Although it is generally understood as merely the act of when one person exerts a physical force, usually out of emotional aggression, onto another, with the main intent to cause physical harm or damage to property. Violence in and of itself is not only a multi-faceted concept. But it is also one that takes on a number of definitions as well as classifications depending, largely on the context in which it is being used to examine the impact it has had and continues to have in shaping our societies.
This blog seeks to look at and analyze the impact of violence in the modern townships. This includes examining the philosophical theories of violence in order to gauge the extent to which they correlate to the current state of this modern township community. However, the main point of focus is on Mfuleni, a small township situated 40 kilometers from the city of Cafope Town in the province of the Western Cape, South Africa.
As a countermeasure to avoid digression between the context in which these theories of violence relate to the societal conditions of this township, One has made use of the three pronged typologies of violence formulated by Norwiegen theorist, Johan Galtung . An additional reason is that, in drawing the distinction between these three types, Galtung not only defines the concept of violence but also points to the circumstances that usually materialize, which usually results in working-class communities being subjected to social stratification on the basis of race class and gender.
According to Galtung ; Direct Violence represents behaviors that serve to threaten life itself and/or to diminish one’s capacity to meet basic human needs. Examples include killing, maiming, bullying, sexual assault, and emotional manipulation.
Structural Violence, on the other hand, represents the systematic ways in which some groups are hindered from equal access to opportunities, goods, and services that enable the fulfillment of basic human needs. These can be formal as in legal structures that enforce marginalization (such as apartheid in South Africa) or they could be culturally functional but without the legal mandate (such as limited access to education or health care for marginalized groups).
The last of these typologies, according to Gultang is Cultural Violence, which represents the existence of prevailing or prominent social norms that make direct and structural violence seem “natural” or “right” or at least acceptable. For example, the belief that Africans are primitive and intellectually inferior to Caucasians gave sanction to the African slave trade. Galtung’s understanding of cultural violence helps explain how prominent beliefs can become so embedded in a given culture that they function as absolute and inevitable and are reproduced uncritically across generations.
The township known to many of its residents as eMfuleni, is a small township with a land area of 13.46-kilometer square and is a relatively young township compared to two of its more well-renowned neighboring townships, namely, Khayelitsha and Delft. It is a predominantly Black Township, with a mass population of 52 274, which translates to 3 883.98 people per kilometer square, The town plays host to a 95, 9% Black African Population, with 0, 21% being white and the remainder being 3% Coloured, and 0.10% being Indian or Asian according to Census 2011.
Most of the people who have have been residents in this township for longer periods were relocated there to Mfuleni during the latter stages of the 1990’s due accessive floods and shack fires that were occurred often in different townships across the province, such as Philippi, Nyanga, and Khayelitsha. Hence, the mixed nature of the community.
Although this disproportion in diversity often results in it being much easier for the community to relate in exercising their political rights and freedom of expression. For the most part, one is inclined to be of the view that the current political climate in Mfuleni is largely characterized by a lot of development, particularly in that of its housing sector.
Furthermore, in tackling issues that relate addressing its sociopolitical problems. One finds that it is also a community that is not exempt from most of the socio-political as well as socio-economic issues that are common amongst other predominantly black townships along the Cape Flats.
At a local government level, Mfuleni is governed by two wards, Ward 16 which operates as representative of the Democratic Alliance well as Ward 108 of the African National Congress . Ward 108 is the largest in the Mfuleni in terms of governing territory as well as voter support concentrated specifically in the township as it covers Fairdale – Fountain Village – Mfuleni. Ward 16, on the other hand, covers more territory, but mostly in neighboring areas that are remotely located outside of Mfuleni such as: Dreamworld – Driftsands (South of Old Faure Road and Mfuleni build-up, south-west of Eersterivier Way/Spine Road, Faure and Dreamworld build-up, north-east of N2 Freeway) – Eersteriver south – Eersterivier (South-east of Forest Drive, south-west Francoline-, Egret-, Bernadine-, Arlene-, Norman-, Beverley and Van Riebeeck Street, north-west of Stratford Avenue) – Electric City – Faure as well as Forest Village.
