The dreams of the city do not belong only to the entrepreneurs and the politicians. The dreams of the city are not the sole proprietor of Choppies chain stores with its quest for domination. The dreams of the city do not belong also to the taxi drivers. They are elusive to the women cocooned under the soiled umbrellas and motswiri tree selling nzamela and chocolate eclairs and the middle-aged men hurrying to their next security job shift. Moreover, the dreams of the city are its nightmares. The nightmare of the city is its violence; its violent thieves and its terrorists and its robbers. And the nightmare has begun with an unsurpassed intensity. Like veld fire, it leaves everything scorched. The nation, its women, children and young men are under a terror siege. A volcano of violence has erupted. And its magma is burning us and stripping away any ounce of safety and dignity we cherish. Young women walking towards their dreams; the young and mobile clutching their phones; women and their pocketbooks victims of smash and grab. Everywhere, a war for personal possessions and belongings is enacted. Yet the governing and ruling body of this country has remained silent. No responsible leader has spoken strongly against the violence. Nor have the leaders made a concerted effort to address and combat the violence. A volcano of violence has erupted. And its magma is slowly burning us and violently stripping away any ounce of safety and dignity we possibly nurture and cherish. What have you to tell us, Mr. President, eh Mr. Incumbent President? We are terrified. Our lives are not safe. We are assaulted and our dignity and our normality and our right to walk and drive safely in this city is violently taken away every minute, and every hour. We are aggressed openly and sharply.
When the month of resolutions began the year, our hopes were shattered and devoid of joy with knife killings and rape violence. A member of parliament for the ruling party was a victim of his own cattle workers; like the Member of Parliament, a wife and mother was raped and killed by her own. And a young man full of promise too lost his life to knife point violence. His life was exchanged for a cell phone. We somehow had anticipated a state of the city address if not of the country. Anyhow, we expected from very high on, a voice of empathy, or a call to reason and or declaring a state of emergency about the senseless violence. Yet no leader has spoken strongly against or addressed the nation on violent acts. That neither the president nor the incumbent has spoken and addressed the nation is equally disturbing if not unsurprising. A while back were patterns of passion killings which in relative terms have abated. Now it’s a new pattern of robbery and petty thieving. The smash and grab robbery that dominates traffic lights stops and the police seem not to care. Where the police show care, is in exorbitant traffic fines of motorists. Where the police also seem to care is the caution and the manufacture of fear to law-abiding citizens. Fear, it seems, has since become the mode to compel us to safety. This fear, or manufacture of fear, sometimes called, according to Pumla Dineo Gqola, female-fear-factory is a mode of communication used to instil fear in us. Fear factory manufactures fear to keep the potential victims out of potential violent sites. It works through a prohibition of certain activities and behaviours. We are urged to not travel at night. Furthermore, the Police through the manufacture of fear insists we not walk at night; we are told to watch out. We have surely done that. We have tried to keep ourselves safe. We put up concrete and nicely painted screen walls to avoid the terrorist, the aggressors and the violent. The stop nonsense walls are mounted with electric fences in case the thieves jump through. Our windows barricaded with burglars to bar off thieves. Our house walls engraved with sensors to detect impending thieves. In the end, our own security is also a danger to ourselves. All the precautions so far help only to delay the criminal.
Women in particular are the forced recipients of the factory of fear. Examples like the threat of rape and bodily injury are utilised to create fear and coerce them into safety precautions. This creation of fear is not only relegated to the public space. It also rules in the private space. For the public space, women who drink are forever made aware that it is a fair fame to violate them especially sexually. But women are citizens too who should enjoy the life of the society. During the Christmas holidays of 2017, our neighbourhood watch sent a list of precautions against aggressors and thieves and potential violent persons who enter private space: our homes. There was a caution for women. It was suggested that women should cease from wearing nighties or chitenges to the bed. They should in fact, once they hear intruders, wear trousers and ugly tops. As if the-would-be rapist gives a hoot about a woman’s attire. Such precautions are keys to reminding women of their own vulnerabilities. But I hasten to add that the manufacture of fear is not only isolated to women. Men too are included. Not all men but men who seem vulnerable to the violent and to the aggressor, and to the terrorist. Recently a colleague narrated how he was violently attacked. It started with buying a drink from a bar. He simply was told, “Mdala, this is not the time for you to be here. Go home and sleep.” Are we under a curfew? Soon the purposeless and aggressive young men pounced violently on him. We, therefore, are living in a terror state of the violence. We are living in a space where we want to wish and dream away the violence. Impossible unless we unite against violence.
The users of public transport are also not spared. Their wait at the kombi stop is partly a delay for the violent and the aggressors with okapis. Violence is engraved in our consciousness. It is becoming our norm. We are aware of its intended end and excessive use of force. We fear and shudder at the seemingly premediated violent and terror acts of some purposeless and careless minded young men. We wonder what kind of human beings fail to take into consideration their victim is someone’s mother, daughter, son or father. We want to scrutinise their intention. We are astonished at the reduction of their victims’ lives to what the victim carries or has in their possession. We wonder at the aggressor or the violent who buy okapis to knife another human body for replaceable gadgets. Not only does violence carry okapis, it carries also lost values and norms and ethics. Violence establishes and maintains control. There is that painfully disturbing realisation that the moral, and ethic failure of the violent and the aggressors reflects and reveals our society’s dysfunction. For violence does and will not only obliterate life but other forms of violence are also practiced, the violence of the state in its various forms which if closely scrutinised equals that of the violent criminal. Violence shuts down everything. It produces fear and trauma in the victim. Violence has become a detrimental aspect of our culture and we can only wish or pray away. Dear Ones, a safe and violent-less city does not happen overnight neither will it just happen. It will be a result of a deliberate and carefully thought out effort and hard work. It means planners, political leaders and the police and army and the special branch work to patrol and enforce safety.
Moreover, the banality of violence is also instructive. Its practice meticulously schools us. The liberal ideology of human rights has socialised us into owning and having control and rights over our individual bodies. We embrace that right unashamedly and with intensity. We remind ourselves, we are imago Dei, that is, we are created in the image of God. After all, “male and female God created them and said be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth.” Of now we are subdued by the violent. The violent school us otherwise. Ideally, the body may belong to the individual, but the body is as public as it is private. Both its public and private dimensions are its vulnerability and its rapability. Both the private and public dimensions of our bodies have become the violent property of the violent. The violent and aggressive and terror characters care to injure bodies that are not theirs. Their victims’ bodies are a threat to their intentions and goals and their chances at being identified to the police because of a cell phone, and pocketbooks that contain important documents they have no use for. The violent and aggressive and terrorist bodies possess their victims’ bodies without consent, without discussion, and without deliberation. Their victims’ bodies are their will, their desire, their lust and their longing to tear and destroy and injure, and to produce both terror and trauma that takes months to heal. The citizen’s body is all s/he has. The citizen’s body wails for a safe country. The citizen’s body yearns for a protected nation from violence. It decries the seemingly lack of commitment from the governing bodies. It laments similar to Cry, the Beloved Country’s narrator, “cry, the beloved country, and wail for the safety and right taken by the violent and the aggressive and terrorist characters. Cry, the beloved country, for it a difficult effort to sing. For how can we sing “fatshe leno larona, ke mpho ya Modimo” in the land taken control by the violent. Cry, citizen, cry, for the governing and leadership has deserted us.” The citizen’s body desires a National Pitso on Violence. But it cannot only be a Pitso on violence. It has to a Pitso coupled with intense action for survival and creating a safe city and country.