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Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma called on all South Africans on Thursday to help rebuild the country's moral fibre.
Opening the National House of Traditional Leaders at Parliament, Zuma said success in the fight against crime and violence generally depended on all South Africans, and not only on the police.
“We have identified the regeneration of the moral fibre and the strengthening of families and communities as a priority,” he said.
The family was the foundation of society, and the government's goal was to promote cohesive families, households, and communities, where violence, deviance, and social decay would be non-existent.
“This is the foundation of a more caring, united, and more prosperous South Africa.
“We are aware of the diverse nature of families and households in our country. We have single parent households, granny-headed households, female-headed households, child-headed households, and others.”
The period of apartheid colonialism had brought immense pressure to bear on the African family in particular.
“We have gone through a period of the migrant labour system and rapid urbanisation, leading to the split in families, with breadwinners moving to the cities,” Zuma said.
This had put pressure on families, leading to children growing up with one or neither of their parents. This continued to this day in some families, where parents could be called “economic migrants”.
The HIV/Aids pandemic and the internecine violence of the 80s and 90s had also contributed to the breakdown in family life.
Poverty, inequality, and unemployment on their own wreaked havoc on families and households. Inequality in income distribution was also large and persistent.
“These are the socio-economic conditions we have to contend with, as we build united, cohesive, caring, and stable families and communities. The situation does not make our task easy.
“What is important in building new and caring communities, is that everyone should play their part,” Zuma said.
There were shocking cases of parents who did not know where their children were at any given time, even at night.
This was unacceptable. Parents had to take responsibility for their children and children under their care. They could not delegate this responsibility to the police or to the government.
“Beyond households and families, working together we must promote a culture of accountability as all sectors and leaders of society, including traditional leaders.
“We all have a responsibility to socialise the youth to be caring, responsible and upright citizens.”
They had to know the values and ethos in the Constitution which pronounced against all forms of discrimination and violence.
Promoting this accountability meant that communities should be involved in the affairs of the schools in their jurisdictions.
They should motivate the youth to go to school and support the teachers. No child should roam the streets during school hours while their parents just looked away.
“The existence of taverns near the schools and the fact that owners allow school children to patronise these... (institutions) indicates the level of decay in our society.
“The abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other substances is a contributory factor in some of the crimes that are committed.
“These matters may look small and insignificant, but on a larger scale, they take us to the problems we face currently of wanton lawlessness.
“More importantly, I wish to highlight the role of men in building stronger families.”
South Africa had a serious challenge of absent living fathers in many households, especially African households.
Poverty, high rates of unemployment, and financial constraints could contribute to large numbers of fathers failing to take responsibility for their children.
“However, this should not be an excuse. Nothing stops a father from loving and caring for his children, even if he is poor.
“It is well known that the presence of a father has a positive effect in a child's life chances, academic performance, and social and emotional well-being,” Zuma said. - Sapa