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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Published on iol.co.za
In his Nelson Mandela memorial lecture on 29 July, President Thabo Mbeki expressed concern about an acquisitive spirit which has taken root amongst South Africans. Mbeki talked of a situation where 'personal wealth, and the public communication of the message that we are people of wealth' becomes 'the means by which we communicate the message that we are worthy citizens of our community'.
Accounting for the origins of this acquisitive impulse President Mbeki said that the white minority had been the dominant social force in our country and had entrenched in our society the understanding that personal wealth 'constitutes the only true measure of individual and social success'.
But while acquisitive values were strengthened with the growth of the market economy under apartheid, the distinguishing characteristic of apartheid was systematic institutionalised racism. The apartheid system designated the majority of South Africans as lesser beings in terms of their race, and in this way, on a daily basis, undermined people's dignity and self respect.
The pre-occupation with consumer symbols of status in current day South Africa may be a reflection of internalised status insecurity which is in part the legacy of apartheid racism. In the aftermath of a system which systematically denied them any dignity, it is perhaps inevitable that many South Africans have latched onto consumer symbols as key markers of their own worth. Instead of the crude racial categorisation of apartheid, the language of status now reflects the more sophisticated codes of the styling, marketing and advertising of consumer goods.
If it is true that South Africans suffer internalised anxiety relating to status insecurity might this help us to understand the combined problems of crime and particularly criminal violence in South Africa? Various factors in South Africa might be said to make South Africa 'crimogenic' but the question as to why crime is so violent in South Africa is one which continues to puzzle us.
In so far as status insecurity underpins acquisitive behaviour such insecurity can obviously be used towards explaining criminal behaviour which is itself acquisitive. Government's 'A Nation in the Making' report, released in June, highlights the extent to which consumer goods, consumerism, and 'conspicuous consumption' have become determinants of worth and status and how this compels people 'to operate on, an sometimes beyond, the margins of legality'.
Yet while most crime - burglary, theft, shoplifting, corruption, fraud - is acquisitive, most violence is not related to acquisitive motives. Violent crime in South Africa primarily takes the forms of robbery, rape or interpersonal assaults. Robbery, which constitutes violent acquisitive crime, only makes up a quarter of reported violent crime in last year's crime statistics. Rape and sexual assault constitute roughly one tenth of reported violence.But sixty five percent of reported non-fatal violent crime involves interpersonal assaults. These are often related to disputes and disagreements frequently between people who are known to each other.
Money disputes sometimes precipitate these assaults. But according to the 2003 National Victim Survey most victims attribute these assaults to factors such as 'long term personal anger', 'sudden personal anger', 'anger towards the friends or family of the victim' and 'jealousy or other romantic motives'.
The mundane nature of these differences however does not moderate the violence which ensues. In the words of the SAPS 2002/03 annual report 'the majority of murders started as an argument which degenerated into a fight and then an assault'. Why is it that ordinary everyday disagreements provoke such extreme and pervasive violence in South Africa?
If status insecurity affects many of those who are able to take advantage of economic opportunities, presumably it also affects many of those who are not so able. According to 'A Nation in the Making' both income and expenditure Gini coefficients point to rising inequality among Africans 'with the educated and upwardly-mobile better able to take advantage of opportunities that have come with freedom'.
Under apartheid people could find solidarity with each other, and white oppression provided a common focal point for resistance. But today the market economy and the pursuit of wealth undermine solidarity. At the same time those who are unable to flaunt consumer symbols of status are marked as lacking in worth in terms of prevailing mores.
Rather than poverty itself, international studies point to a high correlation between inequality and violence, with status insecurity seeming to be the factor which provides the key link between the two. In South Africa however we are not just dealing with serious inequality but with the legacy of racism, and an environment of economic insecurity characterised by conspicuous consumption by an upwardly mobile minority.
Chronic status insecurity may therefore not only feed into acquisitive behaviour, whether legal or illegal, but also into a situation where people are inflamed by the most trivial insults to their dignity, whether real or imagined. Those who are most insecure about their status (and not just their physical security) may be amongst the most volatile. They may also be amongst the most likely to see a gun as a potential guarantee of their dignity and status, thus compounding the destructive consequences when disagreements escalate into confrontation and violence.
Status insecurity may also help to explain sexual violence in so far as this too is inspired by power and domination motives. In addition it may feed into the propensity towards alcohol and drug use, both of which are massively implicated in criminal violence.
Since 1994 South Africa has endured an orgy of violence and bloodshed in millions of apparently randomised acts of violence. If status insecurity feeds into this violence then this suggests that there is a deeply rooted need for us to create a society which affirms and restores the dignity of South Africans.
© Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
Steinberg, J. (2004). Call the cynics off — catching top 200 criminals is a feasible plan, Business Day, 31 May.
Read more... (external link)
Conducting Participatory Action Research with Apartheid Survivors: Lessons from ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Drivers of Violence in Khulumani Communities’Sishuba, Yanelisa, Sindiswa Nunu, Nompumelelo Njana, Agnes Ngxukuma, Brian Mphahlele and Jasmina Brankovic. 2017. Conducting Participatory Action Research with Apartheid Survivors: Lessons from ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Drivers of Violence in Khulumani Communities’. Cape Town: Khulumani Support Group Western Cape and Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Malose Langa & Peace Kiguwa (2013) Violent masculinities and service delivery protests in post-apartheid South Africa: A case study of two communities in Mpumalanga, Agenda, 27:1, 20-31
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. 2013. Returning to one another: Easing engagement about things that matter: A treasure trove of ideas and exercises to build community and hold conversations that matter. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights: Johannesburg.
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.
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.
Fattah, E.A. (2006) Is Punishment the Appropriate Response to Gross Human Rights Violations? Is a Non-punitive Justice System Feasible? Paper presented at the conference “The Politics of Restorative Justice In Post-Conflict South Africa and Beyond”, Cape Town, 21-22 September.
Injobo Nebandla. (2005). Confronting the Legacy of Weapons in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. Violence and Transition Series, December. (741kb)
Palmary, I. (2005). Engendering Wartime Conflict: Women and war trauma. Violence and Transition Series, December. (1.66 MB)
Injobo Nebandla. (2005). Freedom from Strife: An assessment of efforts to build peace in KwaZulu-Natal. Violence and Transition Series, December. (464 KB)