TRAUMA CENTRE FOR SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND TORTURE
UNITED PUBLIC SAFETY FRONT
Executive Director: Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux
Acting Chairperson of UPSF
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 082 821 2692
13 September 2018
Now is the time to disrupt denial!
How long will we as society shake our heads in dismay at annual reports of crime statistics in South Africa? When do we disrupt the denial of the collective role we all play in maintaining the status quo and perpetuating violence whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously? We are tired of the narrative that holds one particular agency responsible for the high levels of violence in South Africa. We cannot celebrate the minuscule decrease in certain crime categories because crime remains endemic. Instead, it is time for us to revisit how we view violence prevention from a collective, intersectoral stance. Clearly, the silo mentality has not taken us forward. The crime statistics reveal how dehumanized we have become as a nation regardless of race, gender or class status.
There is an African proverb that calls upon us to change the eyes through which we see our reality. Moving forward, the Crime Statistical Report requires critical reflection on creating an enabling environment for crime prevention. Crime prevention which secures public safety need legislative implementation, diverse resources beyond policing and above all political will.
The Western Cape features prominently in the high rate of murders nationally. Seven communities (Nyanga, Phillipi East, Delft, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Gugulethu and Mfuleni) are on the top ten murder list followed by Mitchell’s Plain (ranked 12th) and Bishop Lavis (ranked 21st). The linkage between inhumane living conditions and the high murder rates is glaring. Similarly, the impact of our colonial and apartheid past still haunts communities. All these communities are predominately Black begging us to view the endemic violence through the lens of decolonization project particularly within the context of access to land, decent housing, job creation including employability and safe schooling. The persistent denial of invisible violence (structural, systemic, religious, psychological and cultural violence) is an extreme barrier to crime prevention in the Western Cape and the rest of the country.
We note with deep sadness – mixed with growing anger – the loss of 279 children in the Western Cape, the majority (219) of whom are boys and mostly linked to ongoing gang violence. Our persistent calls on the Western Cape Government to establish a Provincial Commission of Inquiry into the lack of child safety has fallen on deaf ears with Cabinet rejecting civil society’s petition. Given the Western Cape Legislature’s Petitions Standing Committee’s recommendation that government together with civil society facilitate public hearings, we have opted not to partner with government to avoid political interference in the wake of the elections in 2019. Instead, we are moving ahead with a People’s Commission of Inquiry in the next month because we cannot ignore our people’s pain and their need to voice their reality. We cannot continue with business as usual. Now is the time for deeper reflection of what works and what does not. Nor can we arrogantly rely solely on academic research that merely quantifies child murders while ignoring the lived experiences of those left behind. In addition, we note with equal concern children maimed as a result gang violence and the 4000 missing children since 2000. A recent Sunday Times article reveals that 16,000 children went missing over the past 18 years. Child abductions is a reality and not the figment of our imagination. Denial disrupts opportunities to seek constructive solutions to strengthen child and public safety.
It is hard to believe the crime statistics for 2017/2018 in general, but particularly with reference to
gang violence in the Western Cape since shooting occurs on a daily basis. We dispute the figure of 808
gang-related murders in the province. Challenges in reporting and the methodology of collecting and
analysing crime data must be reviewed by parliament. Similarly, clients have revealed the difficulties
in lodging complains with the South African police. We are acutely aware that the crime statistics may
be a tip of the proverbial iceberg since often victims are unwilling to lodge complaints for varied
reasons. In the communities that we work in, clients have indicated that death certificates often
indicate natural causes as opposed to murder.
We are aware that the 370 women murdered in the Western Cape are not only linked to sexual
violence and intimate partner violence but also gang violence. As the National Plan of Action for
Women and Children comes to an end this year, there is an urgency not to simply rehash prevention
interventions but to analyse the strengths and weakness of the existing plan with the view of looking
at innovative ways of dealing with violence against women and children. The Western Cape has the
highest rate of domestic violence in the country. We cannot deal effectively with the high level of
domestic and sexual violence against women and girls by simply providing victim empowerment to
survivors. Perpetrators of such violence are mostly but not exclusively men yet few programmes exist
to change patriarchy. While shelters are needed for abused women, we question the logic of removing
women and children from their homes while perpetrators remain comfortably at home with no
change in their behaviour leading to a repetitive cycles of violence. Now is the time to revisit how best
to address domestic violence by focusing on changing the mind set of men who abuse women and
children. It is time for them to be sent by the courts to rehabilitative programmes which will hopefully
contribute towards reducing domestic violence. We also note the growing number of men who are
survivors of domestic violence and call upon a critical reflection on how gender-based violence is
viewed in the country since in our view gender-based violence cannot only be viewed as violence
against women and the girl child.
Let us move beyond scapegoating and blame to acknowledging joint responsibility for the state of the
nation and rather in the spirit of building social cohesion, work together to change the eyes in which
we see reality.