THE hero status given to alleged Pretoria crime lord William "King of Bling" Mbatha speaks volumes for the values that are fast coming to define our society.
As matters stand, Mbatha is guilty of none of the 10 crimes the state says he has committed. We assume his innocence until a court of law proves him guilty.
That said, it is worrying that Mbatha's Facebook fan club, including those who proudly call him a criminal, think his flashy lifestyle is something to look up to.
There must be a correlation between worship at the alter of crass materialism and the rise in the levels of crime.
There must be something wrong with a society that does not only choose to be indifferent to the allegations of violent crimes attributed to Mbatha, but believes that he represents a way out for the poor majority.
We are not indifferent to the conditions that make heroes of criminals.
We know too well that a society such as ours, which chooses to dispense respect on the basis of personal wealth without creating fair opportunities to access such wealth, will breed hero-criminals.
But to pretend that criminals who rise from the poorest of the poor are heroes because of their circumstances is to breed an anarchic state.
The need to fight crime and to eradicate poverty are not mutually exclusive concepts whose prioritisation needs debating.
We must do both immediately or condemn our young people to the fatalistic cycle that is already their lives.