“South Africa is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, but we also have one of the highest levels of violence,” said KwaZulu-Natal University academic Anthony Collins.
“There are African countries that are poor, for instance Malawi, but have less violence.”
He said rich countries, such as the United States, were also violent, because of high levels of inequality.
“What research is showing is that it is not the poverty; it is the economic inequality that is more significant,” Collins said.
“South Africa and Brazil are among the most unequal societies in the world and they also have among the highest levels of violence, although South Africa is higher.”
Collins cautioned that this was not a simple matter of cause and effect. Many other factors had to brought into the mix.
“There is a lot of social behaviour, cultural traditions, values, ideas [and] historical causes like in instances where societies have been through a lot of conflict, like South Africa.”
He said in the past there had been two views on violence. One was that people were violent because they disrespected the law.
Then, the progressive view came which said society was violent because of social circumstances.
“That was obviously true, but that got over-simplified into this claim that poverty causes violence,” said Collins.
“It is where you’ve got poverty and wealth in the same society next to each other. This creates a condition in which violence flourishes.”
Another contributing factor shown by research was the prevalence of gender inequality.
“A lot of societies where women and men have a more equal status are less violent… in a society with a lot of patriarchal structure, those societies turn to be violent,” said Collins.
Delegates from around the world attended the conference, themed “National And International Perspectives On Crime Reduction and Criminal Justice”. – Sapa