Violence viewed as normal in SA, says report (10.11.10)

Violence viewed as normal in SA, says report (10.11.10)

By WYNDHAM HARTLEY

A long-awaited report on the violence associated with crime in SA found that structural violence under colonialism and apartheid had helped to create a culture where violence was normal and legitimate

CAPE TOWN — A long-awaited report on the violence associated with crime in SA found that structural violence under colonialism and apartheid had helped to create a culture where violence was normal and legitimate.

This emerged yesterday when newly appointed Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu presented the report from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation to Parliament's police committee.

The report, which cost R3,5m to research, was commissioned in 2007 by the then safety and security minister and was handed to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa early last year.

Its presentation to Parliament and the public was delayed until the C abinet had dealt with it.

The report found that many violent criminals were very young and that poverty, poor socialisation, the easy availability of illegal firearms and a weak criminal justice system further contributed to what it called a culture of violence.

It found that 31% of the perpetrators of crime were aged 19 and younger. Where murder resulted during a crime, 21% of the perpetrators were 19 or younger.

The report found differences between high-violence wealthy and poorer communities, and said the government needed to respond effectively to both types. The middle class is more audible and has greater access to the media, and the police therefore needed to guard against the wealthy dictating which crimes are prioritised, it said.

Of concern was the tendency to focus on "trio robberies" — residential robberies, business robberies and car and truck hijackings — which accounted for a substantial part of the most serious violence that takes place in more affluent communities.

"There is no reason to believe that the perpetrators of business robberies — particularly if we are talking about robberies of businesses in the informal sector — are distinct as a group from those involved in aggravated street robberies," the report read.

The study also indicated that individuals involved in robberies with weapons often tended to be implicated in acquaintance violence, with the same weapons being used.

Communities with a high incidence of robberies with firearms also had a lot of acquaintance violence with firearms. Likewise, in communities where knife violence was high, this also occurred in both stranger and acquaintance violence.

MPs and police secretary Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane expressed disappointment that the report held little that was new and failed in its central task of explaining why crime in SA was so violent.

Report researcher David Bruce said attempts to understand violence were made worldwide and it was unrealistic to expect new explanations.

The centre's executive director, Adele Kirsten, said the cause could be located in the hundreds of years of structural violence of colonialism and apartheid. She stressed that violence was learned behaviour — "it is socialised and is never senseless because there is always a reason".

"The report does not imply that a group of people or the nation as a whole is inherently violent. What it wants to say is that given our history, given our experience of violence … we have begun to see violence as normative. We see it as acceptable to use violence … we see it as legitimate," she said.

Ms Kirsten said that perhaps the expression "culture of violence" used in the report was not the best term but that this was an area that was receiving further research.

She stressed that, given SA's history, people had begun to see violence as normal and legitimate. She also took aim at the apartheid migrant labour practice, which had a devastating effect on so many families.

hartleyw@bdfm.co.zaThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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CSVR is a multi-disciplinary institute that seeks to understand and prevent violence, heal its effects and build sustainable peace at the community, national and regional levels.

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