It appears superfluous to ask such a question when we know very well that on 5th December 2013 activities in the world almost came to a standstill when Tata Madiba breathed his last. Indeed Tata Madiba was a South African no more than Jesus was a Jew and Adolf Hitler a German. The death of this great figure seems to have washed away the many evils that South Africa had been grappling with. Indeed Madiba in no uncertain terms fought apartheid,one of the greatest evil that was eating the flesh of South Africa like a cancerous tissue. But it still remains to be ascertained whether he managed to nip in the bud the offshoots of apartheid and its mutation, for instance, the high rate of violence basically manifested in constant protests where scores of people are killed, the rising trend in crime, and the upsurge of xenophobic and afrophobic attacks. I may appear as the devil’s advocate but my intention is simply to take a hard look at facts that we overlook with the dawn of each day.
It is indubitable that South Africa is one of the economic giants in Africa, competing with Egypt and Nigeria. The exponential rise in the number of mines attests to this, not forgetting her extensive and magnanimous road infrastructure that is hailed to be better than some in Europe. It is very easy to conclude based on these facts that South Africans are among the happiest people in Africa. If happiness index can be determined by infrastructures and high levels of consumption, then such might be the case. But wait a minute! How possible can one be said to be happy when he or she lives in a country that has the highest death rate in the world? Research findings by South Africa Police Service (SAPS) published by The Witness in KZN in September 2013 revealed that the level of crime had increased. The findings made it unequivocal that South Africa has the highest death rate in the world. Such a high death rate was attributed to murder, car accidents, and health complications.
Furthermore the US – based CIA Fact book has it that South Africa has the highest death rate globally , beating war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Central African Republic. In addition the WHO has placed South Africa in the top ten for road traffic deaths at 31.5 people per 100000 population. The UN office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Homicide Statistics for 2013 places South Africa as the 18th highest for death by murder. Other indicators on the CIA Fact book place South Africa as number one for HIV/Aids related deaths.These statistics disturb and ought to spur the nation into positive action.It is ironic that the globally celebrated road networks have turned into death traps. Could it be that people do not know how to drive? Is somebody not doing their job? Corruption is always our refuge in this. Three years ago in Kwazulu Natal (KZN), one of the local papers, The Witness, reported of corruption involving issuance of driving licences. It is sad that many motorists pass the driving test not based on competency but on their ability to bribe the traffic officers. The consequence of this is more deaths on the roads.
We are not yet sure whether there is a desire and will to understand the reason for the rise in the culture of violence, for instance, the high death rates due to rape and murder? Mary de Haas, from KZN Violence monitor, affirms that the high death rate is due to South Africa’s violent society. She opines that violence has been used for a long time not only to solve problems but as a means to an end. On the other hand the KZN Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant- General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, maintains that there is no single explanation for the rise in crimes. For him “some of the causes of crime are deeply rooted and related to the history and socioeconomic realities of our society”.
In his book When Mandela Goes, Venter avers that ‘apartheid has been the major progenitor of the abnormally high level of crime in south Africa. This means that the further the new south Africa moves away from its apartheid past, the fainter its effect will be – and the greater hope there is for a decrease in crime…the unhappy conclusion is that only a future generation, with new values, can bring about a reversal in the crime patterns in South Africa. Until then, they must continue on the path they have taken …and get worse before they get better.’ Venter could not be truer based on what is currently happening. His sentiments reverberates with plain truth. This is the truth that the whole nation should be ready to make sacrifices to own. A truth that will usher a South Africa that is healed, reconciled to herself and her neighbours, and committed to annihilate the culture of violence.
BY ROBERT KINENA NDUNG’U MCCJ.