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Let's reconstruct accountability peacefully

FILE PHOTO: Expert Witness Vanessa Burger speaks to the Moerane Commision about her findings on the political killings in KZN , especially in Glebelands Hostel.
FILE PHOTO: Expert Witness Vanessa Burger speaks to the Moerane Commision about her findings on the political killings in KZN , especially in Glebelands Hostel.

What is the changing landscape of violence in SA and what does it suggest for society. As we try to celebrate our women during this month of women, it is difficult to think so in the face of mounting violence against women and children.

It is also difficult to do so when we are awash with murder in the Cape Flats which have through stray bullets and the like maimed and killed children, traumatised our future in ways hitherto unseen under democratic rule.

This wave of intensified forms of violence contrasts with previous theatres of violence which increasingly have abated and changed the shape of protagonists.

In this piece we explore how the shape of political violence and violence especially in soccer have changed. The question is what do these changes suggest?

It is often said rugby is a sport played by hooligans watched by gentlemen and football a game of gentlemen watched by hooligans.

The thrust, however, is about football and changes in political violence from the situation in the 1980s to the dawn of democracy and shortly after. Here both politicians and spectators were perpetrators and victims of violence.

In the 1970s to 80s, top-flight local football games used to be tense among fans and violence would erupt at the slightest of provocations. That this pattern changed is something worth noting, and it is a feature largely observed with the onset of democracy.

It is now conceivable that adversarial fans can sit on the same stand... violence between clubs has almost disappeared. So has violence between political parties in that period subsided.

What has been prominent in the recent past has been intra-party unease and intra-club disquiet. For soccer clubs the violence is often directed at the coach and or the players or at stadium property.

In politics, especially in the ruling party, killings have been inflicted among members. Such internecine killings have also taken place within opposition parties.

These forms of violence are certainly regrettable regardless of their circumstances. Nonetheless, this pattern of facing up to your own purports a new form or a bravery of sorts that expresses dissatisfaction to your own.

A realisation to an extent that the sources of problems do not necessarily derive from outside but are largely fomented internally.

This form of internal democracy and strife has exacted accountability from players, coaches and soccer bosses, with the greatest victims being the coaches who have been changed as rapidly and a search for one who might bring results is set in motion.

In similar ways the ensuing internal party conflict in our politics, which by all counts has plunged our country to depths we never imagined, illustrate the significance of democratisation of society.

The green shoots we see in sports suggest the change that has to happen actually is to happen in areas that appear peripheral to politics but illustrate the power of the fans. That the fans can exact accountability and when they do change is fast.

Similarly, it is clear that society is a powerful force that should and can demand accountability for faster change. Even better still the level and depth of intraclub and intraparty violence compared to interclub and interparty violence is at a scale that is much lower and less pronounced.

As we muddle through our self- inflicted economic tragedy, it is to these cultural effects of sports that we should look to gain lessons on how we can build peace and reconstruct accountability.

*Dr Lehohla is SA's former statistician-general

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