South Africa’s history of apartheid has been blamed for fermenting a vicious culture of violence that is now deemed as normal way of life.
A report on the Violent Nature of Crime in South Africa released November 9 says violent crime is so deeply ingrained in the nation’s social fabric to the extent that that it cannot simply be solved through the criminal justice system.
The report reveals that poverty, a weak criminal justice system, massive firearm proliferation and poor socialisation of the youth as factors that sustain a culture of violence.
“The core of the problem of violent crime in South Africa is a culture of violence and criminality. The ability to operate and achieve credibility within this culture is strongly related to one’s readiness to resort to extreme violence with a weapon” said the report.
The report which is a culmination of three years of investigation into the causes and nature of violent crime in South Africa — was complied by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) at the request of the government.
“The greater part of the problem of violent crime in the metros, and particularly in townships and inner city areas, is associated with young men who tend to be invested in some kind of criminal identity and associate with like-minded people.”
ANC says no
However, the Jacob Zuma led administration was quick to criticise the much awaited report that sought to find answers to the question: “Why is crime in South Africa violent”.
While the Police Ministry welcomed the report, saying it opened up debate on the nature of crime in the country, it also raised serious concerns about some elements of the report.
Secretary for Police Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane said in a media statement that nothing incredibly new was highlighted by the report.
“The fundamental issue was looking at why crime was violent. We believe the report has failed to answer this question critically… To even link culture or socio-economic conditions to commission of crime is not a true reflection,” Irish-Qhobosheane said.
The statement added, “The question about why some countries with histories of violence are not as violent as South Africa deserves further exploration… why some poorer communities are strongly affected by violence whilst others are less affected also deserves further exploration”.
Research was done in central Johannesburg, Kraaifontein, KwaMashu, Montclair, Nyanga and Thokoza areas. In these six areas, 31% of murder suspects in cases where the crime was carried out with criminal intent were 19 years old or younger and in cases where arguments led to murder, 21% of suspects fell into this age group, the report say.
Robberies in the streets and other public places accounted for the majority of aggravated robberies, and 13% of murder cases.
According to the report, people involved in the subculture range from criminals who operate as individual rapists or robbers, to large numbers affiliated to informal groups or more formalised gangs.
The study has found that the subculture is mostly concentrated in South Africa’s metropolitan areas.
But different regions of the country see different weapons of preference. For example the knife is preferred in Cape Town but in Durban and Johannesburg the firearms is the preferred weapon.
In some sections, the report also suggests the poor continue to bear the brunt of crime, without the benefit of intensive police focus on their plight.
The report singles out mines as places were violence was learnt and taken into the townships.