Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Violent South Africa (2)

The richest 10 percent of households in South Africa earned nearly 40 times more than the poorest 50 percent.

Apartheid is one the key contributors to the high level of violent crime in South Africa. The brutality of apartheid; the inequalities the policy gave rise to and the demoralising effect of racism are some of the contributing factors responsible for the violent crimes experienced by South Africans, says the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).While an exceptionally high rate of violence in not unique to South Africa one of the factors that distinguishes South Africa is the legacy of apartheid and colonialism, the report says.

The previous state's policies exposed millions of boys and young men to humiliating police harassment and a violent prison system during the apartheid years. The rule of law was also undermined by the state sponsorship of township violence during that time.These uniquely South African issues nurtured a culture of violence that has reproduced itself ever since.

There was the undermining influence apartheid had on families, often leaving children to grow up in single parent families because of the migrant labour system. The result being many children, particularly those in poorer sections of South African society, have grown up with an absent father or primary care-giver and plagued by problems such as alcoholism and violence. Children who become persistent offenders are those who tend to grow up with more negative family and school experiences, the report points out.

Under apartheid, the criminal justice system focused on protecting white South Africans from crime, while enforcing apartheid laws on black South Africans.
"A major focus of policing was also suppressing resistance to the apartheid government. Investment in addressing crime in township areas was minimal, contributing to the reliance in township areas on informal mechanisms of justice...The result was that criminal groups and a criminal culture entrenched itself in some township areas."
The core problem of crime in South Africa was a subculture of violence and criminality. This subculture is characterised by young men "invested in a criminal identity and engaged in criminal careers" that involves active criminal lifestyles. "The ability to operate and achieve credibility within this subculture is strongly related to one's readiness to resort to extreme violence using a weapon," the report adds. The importance of weapons in this subculture was identified as a key driver behind the problem of armed violence in the country.

The institutionalisation of racial domination and explicitly racist ideology are also to blame.
"It is reasonable to assume that one of the pervasive consequences institutionalised racism in South Africa is internalised feelings of inferiority which might also be identified as feelings of low self-worth," the report says. Studies into violence carried out by other countries show a link between feelings of low self worth and a propensity to violence.
"The psychological legacy of institutionalised racism in the form of internalised feelings of low self-worth is likely therefore to be a contributing factor to the problem of violent crime in South Africa," it adds.

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