chapter  4
16 Pages

The Decline of Political Violence

Few issues dominate the collective psyche of the South African people as fully or generate as much debate as crime and violence. From newspaper headlines to lead stories on radio and TV news, the nation is inundated with disturbing images of violence in both public spheres and the private domains of family life. Shocking accounts of shootings, stabbings, sexual assaults, murders, muggings, car hijackings, forced entries into hornes, and burglaries stoke the fires of public anxiety about personal safety. Concern about peace and safety is not new to South Africa. Throughout much of its history, violence has dominated the social landscape (Sparks 1990). Although some social observers link the current epidemic of crime and violence to the distartions of law and social order that occurred during the apartheid era, historians provide accounts of brutality going as far back as the arrival of European colonizers and even earlier. Although contemporary concerns about safety are not new, the public discourse in South Africa about the nature and motives ofviolence has shifted considerably over the period from 1980 to the present. In that time, violence in South Africa has taken several forms and served a variety of purposes. Though governments are responsible for the safety of their citizens, under apartheid the South African government abrogated this responsibility in order to preserve white hegemony. It used violence to suppress political dissent and the mobilization of opposition to its separatist policies. During that period, the farms of violence evolved from politically motivated confrontation between blacks and the apartheid government, to secret government campaigns of terror, to economically driven ethnic conflict, to criminal violence, to juvenile gangwarfare, and back again to public acts ofterror. At the same time, an increased sensitivity and attention to violence and abuse within the

family has emerged. Africans, correctly or incorrectly, have in both public and private spheres is sure, the liberation movement violence of its own. Although few oppression with violence as a proponents of nonviolence such as the monster of violence is difficult South Africa has persisted beyond the rise to it. It has survived with new means for re dressing perceived inequities, as a strategy for resolving personal and economic disputes, and as a campaign tactic in electoral politics. It is used openly by syndicates to support criminal activity and is justified by citizen vigilante groups to fight crime. It has also become a symptom of psychological alienation by youth who build a code of honor and seek social purpose around warfare with competing gangs.