all levels of society. Government, however, has a particular responsibility to address its role in institutionalising structural violence through its policies, especially economic policies. The term “structural violence” provides civil society actors working for socioeconomic transformation on one hand and a more peaceful society on the other – from social movements to NGOs – with a common ground and an advocacy tool for provoking more public discussion on poverty and inequality and for pushing government to develop a deeper and long-term strategy for addressing this cause and form of violence.

Jasmina Brankovic, “Op-Ed: In Some Places It Is Almost Impossible Not to Get Caught Up in the Violence,” Cape Times, 28 August 2012.Brankovic is a researcher on the Violence and Transition project, run by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013
'Disappointed’ at no magic wand to wave away crime (15.11.10)
(Media Articles)

MEMBERS of Parliament’s police committee, the new Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu and police secretariat officials pronounced themselves disappointed this week when the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation’s report on why crime in South Africa is so violent was released.

They clearly all wanted a magic wand from the academics – David Bruce and Adele Kirsten – who compiled the study, and there wasn’t one. Indeed, after a particularly robust engagement, Bruce told the committee that worldwide there had been many studies done on violent crime and no one had yet come up with an answer.

Committee chairman Sindi Chikunga and Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald wanted to know why crime in South Africa was so often accompanied by hideous cruelty. They said the study had failed to find an explanation as to why victims of crime are so often tortured.Indeed, this is a good question. The study reported that the history of structural violence inherent in the way in which colonialism and apartheid worked lay at the heart of the matter.

I suppose the idea is that if you are the victim of institutional violence simply because of your race then it legitimises violence on a personal level.Also, people would have observed brutal state action from police and other departments where there were no consequences. In short, impunity.Also connected to violent crime in the study were things like poverty, education, the destruction of family structures through the migrant labour system and, curiously, the abuse of alcohol by young mothers – often accompanied by domestic violence. Still further reinforcement.

While accepting the bona fides of the research done, it would be nice if the further research which the CSVR said was ongoing could provide answers to some of the questions. For example, there are places in the world where there is far more poverty than in South Africa but where there is less violent crime.It would also be interesting to find out what role is played by the fact that South Africa negotiated its revolution rather than fighting to the end. Is there a sort of feeling that violence is justified because there were no real winners and losers in the revolution?

There were some startling findings which should sound some alarm bells, one being that more than a third of the perpetrators of violent crime are 19 years and younger. That is truly scary and it points to problems with education and socialisation.

Having said all that, the criticism of the report does seem to be unfair. It is an astonishing piece of work and really does serve the vital function of bringing together what we know about violent crime in the country and putting it in an accessible form in one place.

There have also been complaints that R3.5- million of public money was spent and not much achieved. Also unfair. Anything that contributes to a better understanding of where we are and why we behave as we do is worth every cent.

In The Herald

Monday, 15 November 2010
'Gender machinery' in disarray (25.11.09)
(Media Articles)

Johannesburg - South Africa's "gender machinery" is in "disarray" with it not even being clear who is co-ordinating the 16 Days of Activism campaign, a group of NGOs said on Wednesday.

"At a time when it is most needed, participants noted, the national gender machinery is in disarray," read a statement from Gender Links and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).

"There is a lack of clarity on which agency is driving the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which used to be housed in the department of local government, following the establishment of the ministry of women, children and disability in April this year.

"The ministry has yet to hold a consultation with civil society organisations. There has also been a deafening silence on the status of the 365 National Action Plan to End Gender Violence adopted in March 2007 and co-ordinated by the National Prosecution Authority (NPA)."

They said there is also still no specific "domestic violence" category which would enable monitoring of the crime. They called on the government to resuscitate the 365 Day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence.

'We can prevent violence'

Their statement followed a three-day symposium convened by the CSVR under the banner "We can Prevent Violence". They also called for the establishment of a special fund to end gender violence, in line with regional and international commitments.

In addition they called on Fifa to use the World Cup 2010 to send out strong messages in support of the campaign to end gender violence as well as HIV/Aids.

They said the 12% increase in reported rape cases to 71 500 from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 may in part be due to the expanded definition of rape under the new act. The figures are unacceptably high and likely to be understated due to under reporting.

Government was also still "well behind" in reaching the target of 81 one-stop centres for addressing gender violence by 2010 provided for in the National Sexual Assault Policy.

The 16-Days campaign takes place every year from November 25, the International Day of No Violence Against Women.

