Friday, April 20, 2012

Tsotsis: "Thugs"

The violence at Itipini continues. We thought it had been dying down and that maybe whoever it was that was behind it had moved to another place or stopped coming to Itipini. It was circulated for a while that the perpetrators were from Maiden Farm, a government housing community across the river. That, however doesn’t seem to be the case.  It’s come to light that the acts are definitely being committed by a group of young men inside of Itipini. Last night, these men went to the house of a woman who lives alone somewhere in the area between Itipini and Waterfall (the next settlement down). This woman, in an attempt to eek out a living, sold liquor from her house which, if we’re going to be honest, is one of the easiest ways to make money. It doesn’t, however, come without danger. These men went to her house and stole all of her money and liquor. But the terrible and heart-breaking part is that they shot her. Right there in her own hut. It wasn’t enough to steal all of her money and goods; they killed her. And for what? A little cash and a stash of liquor? But this is a sad reality in many parts of this country. This is a sad reality in the Eastern Cape. Young men, wanting to escape from their frustrating lives, drink liquor and often too much. Young drunken men, desperate to feel some kind of power and control in their lives, take out their anger and rage on those that are weaker than them. When women come into the clinic because they’ve been beaten by a husband or boyfriend, it is almost always reported that said husband or boyfriend was drunk. Last week, when we learned about the child being raped by her older brother, he was drunk. All of these instances of violence and abuse seem to come about when men are drunk. But alcohol isn’t the root of the problem; it’s a coping mechanism (and not a good one) to some deeper feeling of frustration or inadequacy. Unemployment in the Eastern Cape is among the highest in the country. Men can’t find work and the work they do find is not skilled labor and is often very temporary. They grow up caught in this cycle of poverty and all around them see signs of a better life, a more rich life, a more comfortable life. They want more and many of them have the drive and the brains to do more, but they are trapped. Despite their desire, there are many forces at work that keep them poor. They are stuck in the cycle of poverty and can’t get out. So they stop looking for more and instead look for comfort and escape. The amount of alcohol abuse here is stunning and I just keep thinking, “There has to be a better way.” There has to be some way to start to alleviate those problems that cause people to turn to drugs and alcohol. What that way is isn’t clear to me yet, but hopefully some day it will be. Hopefully, some day, this country will function in a way that uplifts its citizens of all races and class. Hopefully, some day, all countries will.

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