/ 23 February 2024

Comfortably numb for survival

Poverty Plagues Khayelitsha Township In South Africa
Faced with the high levels of unemployment and crime, we have chosen to emotionally sedate ourselves for reasons of self-preservation. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

South Africa’s crime and unemployment rates have increased to such an extent that they have moved many citizens past outrage to an even more dangerous state — that of numbness.

 We have chosen to emotionally sedate ourselves for reasons of self-preservation.

 By doing so we have, in effect, chosen the same option used by the thousands of criminals who infest our streets, slither around our boardrooms and nap in our National Assembly.

 The alternative is far too emotionally debilitating for many of us to return to, given our past reactions: we choose anger, they feel nothing; we fight back, they feel nothing; we rant, we rave, they feel nothing. We are overwhelmed with anxiety, they feel nothing.

 Consider the case of the grade six pupil this week who shot his principal at a Germiston primary school, and allegedly also planned to shoot teachers. An appalling crime.

 But given the current state of South Africa, this child — even without his criminal actions — faced an appalling future.

 He will no doubt now be assigned a social worker, but one whose caseload is as bloated as our national debt. Thus, the intended state intervention will fall short. Should he be imprisoned in future, he will probably be released early. 

 If some successful intervention can be sought for the child and he returns to school, he will, statistically, have an almost 50% chance of becoming a dropout.

 Either way, when he enters the working world, his chances of finding a job are bad. He will need to join the other million of recipients of the R350 relief of distress grant, or live on other welfare options.

 His thinking may be that it is far better to resuscitate his criminal behaviour, which pays. His ultimate fate, sans divine intervention, will either be incarceration, or death by mob or police “justice”.  

 Crime and unemployment, we are told by researchers, are synonymous with a corrupt state. 

And research (see Deloitte’s Millennial Surveys) show that these are primary concerns among young people, which is why they generally eschew voting.

 Readers who have studied Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s reports on state capture, or simply follow the news, will agree that corruption is entrenched in the government. 

As President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously said of the governing ANC, it may not stand alone in the dock when it comes to corruption, but it is “accused number one”.

Ramaphosa came to the presidency on a “renewal” and zero-corruption ticket, with many speeches of creating an environment that is conducive to job creation. He has failed.

 The reality is that employment figures will not climb to an acceptable level until the patronage networks and back-door dealings have ended — and measures are taken to boost the stagnant economy.