Serial killer problem rooted in apartheid history - Vavi

COSATU GS says system inevitably fostered immorality and irresponsibility among a minority

Address by COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi at the unveiling of the Umzinto Wall of Remembrance, 4 May 2011

Honourable Minister

Premier of KZN Province

MEC and MPLs

COSATU provincial office bearers

Families and friends of the Umzinto 13


I must congratulate the KZN Legislature and my comrades in COSATU KZN for their splendid initiative in erecting this memorial. It will help us to keep alive the memory of the 13 tragic victims of one of the most horrific criminals South Africa has ever seen. Their young lives were cruelly cut short by an evil and ruthless serial killer, who we all hope will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

I bring condolences to all the family members who are here today and while it will never compensate for your loss, I hope that this memorial will help you to find closure to a tragic episode.

None of us can ever excuse such acts of barbarism, but I believe we do have to try to explain how such atrocities can happen. Because Thozamile Taki was not unique. There have been others in our recent past found guilty of similarly despicable acts.

Sipho Dube, the Johannesburg mine-dump serial child-killer, murdered six children and a woman, and raped three children. Cedric Maake, the ‘Wemmer Pan Killer', raped and murdered at least 27 people from 1996 to 1997. Jack Mogale, the "West-End serial killer" was convicted of raping and murdering 16 women in Johannesburg in 2008 and 2009. Moses Sithole, the ‘ABC Killer' raped and killed at least 38 young women in Atteridgeville, Boksburg and Cleveland from 1994 to 1995. And there have been many others.

While of course other countries have produced gruesome lists of killers, South Africa's history has created conditions under which there is a greater number of serial rapist and murderers. The problem is rooted in our colonial and apartheid history.

Our ancestors were robbed of their land and their rights. They were forced to work far from their families and homes, as virtual slaves on the white-owned farms and mines. They were prevented by law from getting work in the more skilled and better paid jobs, which were reserved for whites only.

They were forced to live in workers' compounds and then in the apartheid era ‘Bantustans', where they existed as a reserve army of unemployed workers.

Meanwhile their racist bosses made their fortunes, exploiting our mineral wealth and cheap labour, creating huge international monopolies like Anglo-American and DeBeers, which are still exploiting us today. We have become the most unequal society in the world, with top businessman Pine Pienaar of Mvelaphanda taking home 4000 times as much as a farm worker getting the minimum wage.

Proof that such problems are still with us today, was yesterday's announcement that unemployment is still rising. It rose 1% - that means 31 000 more people without jobs - in the first quarter of 2011. This brings the official unemployment level to 25%, with the expanded definition that includes the growing number of workers who have given up looking for employment to 35.5%.

This cruel and immoral system was ruthlessly imposed through violence. All attempts to improve the lives of the majority, introduce democracy and respect for human rights were brutally suppressed with sjamboks and guns. Freedom fighters were herded into apartheid's jails alongside criminals, tortured, abused and hanged.

Such a system inevitably fostered immorality and irresponsibility among a minority, who could see no prospect of a normal life. It irreparably destroyed many of the traditional African customs which regulated social life in the community, leaving a section of the particularly male population rootless and demoralised.

A graphic illustration of the problem was the recent report that nine million South African children are living without their fathers, who are still living but taking no responsibility for their offspring.   The proportion of fathers who are absent and living increased between 1996 and 2009 from 42% to 48%. Over the same period the proportion of fathers who were present decreased from 49% to 36%. The old tradition under which fathers were obliged to pay compensation to the mothers of their children has virtually disappeared.

This is linked to the rise in the number of teenage pregnancies, in some cases a result of teachers impregnating their learners. The prevalence of rape, from two-year old babies to old women is further evidence of moral decay.

We have a massive crisis on our hands. In the short-term we must come together, as we are doing here today, and commit ourselves to the eradication of crime, corruption, immorality and irresponsibility.

In the longer term it is becoming more and more urgent, if we are to prevent a full-blown social and political crisis, to restructure our economy to one that creates jobs, gives people a living wage and makes our society more equal and just, and creates an environment in which family and community life can thrive and prosper.

Issued by COSATU, May 4 2011

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