Opinion

Forget the death penalty, fighting violence with violence is not the answer

Forget the death penalty, fighting violence with violence is not the answer
THERE were three moments this week when I felt proud to be a South African. The rest of the time I just felt profound anger and shame. I felt sad some of the time but, mostly I felt angry.

The first was when I watched a performance by the inspirational Ndlovu Youth Choir on America’s Got Talent, which saw them through to the finals.

The second moment was when I attended the Cape Town premiere of the new movie, Back of the Moon, produced by Anant Singh, directed by Angus Gibson and starring Richard Lukunku and Moneoa Moshesh. It is a brilliant movie, filled with violence and tenderness, and which left most of the audience feeling shocked, angry, fearful and hopeful at different times.

Much like life in South Africa It made me realise how often, when I am confused about life, I seek salvation in arts and culture, whether it is in music or movies or sometimes in books, and not necessarily always non-fiction. Some of the best lessons in life can be learnt in books, where the author was not restricted to what happened but could imagine what could potentially happen.

That brings me to the third thing that made me happy this week: my participation in the inaugural Cape Flats Book Festival in Mitchells Plain on Sunday. The success of the book festival showed me that there is more on the Cape Flats than gangsterism and violence, which is what is portrayed in the media most of the time.

There are also many people who are trying to make a difference to the lives of people who live in apartheid-designed townships, and who are meant to be resigned to lives of misery.

Most of the time, however, I felt angry this week. I felt angry about the upsurge in violence against women and children. I felt angry about the violence against people described as foreigners in parts of our country. I felt ashamed to be a South African. I felt ashamed to be a man.

It is difficult to take decisions in anger, even though anger is not a bad thing. But anger has, for instance, led thousands of South Africans to support the call to reintroduce the death penalty, which would be a bad decision. The death penalty will not resolve our crime problems.

It might, like the presence of soldiers in the townships, lead to slight temporary relief, but the problem is much bigger. The problem encapsulates society, the economy and, ultimately, issues of values and respect.

These issues can never be dealt with through violence, which is what the death penalty is. By saying we must bring back the death penalty, we are saying we must fight violence with violence, which has never worked.

We need a long-term solution to the problems in our society, whether it is the gangsterism on the Cape Flats, the rape and murder of women or the unwarranted and opportunistic attacks on our brothers and sisters from Africa.

Part of the solution can be found in arts and culture, sport, books and education. Not formal education, but education in homes and communities about the meaning of respect, tolerance and respecting each other’s dignity.

At the heart of what is wrong with our society is lack of respect for people perceived to be different from us, whether they are women or foreigners or poor people. We need to learn that all people are equal and have respect for each other, for life, for dignity.

I am still angry, and I can’t express my anger properly in a family newspaper, but I realise that there are no easy fixes. We have a long road to travel.

* Ryland Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.