Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

My heart is shattered. My mind is scattered. I want to shut it all out. But for how much longer? There’s no denying it. Things have fallen apart; the centre cannot hold.

The epic lines from William Butler Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ ring in my head. A friend reminded me of the poem a few days ago, in the hope that I would be able to quantify in words the deluge of emotions that so many South Africans are grappling with.

These sentiments express by Yeats are symbolic. It’s widely accepted that Yeats was referring to the period of uncertainty in Europe after the First World War. It’s an uncertainty that permeats South African life today. Our war against apartheid is over, on paper at least, notwithstanding the bitter trail of recent racist incidents. And now 25 years into democracy, we are once again at war – with ourselves.

This is our “Second Coming”… Undoubtedly things have fallen apart when a father kills three of his children and his stepdaughter; when a man admits to raping a seven year old girl in the toilet of a restaurant; when a lady is drugged and poisoned and left for dead at her doorstep after being missing for three weeks… I could go on… The litany of cases these past few weeks have brought us to our knees in every sense. It’s a sure sign that “the centre cannot hold”.

God and religious teachings ought to be at the centre of every home. As we often say, the family that prays together; stays together. Through prayer,  you realise the importance of respecting all human life – starting with your family. If we cannot get it right, at that basic level, we are failing. I dare say that recent crimes have revealed a gaping hole – families void of religious practices. What’s worse is when people seek religious practices – there are charlatans masquerading as pastors and priests, across all religions, who on the pretext of “saving” or “healing” followers, sexually assault them. It exposes government’s inability to effectively regulate and police religious bodies. And even if a family follows atheism, surely they should still have a set of morals that guide them – that helps them see right from wrong?! This is the “centre” that we all need.

Amid the current wave of violent incidents towards women and children, much of the blame has fallen on government, with #DearMrPresident trending on Twitter. Rightly so, because government is at the centre of creating law and order. But as the commission into allegations of state capture reveals, the rot within government is so deep.

In practice, government’s many mechanisms have failed. How else do you explain the employment of Post Office employee with a criminal record?… A brute of a man who raped and killed an innocent young woman in the very same post office. How else do you explain the continued employment of a teacher who lured pupils and sent the lewd messages even after some of his victims spoke up?

The criminal justice system as it stands currently is not a deterrent for would-be rapists and murderers. We need harsher punishments and swifter responses to cases involving women and children. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

Every day, we cannot wake up to another woman murdered and more children raped. This abnormality must stop. Together, we can fix the centre. We must.

I was fortunate, this past weekend, to take a walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela at the site where he was arrested in Howick. It is a timely reminder of the battles we fought as a nation in the past, and the battles we must fight today…. Aluta Continua…

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