Khaya Dlanga: Death isn’t the answer to monstrous crimes

There has been real and legitimate anger in the past few days over headlines about the kind of violence that illustrates our loss of innocence.

Evil often befalls the undeserving. No one deserves evil, but it is much more difficult to accept when children become victims of crime and violence.

It seems that the world keeps losing its innocence. Just when we think nothing worse can shock us, something else happens.

Children suffer, and those who make them suffer often get away with it. This week, a child died, dragged by a hijacked vehicle. He will never grow up to become a man because cowards killed him. There will be no stories about him as a teenager or a varsity student who makes mistakes, falls in with the wrong crowd and falls in love. His life has ended.

All of society should be protected from violence, but children especially. They are defenceless and far too often they are the victims of unnecessary acts of brutality.

Another child was kidnapped during another hijacking. We held our breaths, fearing the worst until he was found. The men who took him in such a cowardly fashion had guns to protect themselves. They were brave behind their guns. They should be ashamed.

We must not applaud or thank them for the safe return of the child because they should not have taken him in the first place. We are relieved, but not grateful – and certainly not to cowards. A crime is still a crime.

I noted the reactions of people when the story about the young boy who was dragged to his death surfaced. People naturally are indignant when they read something like this, but there were demands for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

But, even under these circumstances, it should not be our kneejerk response to these horrors.

If I had a child and he or she had to go through that, would I not want the death penalty reinstated? No. A case in point: My father was murdered – stabbed to death – but I am still opposed to the death penalty because it does not prevent crime.

In some cases in the United States, it has been found that states with death penalties have seen more heinous crimes than others because criminals don’t want to leave any evidence behind.

We have also seen in the US how some innocent people spend years on death row, only for the authorities to find that the wrong person was found guilty. Or worse, some innocent people have been executed. Even one erroneous execution in a thousand is one too many.

Healing the throbbing wound
The reactions of some people have been even more extreme, calling for vigilante justice. Vigilantism is the law of the mob, therefore there is no justice. The mob is about vengeance, not justice. The mob shoots first and asks questions later. It is irrational.

So what do we have to do to prevent these violent crimes from happening in our society, in which our children are no longer safe? What do we have to do in a society where it is no longer possible for a village to raise a child?

People often argue that the reason for our violent crimes is because people don’t have jobs. But there are many societies in the world where people are even poorer than ours yet do not experience the same level of violent crime. Poverty is not an excuse.

We have to examine ourselves collectively as a nation and then heal the throbbing wound that insists on hurting anyone in its path, particularly if it’s a child.


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