Forced to be Violent… 1


Zwelinzima Vavi recently addressed members of the (SACBC) Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference at the Justice and Peace AGM. The topic of his speech, entitled “Is there any hope at all for the poor?” centred on the need to lessen the divide between rich and poor in SA.

The speech seemed pretty run-of-the-mill until I came across this passage…

(Extract taken from the Address of COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, to the SACBC Justice and Peace AGM held on 26 February 2011)

“Yet almost every week we read reports of violent community protests over service delivery. Workers are very often forced to take to the streets and go on strike to win a modest wage increase. Clearly we still do not live in a society where everyone is happily living in peace. And the underlying reason is the continuation of poverty and inequality, which brings me to my topic tonight – the poor.”

When those in authority are constantly re-enforcing the idea that workers have no option other than to become aggressive and violent in order to be heard is it really that surprising that the poor remain poor? I fail to comprehend the philosophy of a supposed leader who can simultaneously question civil unrest while justifying violent strikes in one breath.

We cannot deny that black communities experience the greatest suffering caused by poverty and high unemployment rates as mentioned in the speech. Nor would I disagree with Vavi’s assessment of the standard of healthcare, education, housing and transport that these under-privileged communities receive.

However we can only blame the actions of the previous government for so long. At some point we have to face up to the fact that we are perpetuating the negative behaviour of our ancestors and prolonging our own recovery through statements and actions such as these.

It would almost be comical (if it wasn’t so sad) that an educated person could cite poverty and inequality as valid reasons for violence. Well if that is the case then where do the justifications end? What if I’m mildly unhappy with my pay, would this be a good enough reason to start burning everything in my wake?

I believe that this kind of statement directly contradicts the numerous anti-woman and child abuse campaigns that the government so often claims to support. And when you really think about it, who makes up the majority of strikers… MEN. Either abuse and violence is wrong, always! Or it is right.

…But maybe I’m wrong and unfeeling. Maybe I don’t fully understand what it means to have no food on the table or no money to visit the doctor. Maybe if I should live under those conditions for years I too would begin to act out aggressively. Then maybe I too would have no limits to the degree of destruction I can inflict on those around me in the name of justice…

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One thought on “Forced to be Violent…

  • Des Squire

    Someone said to me recently tht the ANC is hell bent on keeping the poor poor and the unemployment rate high as it is the poor, the uneducated, and the unemployed who predominantly form the ranks of the ANC electorate. I brushed this aside with my usual air of keep politics out of it. However on reading this I am forced to wonder if there might not be some truth in the comment made -(note to me and not by me)