On Tuesday, 3 September 2019, two strands of South Africa’s brokenness converged: gender and xenophobic violence.
As protest meetings were held on university campuses following the murder by a man of UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, five people were murdered in Johannesburg in clashes between local and foreign-born residents.
These were regrettably not random acts of violence; they reflect a national emergency. The very foundations of our society must be rebuilt.
Effective law-enforcement is urgent, but so, too, are steps to embed gender and prejudice consciousness across our education system – and the whole of society.
The process should start with the curricula of schools, from pre-school to primary and high school. From there, principles of equality, tolerance and respect should be integrated into compulsory modules at TvET colleges and universities. And the messaging should be reinforced in our communities, organisations, public institutions, at work and at home.
Prejudice is learned behaviour that can be un-learned. In South Africa, it is a systemic problem requiring systemic solutions.
As the Archbishop said on Women’s Day six years ago, men’s physical strength equipped them well to hunt mammoths and later saw them leading the slave trade, robbing, raping, pillaging and ruling the world. “Times have changed, but many men have not. And in some respects, nor has our world changed much, either.”