Written by Malose Langa
Parliament should lead in breaking cycle of violence
February 10, 2017
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has warned that the normalisation of violence in Parliament will have long-term repercussions for South Africans trying to break the cycle of violence in the country.
The CSVR was responding to disruptions during the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on February 9, 2017 when members of the EFF were ejected from the House.
“When violence becomes the norm as a way to resolve our problems, it eats into the social fabric of our society. This normalisation of violence is a concern. Even if new actors are sworn in to power, the act of violence as a way to deal with issues will remain,” said CSVR executive director Nomfundo Mogapi.
“If this is how Parliamentarians deal with difference then what message would it send to ordinary people if those in leadership react with violence to those who disagree with them,” she added.
“The gendered aspects of the violence are also highly concerning,” stated Nonhlanhla Sibanda-Moyo, CSVR’s gender specialist. “Female parliamentarians were manhandled by men in a way that bordered on harassment. We need to understand that gender-based violence is an enormous problem in South Africa. Leaders need to set an example for the rest of the country. The use of violent force against women should not be accepted in either public or private spaces and leaders and people in authority should be held accountable for this violence”
CSVR research has found that South Africans are already dealing with the long-term emotional and psychological trauma from the impact of violence. This excludes the physical and financial costs with its broad impacts on society that reinforces existing social divisions.
As early as 2007, CSVR research on the levels of violence in South Africa found that violence had become normalised in South Africa for a variety of reasons including the limited effectiveness within the criminal justice system to deal with such challenges.
Additionally, the CSVR has continually found that the use of violence in collective spaces speaks to people not feeling heard. It is clear that the use of violence in public events such as SONA is a means for the public to raise concerns and frustrations that they are not given the opportunity to raise in normal circumstances. The learning from the SONA address remains that the people of South Africa need the opportunity to feel heard and for their frustrations to be dealt with in an ongoing and clear manner.
“Our political leadership has an opportunity to lead in breaking the cycle of violence in South Africa. How they deal with resulting crisis will sent a clear message to the rest of the country on the kind of society we want to be,” Mogapi concluded.