Sunday Times

Our crime culture knows no age barrier


Gun violence has been rampant in South Africa for years, but the shooting of a primary school headmaster in cold blood, allegedly by a 13-year-old pupil, is a chilling reminder that no sector of our society can escape it. Noko Selepe took a bullet in the stomach at point-blank rage. The suspect, who was facing disciplina­ry action for bad behaviour, is believed to have planned the attack on a WhatsApp group with his friends. Only by playing dead did Selepe live to tell the tale.

The incident raises so many questions. How does a child get access to his father’s gun? Why and how does the idea of such a barbaric act take shape? Does a child in that position consider the repercussi­ons? And why would he feel such extreme violence was the best option? We may never know all the answers but we do know that children emulate what they see around them. Life is cheap in South Africa and guns are available — legally or not — to anyone who really wants one.

Some have suggested this child’s home environmen­t may have contribute­d to a delinquent mindset. While that is possible, we need to look more deeply into the pervasive culture of criminal behaviour across our country. The failure by our law enforcemen­t agencies to get a grip on crime has created a casual acceptance among both rich and poor that there are unlikely to be any meaningful consequenc­es for those who break the law. Opportunit­ies abound for the criminally minded and their lawless lifestyles send a strong message to the young and impression­able.

Until our police send a clear message that crime will not be tolerated, and that those who commit it will be arrested and punished quickly and harshly, the violent crime numbers will continue to rise.

According to the police’s latest quarterly crime statistics, 7,710 people were murdered between October and December last year — an increase of 155 from the same period in the previous year. This equates to about 85 murders a day.

How can we expect our children not to be sucked into this culture of violence?

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