Violence, in its varying forms as defined above by Gultang, is often instigated as result of the community’s prolonged frustrations over poor service-delivery by the state. Which then results in intensified protests or other criminal activity. This is usually an unresolved issue, with not much in the way of intervention by the state, until things begin to escalate to a level in which the residents resort to barricading roads with burning tires and damaging state property. This points to the violent nature of the relationship between the community of Mfuleni and The state. Most residents say that they usually turn to violence as last resort upon realizing that they have exhausted all of the other alternative means of communication in voicing out their grievances to local government officials.
A more recent example of this is when, according to an article published by ground up on the 08th of March earlier this year, Police fired teargas to disperse residents who were rioting and barricading Nqubelani Street with burning tires in Extension Six, Mfuleni, on a Wednesday afternoon. Then the following morning, residents made further attempts to occupy vacant land and erect shacks, but the Anti-land Invasion Unit (ALIU) and Law Enforcement demolished the shacks. A riot followed the next morning, which then resulted in damage on people’s property as well as surrounding businesses. As result of this, some of the demaged infrastracture remains unrepair for reasons not stated by the community’s civils servents.
Upon careful observation of the fundamental cause of the violence that is prevalant in townships, particularly in Mfulen. One finds that, to a large extent, it corralates to Frantz Fanon’s aguement in his book “The Wretchet of the Earth” published in 1963. Fanon argues that the use violnce in overthrowing colonial rule is justified, because colonialism itself, is an act of violence that is sustained by a contued threat. Futhermore, Fanon goes on to point out that under colonial rule, non-white people are forced into a status of second-class citizenship in which they are denied economic as well as educational oppornitiess. As result end up not being treated with respect. This according to Fanon can only lead to a growing intolerance by the native before they lose their patience entirely with the colonisers.
In empahsisng the premise of his arguement, Fanon further states that a movement by the urban bourgeoisie would merely result in a compromise with the colonisers, and that in turn would result in the establishment a new state that would not be much different from that of its oppresive period. Furthermore, the compromise would, for the most part, be to the benefit of the bourgeoisie, with them submiting to a subserviant position to the colonisers, with the exeption of a few privilages and way of living that is characterised by a continued reliance on the colonisers. Fanon argues this is an outcome that would further oppress those natives would are at the pesentry level of society.
To conlude on his premise, Fanon further expresses that, even if the colonisers are later driven out by the urban bourgeoisie, they would still mantain access to the colonised society through the agency of the bourgeoisie as the colonial system would still be in place, at the expense and further exploitation of the lower-class natives. Thus Fanon argued that the coloniser must be forcefully drive out of the society and an entirely new system be put in place that would prioritize the native as opposed to the colonisers.
Thus, in accordance with Fanon’s theory on violence; the structural as well as direct violence that is currently prevalant in the community of Mfuleni is predominently rooted in the displacement as well as social stratification of black communities dating from as far back in time as the days of the arparthied regime. This is despite South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, in which the government that undertook the responsibility of assuming political power, made notable progress in improving the lives of the previously economically marginalized, and yet in a similar vain, has found itself in a compromised position in which, the majority of black South African live in abject poverty.
Fanon, F. (1963). On Violence. [online] Abahlali.org. Available at: http://abahlali.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Frantz-Fanon-The-Wretched-of-the-Earth-1965.pdf [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Galtung, J., 1969. Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of peace research, 6(3), pp.167-191. Accessed: 08 June 2018, at: https://scholar.google.co.za/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=johan+galtung+structural+violence&oq=Johan+G
Galtung, J., 1990. Cultural violence. Journal of peace research, 27(3), pp.291-305. Accessed: 07 June