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OPINION / 7 OCTOBER 2019, 09:32AM / LORENZO DAVIDS


We are in the grip of the most revolting violence. We must not allow ourselves to normalise this evil and go on to “other news”,” writes Lorenzo Davids. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

I don’t want us to move on from talking about violence. I don’t want it to be replaced by other news.

We are in the grip of the most revolting violence. We must not allow ourselves to normalise this evil and go on to “other news”. We know from history that the violence of political systems such as colonialism and apartheid and the social power of gangs inflicted the psychology of “the power of negative power” on the mind of every citizen. The damage that caused is what we all live with today.

I recall the times in the 80s I was robbed on a train to and from university as a student at UWC – simply because the other person had the negative power of holding a knife.

I recall standing at the bus station in Hanover Park one night in 1982 with my friend Michael Plaatjies and both of us narrowly missing a panga hit to our heads from a gang that robbed us.

I remember the violence of the police towards the students at UWC. The sjambokking, the raiding of the hotels and the teargas were all forms of the extreme violence of negative power.

I remember as an 11-year-old boy strolling down Voortrekker Road in Bellville on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a group of friends window-shopping and dreaming of what we were going to buy one day when we had money. Suddenly a police van pulled up in front of Grand Bazaars and two policemen got out, with long sjamboks in their hands, threatening us that if we don’t leave now and go back to where we came from we would be beaten. We started running like the dogs were chasing us.

South Africa has had decades of being under the rule of negative power. And it is not going to change until we find different words and ways to explain the power we have in a democratic system.

We all watched in horror in 1997 how Jeff Benzien demonstrated to the TRC his torture of citizens for their anti-apartheid actions.

We recently relived the death in detention of Imam Abdullah Haron in 1969. We all watched how police fired on the Marikana miners in August 2012 or how mathematics teacher Andries Tatane was shot and killed in 2011 or how Mozambican Mido Macia’s hands were tied and his body dragged behind a police van in Daveyton in 2013. He was later found dead, with the cause of death being head injuries due to internal bleeding.

We watched the violent disruptions of Parliament. And we continue to watch the murders of our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, children and our brothers.

The embracing of negative power as a leadership practice by our new political, business and civic leaders is what is fuelling the escalating inequalities and brutal violence.

We are staring into the abyss. No, this is not a pleasant Monday morning conversation. Anyone who has sat in either a local day hospital, driven in a taxi, faced violent housebreaking or a farm murder or an angry boss will tell you that the moral and psychological crisis we are in is not going to go away in a hurry. It’s into this theatre of chaos that South Africans have to step every day.

It is now up to us to confront this heinous monster of violence in ourselves, in our language and in our systems.

This display of negative power dominates the lives of ordinary people. It’s in the way we are treated in government buildings by powerful people who use negative power to lead. It’s in the way we are publicly transported. It’s in the way we are educated. And it’s in the way we die – often at the hands of negative power.

Let’s not stop talking about the violence. We have to find the words – and the power – to change it.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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