It runs until December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

- SAPA

In News24.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009
'Constitution threatened by populism' (14.11.08)
(Media Articles)

Christelle Terreblanche

Is he an astute politician who speaks to ordinary people's concerns, or a dangerous populist who may be undermining the Constitution? Jacob Zuma's controversial remarks on the pre-election campaign trail that has taken him around the country have left in their wake a number of questions - and while his comments may have hit the right spot with his audiences, constitutional experts and gender rights activists are not amused. The ANC president told a rally in the Western Cape last weekend that truant learners and pregnant teenagers "should be caught and sent to faraway boarding schools by force until they get degrees".

He accused teenaged mothers of abusing the government's child grant and talked about "a war on street kids". He also repeated previous remarks, including one that crime suspects enjoy too many privileges. But since he sensationally pronounced last year that he was willing to reconsider the death penalty, there has been little indication of how he wants to get this past the country's progressive human rights Constitution. The man is certainly playing to his audiences across South Africa's deep social divides. His allegorical, vernacular rally style contrasts sharply with his measured and reasonable utterances last week at the Cape Town Press Club, where his audience was a world apart from the mostly poverty-stricken people who turn up at rallies. Constitutional and human rights experts believe Zuma's campaign approach to be "dangerous" and "populist", one that's testing the limits of the country's Constitution. Some are incensed by Zuma's suggestion that teenaged mothers should be separated from their babies. "There is a complete lack of acknowledgement of the responsibility of the father in any of this. Teenage girls are a nice, easy cheap target and it plays to a conservative populism to bash teenage girls," is the verdict of Lisa Vetten, senior researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women. "Frankly, for the ANC Youth League to have not said anything about this either, just goes to show how much they care about the difficulties that face adolescent girls. Why girls fall pregnant is a lot more complicated than we think." Two legal commentators say they believe aspects of Zuma's statements may be in conflict with the country's Constitution. University of the Western Cape constitutional expert, Professor Pierre de Vos, says if Zuma indeed meant that women should be forcibly sent away for education, he was making them into "criminals" when they were not accused before the law - "even more grave if it is directed at pregnant women". "It is obviously preposterous, because you once again make women the scapegoats and the men (who made them pregnant) get away scot-free. It is the old patriarchal approach," said De Vos. While acknowledging that the scope of teenage pregnancies was a shame to society, Unisa's Professor Shadrack Gutto said the ANC president's solution was not necessarily "child friendly", did not address the root causes of the problem and "from a constitutional legal perspective (was) very problematic". "As a safeguard you should build in the question of development of children," suggests Gutto. "In legal terms, the interests of the child (babies) come first, and critical to that is the interests of the child, for instance, in breastfeeding. "We know breastfeeding is universally acknowledged to be better for the child than other forms of feeding (although) other forms are not necessarily bad for the child." He said in this context, the statement "could violate the constitutional principle of protecting the rights of children" even before considering the interests of the mother. From the child's point of view "the statements are unfortunate and in many ways opposite to the principles of law". "We need proper reflection really on this issue - which is a populist statement not properly thought through," he suggested. But ANC national spokesperson Carl Niehaus believes Zuma has been misunderstood. The comments - often mistranslated - are derived from listening to communities where the problem of teenage pregnancies "means that mothers and grannies then have to look after the children of their children" and teenage mothers are stigmatised. Niehaus said Zuma was merely raising real concerns in communities that beg for a response from the government. He said that when teenagers leave a community to give birth, they are seldom welcomed back "because there is a kind of social sanction". "It is first of all not an attitude to let men walk off scot-free. It is important that young men are also kept responsible. The suggestion is not at all to withdraw the children by force, but where possible for them to be taken into a new community where they will be able to grow with the children," he explained. On the ANC president's statements that the rights of criminals should be curtailed, experts argue that this will not solve the underlying problem of weak judicial and police systems that result in offenders walking free. But what it does do is infringe on people's constitutional rights. The constitutional legal basic rights of all persons have limitations, stresses Gutto. "But then to be saying criminals should not have rights, really the ANC president is speaking in a language (that) I think is contrary to our Constitution and the principles of the right to freedom of movement and the rights of expression and freedom of association, which will be severely limited." Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation's senior researcher David Bruce says that while there's evidence that a control-orientated approach to criminal justice is likely to convict more criminals, it also comes at the cost of convicting higher numbers of people who are innocent. Bruce warns that a human rights approach, however, depends on a criminal justice system which is staffed by people who are highly skilled and knowledgeable. South Africa has been struggling to get this right, but all efforts must be exhausted before we start intruding on human rights, he stressed. "Incarceration is a process which brutalises people. We are living in a country that is already severely brutalised. So we need to be very wary of it," he said. De Vos says it's a "typical politician's quick-fix" answer to complex problems in our deeply unequal society. But Niehaus stressed that Zuma had been trying to respond to communities' serious battles against crime and to encourage discussion about whether this could be dealt with "in a tougher way without transgressing the Constitution". Gutto also acknowledges the flip-side - that South Africa offers little for victims of crime. "If you put all those together, you can see where the sentiment is coming from - but the ANC president should not be speaking so loosely." Niehaus denied Zuma was being populist. "It is more about being sensitive to the issues being raised in townships and rural communities where things are really difficult. "These are really issues that I think he is quite right to raise," he stressed.

