Trou­bled em­blems of youth

CityPress - - Voices -

South Africa is filled with young peo­ple who walk proudly on the shoul­ders of the ti­tans of 1976 who bravely cat­a­pulted the coun­try into the fi­nal phase of the strug­gle against apartheid. They in­clude our en­trepreneurs and pro­fes­sion­als, who take their place in lead­er­ship po­si­tions, and stu­dent ac­tivists whose cam­paigns for Aids-fight­ing drugs and, more re­cently, for free higher ed­u­ca­tion and bet­ter em­ploy­ment terms for out­sourced work­ers are a huge in­spi­ra­tion.

But this week, it is not those young peo­ple who took cen­tre stage. In­stead, the du­bi­ous hon­our fell to three young men in deep trou­ble with the law who grabbed the head­lines as South Africa took stock of the 40 years since the re­volt of 1976. The sto­ries of Os­car Pis­to­rius, Mark Warona Zinde and Henri van Breda are all com­plex and dif­fer­ent.

Pis­to­rius has been found guilty of the mur­der of his girl­friend, Reeva Steenkamp. Zinde and Van Breda this week be­gan their gru­elling court cases.

Zinde is charged with the mur­der of his jour­nal­ist­turned-ex­ec­u­tive mum, Hope Zinde; Van Breda with the mur­ders of his par­ents, Martin and Teresa, and his brother, Rudi. He also faces an at­tempted mur­der charge of his sis­ter, Marli, who sur­vived the axe at­tack. It is im­por­tant to note that Zinde and Van Breda are still fac­ing trial and are not yet guilty of the charges they face.

What draws the three young men to­gether? All are elites, and cer­tainly not the strug­gling un­der­class of youth. All are deeply trou­bled and all three are em­blem­atic of South Africa’s trou­bled re­la­tion­ship with in­ter­per­sonal vi­o­lence. We turn to vi­o­lence to solve prob­lems – this be­sets us across colour and class, as the three sto­ries re­veal. And it goes back to a vi­o­lent and dis­lo­cat­ing past. In that way, we may have walked four decades, but the walk away from vi­o­lence is still long.

In at least two cases – those of Van Breda and Zinde – drugs are be­lieved to have played a role, though this is not yet be­fore court. This is an­other story that links young peo­ple across colour and class. De­signer drugs are snort­ing and in­ject­ing them­selves into the youth­ful fi­bre of our na­tion at a fright­en­ing speed. Easy to pro­cure, ev­i­dence shows that users progress up the scale of fixes quickly and with ease.

There is no na­tional study on drug use, and a strat­egy to com­bat the dan­ger­ous high is still in its in­fancy, re­search shows. South Africa is a young coun­try – full of hope, full of pain.

If we want dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tional ex­em­plars, there is work to do.




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