Academics weigh in on SA unrest: ’Many people feel they have nothing to lose’

By Thabo Makwakwa Time of article published Aug 20, 2021

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ACTIVISTS and academics weighed in on the recent violence and concluded that the country had not healed from the wounds of the past.

The Durban University of Technology’s International Centre for Non-violence (DUT ICON) hosted a webinar yesterday, reflecting on the recent unrest which engulfed Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Marie Odendaal, from the Student Leadership Programme, at the University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN), said that the cause for the recent unrest was as a result of huge breakdown in families and society.

“Many people feel they have nothing to lose and indeed they have nothing to lose,” said Odendaal.

She says that the insurrection was because people wanted to loot, and was not necessarily about the destruction of property.

“We need to put money into people's pockets. People need to get a proportion of the national income. This will encourage people to find ways of working and generating income. They will have hope. We also need to help people deal with issues of anger and frustration. There is also a lot of trauma from apartheid,” said Odendaal.

UKZN Professor Hoosen Vawda, from the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, said: “Human beings, from the beginning, were hunters always fending for themselves.”

He added that South Africa is the only country with such a rich spirit of "ubuntu", and that the country has become accustomed to working at a lower level of function.

“After 1994, it became clear that liberation became something for a few elites who benefit from it, that is why we are where we are today,” said Vawda.

Echoing the statement was Jennifer Fisher, who facilitated the webinar. She stated that anger had brewed to levels of frustration.

“We became leaders without healing first,” said Fisher.

Supporting this, Odendaal responded: “Schools needed to have a primary aim of humanizing children.”

Amanzimtoti's Desmond Malgas, an environmental activist and alumnus of ICON's Leadership Programme, said: “The country lacked leadership and people were not prepared to have this conversation because of the notion that South Africa is a country of Mandela and we have the best constitution.”

He concluded: “People will always find a way of playing with the minds of those who lack knowledge.”

DUT ICON director Crispen Hemson indicated that it was not only the poor who were looting, he said that there were richer people who participated in lootin,g and did so because they carry a lot of anger emanating from the past.

“This is anger used as a response from the wounds of the past. We need leadership to highlight what kind of reaction we need to employ when dealing with such a situation,” said Hemson.

Environmental activist Margaret Burger purported that the webinar was quite overwhelming and questioned why it was difficult to get so many inputs from those participating in the discussion.

Alrasheed Mustafa had an idea: “Our mission should be unity and compassion for each other. I think we need to move the cities to small towns by providing great services, such as building more schools, colleges, and universities.”

Shakila Singh, from the University of Kwazulu Natal's School of Education, said: “We are not looking at curricula interventions. What would be useful to include is to develop packages for teachers to work with, so that we may positively impact people.“

Daily News

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