The tragic story of a 14-year-old boy who was killed by his 11-year-old friend in Malvern this week is reflective of the violence that remains disturbingly high in this country.
According to reports, the pair got into an argument at the weekend and the younger boy hit his victim with a steel rod on the head. Sadly, this tragedy is not an isolated incident. Children’s involvement in violent crime is widespread.
Three years ago, the nation was shocked when a 15-year-old Northern Cape boy killed his father, mother and sister, who he also raped. Last year, a 10-year-old boy was arrested for shooting and killing his 11-year-old friend for apparently passing Grade 5 while he, the killer, had failed.
Also last year, two Soweto boys aged 14 and 15 were sentenced to jail after killing two teen girls in a satanic initiation ritual. A few weeks ago, a 15-year-old girl was arrested for allegedly stoning a 17-year-old girl to death during an argument in Bergsig, Springbok, Northern Cape.
Our prisons are full of juveniles awaiting trial for serious crimes, while hundreds others are serving lengthy jail time for violent crimes, including housebreaking, murder, robbery and rape. But it should not come as a surprise that young people are involved in despicable felonies. It’s a reflection of the violence and lawlessness tearing the country apart.
Society is contributing to juvenile violent and criminal behaviour. Experts agree that experience of violence can lead to lasting physical, mental and emotional harm, whether the child is a direct victim or a witness. Many youngsters are alarmingly exposed to violence within their families and communities. They witness or take part in violent service delivery protests.
They also watch violence unleashed by those they should look up to during labour strikes. Many of our young people live in communities where mob justice and vigilantism are the order of the day. They watch in horror as their desperate parents, relatives and neighbours hunt down people suspected of crimes, and set them alight, or bludgeon them to death.
Clearly, SA children and adolescents are being raised in a culture of violence, lawlessness, aggression and fear. Studies show how children of antisocial parents are likely to develop conduct disorder. This suggests a hereditary cause of youth violence. Research has also shown how kids who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental and emotional harm and are more likely to engage in violence themselves.
There is seemingly no end in sight to violence and lawlessness, the twin societal ills that are disturbingly on the increase. With each year that violence remains prevalent, the number of young South Africans traumatised by experiencing and witnessing brutality increases.
Unless widespread violence and a general disregard for the law are addressed, this country risks being a fertile breeding ground for young vicious criminals, who will be tormentors of their own communities.