Crime and family life
The murder of Senzo Meyiwa is front page news, and dominating social media. His shocking death has stunned us as a nation. Here is a young man who was a symbol of hope and an inspiration for many other young South Africans. His tragic death reminds us all of the reality we live with, that ours is an incredibly violent society.
South Africa is not the poorest country in the world. But we are one of the most violent. I believe that this is because Apartheid has left us with deep psychological wounds.
I think that greatest harm we suffer from Apartheid is one we rarely talk about. It is a subtle damage done to our sense of self and to our sense of others. For generations people were regarded as things. The mines demand for cheap labour was used to justify the 1913 land act, and the migrant labour system. From this resulted a profound disruption of family life, which continues to today. Most South African children are not brought up by both parents, not were their parents or their grandparents. This terrible disruption is primarily not as a result of any wilful choice by their parents to abandon their children, but as a result of socio-economic pressures many of which were wilfully imposed by the state in order to create a situation of cheap labour. In the post-Apartheid era this profound disruption of family life has continued and become worse with the rise of HIV AIDS and the illness and deaths of many parents. I think that some of the extreme violence we see in our country, is as a direct consequence of the many children who have been inadequately loved or parented themselves. The nature of our violence, whilst it is often economically motivated, is also domestic and frequently targets the most vulnerable.
We are a damaged and damaging people. Children who have been abused, neglected or raped, are more likely to grow up to be violent adults. In a context where we know that family life is seriously compromised, we also know that our education system is also failing. While schooling can never replace the love and formation of the home, it seems that mostly South African schooling has further failed children in the secondary system that should support them. It has shifted from an ‘education for servitude’ of the past to education for unemployment. Little wonder then that our youth are so angry and violent.
How can we help the current generation of children better? How can I help my local school to do better? How can I help the young adults around me as they embark on the difficult task of creating a family and having children? How can we as their extended families help them to make the commitment to marriage and family life? How can I better support the people around me who are carrying the burden of childrearing, whether they are single parents, married parents, grandparents, or other family members? This crisis is old and on-going, and can only be solved if we all consciously begin to work to solve it. If we fail to solve it then its effects will continue to plague our society with violence and abuse.