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A society at war with itself

It is no secret that South Africa has among the highest murder rates in the world — about 19 000 a year — but what appears more difficult is formulating a response. Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula maintains that his department is doing everything it can to address the situation, and mentioned by way of example the successful crackdown on bombings and theft from ATMs.

ATM bombings — itself an example of the extraordinary lengths to which criminals in South Africa are prepared to go in securing their loot — don’t really affect the public, however. Most of the bombings take place very early in the morning at unguarded machines. It is our stupendous murder rate that is the problem.

Two other factors are worth mentioning — that most fatalities are visited upon the victim by someone they know, and the role of alcohol in fuelling this murderous behaviour.

The latest anti-crime initiative, Action for a Safe South Africa, convened with the best of intentions this week in Midrand. Project leader Roelf Meyer said the 300 organisations represented at the convention recognised that the social and economic transformation of the country was not nearly complete, and that South Africans were still suffering economic depravation.

He said it would be a lengthy process to realise the ideal of a safer South Africa and parties needed to commit to working innovatively and cleverly. He added that research indicated that one of the factors found to play a role in violent crime was the political violence of the past.

Institute for a Democratic South Africa crime-prevention research leader Barbara Holtmann said children who witness violence sometimes become violent when they grow up. She said it is a fact that South Africa had a history of violence, and people use violence to deal with conflict, anger, isolation, grief and political tension.

Add to the mix the fact that many children lack role models, and it is little wonder we are a society at war with itself.

While it appears that Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks have stalled, Pretoria has been keen to gloss over the impasse. All Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad would say — without commenting on what must be the fractious nature of the horse-trading — was that the talks were continuing.

The sticking point, this time, is that Zanu-PF are demanding that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sign the deal. The MDC says it’s not signing anything until “deficiencies” in the draft agreement are dealt with.

Lead negotiator and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said there “was no need for more talks” and appears to believe the draft agreement a fait accompli.

It must be difficult to negotiate between parties as diametrically opposed as these. The tenor of Chinamasa’s comment suggests that Zanu-PF believes itself to be the senior partner in negotiations.

Robert Mugabe was also hell-bent on convening Parliament this week while negotiations were under way. He was jeered by MDC parliamentarians and said at a lunch afterwards that it appeared as if the “MDC does not want to come in” to a new government. For Mugabe, the jeers that echoed around the chamber must have been a chilling reminder that his days are numbered.

Johan Strydom
This gay music teacher was dismissed by the NG Kerk for his sexual orientation, but was brave enough to pursue the matter in court — and he won. The ruling has stirred up debate over equality versus religion, sure, but discrimination of any kind should not be accepted without question in present-day South Africa.
Menzi Simelane
First the Mail & Guardian reported how the incredible Mr Simelane, the Director General of Justice, asked senior members of the National Prosecuting Authority to spy on their boss, Vusi Pikoli. Now he’s also been rebuked by the Constitutional Court for not taking seriously a challenge to the dissolution of the Scorpions by businessman Bob Glenister. Is there any justice in the world?

Most-read stories

August 21 to 27

1. Key affidavit used to smear Scorpions
As the fate of the Scorpions hangs in the balance, an investigation by the Mail & Guardian has uncovered a key document used to discredit the unit.

2. Mugabe booed during Parliament speech
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was heckled and jeered by the opposition on Tuesday as he delivered his speech at the official opening of Parliament.

3. Tsvangirai cries foul over Parliament
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Thursday that if the Parliament was convened next week, mediators would have to deal with a violation of the agreed framework for power-sharing talks.

4. Howls of derision echo through Zim Parliament
Zimbabwe’s new Parliament got off to a stormy start on Tuesday as the opposition flexed its new-found political muscle by heckling President Robert Mugabe in the most hostile legislature the veteran leader has faced in 28 years.

5. MDC: Brown’s Trojan horse?
“The MDC is the Trojan horse of British interests … Why do you think after every little thing that is put on the table [Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan] Tsvangirai has time for reflection? It gives him time to consult with the white people.”

6. Zim faces crunch week as Mugabe draws battle line
Zimbabwe faces an uncertain political future, but its economic crisis is only likely to get worse while power-sharing talks between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition remain deadlocked, analysts believe.

7. Court slams the incredible Mr Simelane
Justice Department Director General Menzi Simelane received a harsh rebuke from Constitutional Court judges this week for not taking seriously a challenge to the dissolution of the Scorpions by businessman Bob Glenister.

8. MDC says Mugabe has chosen ‘path of arrogance’
Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC warned on Monday that President Robert Mugabe’s appointment of parliamentarians were a threat to power-sharing talks after it said police had arrested two of its members in Parliament.

9. Zim war vets say Tsvangirai stalling talks
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s war veteran allies accused opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday of stalling power-sharing talks on orders from Western powers.

10. Why has Obama stalled? No one mentions race
Standing next to his street stall of glassware in downtown Denver, Jim Butcher was delighted that Barack Obama and the Democrats were holding their convention in his city this week.

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