This article was originally published on page 17 of Cape Argus on November 14, 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
'No need for court action on shelters' (04.08.08)
(Media Articles)

There was no need for court action to force the Gauteng provincial government to keep open temporary safe sites for refugees and asylum seekers until they were reintegrated into communities, spokesperson Thabo Masebe said on Monday. He was reacting to the announcement that the Wits Law Clinic and Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) were bringing an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court. They want the government ordered to communicate and implement a reintegration strategy which protects the rights of all, and to restore and not dismantle the Rifle Range temporary safe site until the reintegration strategy is in place.

"I don't know really what these people are looking for," said Masebe. There was no need for them to take court action, he said. "All they had to do was come to us." More than 62 people died, hundreds were injured and tens of thousands displaced in a wave of xenophobic attacks which started in Alexandra, Johannesburg on May 12 and spread to the rest of the country. The displaced have been housed in temporary shelters set up throughout the province since then. "All the shelters are still open, including the Rifle Range shelter," said Masebe. However, he explained that when people left any of the shelters any excess tents were folded up. Of about 1 700 refugees and asylum seekers at the Rifle Range camp at the height of the crisis, only 250 remained, he said. The rest had left after refusing to accept temporary identity cards from the Department of Home Affairs or finding alternative accommodation in their communities. Elsewhere in the province, there were still about 3 000 occupants of the safe shelters. "It's going down because people are leaving every day," he said, adding that 10 families left the Rand Airport camp on Friday alone. The government's key role had been to create conditions in all communities - starting with those where there was violence - for people to return to their homes, Masebe said. "They should be safe to do so. They should not fear that somebody will attack them again," he said. This had involved talking to the communities, which the provincial government had started in May. "It's not something that starts and stops. It starts and continues," he said. "I don't know what plan they are looking for." Civil society organisations have come out in support of the court action. While the need for legal action was regrettable, it was needed in the absence of the government's formal communication on a reintegration strategy, said the Reintegration Working Group. The group includes representatives of, among others: the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg; the Somali Community Board; the Refugee Ministries Centre; the Coalition Against Xenophobia; His People Church; the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation; Mthwakazi Arts and Culture; and the Salvation Army. Masebe said the various groups could assist the government as political organisations and community organisations had done from the start. "That process goes on." In addition, the provincial government was talking to displaced people still at the shelters and who could not reintegrate on their own to find out what kind of help they needed. This included assistance with the building of shacks destroyed in the violence - in Ekurhuleni, communities were already helping in rebuilding efforts - or finding alternative accommodation. "There is no way as government, there is no way we are going to keep the shelters on a permanent basis.". The government did not want to create as permanent, separate settlements for foreign nationals, he said, adding that the government would oppose the court action. "It is not properly informed." - Sapa

In the Independent Online

Monday, 04 August 2008
'Crime will rise if Scorpions get canned'
(Media Articles)
Boyd Webb

Police corruption is likely to skyrocket if the Scorpions are closed down, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) stated in a submission to parliament. "The SAPS is already riddled with corruption and is very bad at addressing the issue," CSVR senior researcher David Bruce argued. He said that corruption within the service could only be properly addressed if investigating units, with the "investigative sophistication" of the Scorpions, were allowed to remain independent of the police. The CSVR submission is but one of many which the chairperson of the National Assembly's Safety and Security Committee, Maggie Sotyu, expects to be waiting for her when she return to parliament next Tuesday.

