by Pamela Maringa

South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence, with its strikes being among the most violent in the world. News about strikes has become our daily news. It is something we expect to see when we turn on the television. Some countries have labelled South Africa as the capital of protest.

Our country has reached a point where problems can no longer be resolved by just sitting down and talking. Why do South Africans feel that in order to be heard, they have to resort to violence? Why are we such an angry nation? From the mine strikes in Marikana, to the burning of schools in Vuwani; from Fees Must Fall protests, to xenophobic attacks, there has been a massive loss of lives and vandalism of property.

I’m not saying that people should not voice their frustrations. However, people should be careful, because most major strikes do not have pure intentions. They are strongly politically motivated. Many of the people involved in the violent protests are not actually affected by the problem at hand, but are puppets of individuals and organisations with a deeper, darker agenda. For instance, if service delivery is at the heart of the demarcation grievances in Vuwani, why burn the most valuable symbol of service to any community? The same applies to the fees must fall protests.

I’m concerned about the message we are sending to the younger generation. Are we saying that it’s ok to break things and shoot each other when things don’t go the way we want? And when they grow up and walk in our footsteps, will we be able to deal with the violence they perpetrate?

One evening, my sister refused to let my 6-year-old niece watch Alvin and the Chipmunks, because she wanted to watch the news. My niece went out and collected all her friends from the neighbourhood and brought them into the living room to protest. These children, between the age of 3 and 7, carried sticks and stones and were chanting a song. She told my sister that it was her turn to watch the television.

I later asked her where she got the idea, that when you want something, you have to strike and threaten people. She said, “It looks fun when they doing it on TV, even the guys from the parliament strike.”

What startled me was the fact that these children were not just protesting, but they carried stones and sticks, which they know are considered to be harmful. When will we see that our actions are acts of self-hurt and self-hate, a kind of communal suicide.

The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. A healthy community is a community that doesn’t impose its rights on another, but instead, it acts responsibly in seeking well-being for all.

In his exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis mentions that parents are responsible for shaping the will of their children by fostering good habits. One of the things which children need to learn from their parents is not to get carried away by anger.

Let’s use our energy for something positive and help build the South Africa we want our children to live in.