The public has until Monday to make submissions concerning their views on whether the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) should be closed and merged into the SAPS as called for by ANC resolutions passed at its December conference. The CSVR said that while it recognised that there were problems with the way the Scorpions were managed - as highlighted in the Khampepe Commission's report - these should be addressed without dissolving the unit. Closing the unit would do nothing to reduce the risk of the state abusing its power in the future by using similar units for its own political gain, the CSVR argued. "Creating a single agency with a monopoly of investigative powers is more likely to accentuate the problem," the CSVR said. Groups within the ANC along with the ANC's alliance partners have accused President Thabo Mbeki of using the Scorpions to carry out his political agenda against ANC leader Jacob Zuma. Meanwhile the Centre For Constitutional Rights (CFCR) on Wednesday described cabinet's decision to close the Scorpions as "irrational and arbitrary". It added it had a duty to draw attention to "conduct inconsistent with the constitution".

This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on July 24, 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
'Anti-Scorpions Bill not in public interest'
(Media Articles)
MPs should vote against the current measure before Parliament intended to dissolve the Scorpions, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said on Wednesday. "... the bills are not in the public interest and should be opposed by members of parliament," the organisation said in its submission to Parliament on the measure. Bringing the Scorpions under the command of the SAPS would expose the investigative unit to political manipulation, corruption and under-performance. "We believe that the envisaged dissolution of the Scorpions will... compound alleged existing weaknesses of the criminal justice system," the centre said. -Sapa In The Star, 23 July 2008
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
'SA cops still use torture'
(Media Articles)

Brian Indrelunas The government should meet its "international obligation" to criminalise torture, says SA Human Rights commissioner Leon Wessels. He called explicitly outlawing torture "an international obligation" after speaking to representatives of non-profit groups and government departments at a seminar. "We can't just subscribe to the international rhetoric (without) ensuring that torture becomes a statutory crime," he commented. The Constitution lists the right not to be tortured and police policies refer to torture specifically, but "all other policy is devoid of the language", said Lukas Muntingh of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative. CSPRI and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) hosted on Tuesday's seminar, which explored civil society's role in preventing torture.

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Published on iol.co.za

Wednesday, 02 April 2008
How others have done it: A desk study of community projects related to torture, Appendix C
(Publications)

Bantjes, Megan. 2011. How others have done it: A desk study of community projects related to torture, Appendix C. Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.With the aim of informing CSVR's development of a community work model to address torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, this desk study examines six community projects conducted in South Africa and in other countries. Details of four of the interventions were found in the literature and information about two projects was gathered in interviews with the staff involved. Each intervention is discussed in terms of six questions that have been found useful for thinking about community work (see Questions about community work, Appendix B). The objectives of CSVR’s community work on torture - transformation, prevention and amelioration - provide the framework for considering the implications of each of these projects for CSVR's development of a model.

Monday, 16 December 2013
Leaving the Gangster Things to the Boys Growing Up Now: Young Men, Physical Violence, and Structural Violence in Post-Transition South Africa
(Publications)

Brankovic, Jasmina. 2012. Leaving the Gangster Things to the Boys Growing Up Now: Young Men, Physical Violence, and Structural Violence in Post-Transition South Africa. Cape Town: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.

This paper examines the intersection of physical violence, structural violence, and masculinity through the life history narrative of a 20-year-old man exiting an informal gang in Gugulethu, a township in Cape Town. Beginning and remaining with James Madoda’s narrative, the paper shows how the gendered physical violence between young men in townships emerges from historical and present-day structural violence - here defined as institutionalised power inequalities that limit life opportunities - and argues that structural violence needs to be discussed and addressed as a policy issue in South Africa. It also suggests that structural violence may provide a platform for collaboration among civil society actors working on socioeconomic transformation and the prevention of violence.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Nongoloza's Children: Western Cape prison gangs during and after apartheid.
(Publications)

Steinberg, J. (2004). Nongoloza's Children: Western Cape prison gangs during and after apartheid. Monograph written for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, July. Hard copies available on request from Maimuna Suliman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday, 19 December 2004
Gangs, Pagad and the State: Vigilantism and Revenge Violence in the Western Cape
(Publications)

Dixon, B. & Johns, L. (2001). Gangs, Pagad and the State: Vigilantism and Revenge Violence in the Western Cape. Violence and Transition Series, Vol. 2, May. Hard copies available on request from Ntombifuthi Zondo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 01 May 2001
The Era of the Jackrollers: Contextualising the rise of the youth gangs in Soweto
(Publications)

Mokwena, S. (1991). The Era of the Jackrollers: Contextualising the rise of the youth gangs in Soweto. Paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Seminar No. 7, 30 October.

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