The trial of Lucky Dube’s murderers is bringing renewed attention on the most depressing statistic generated by life in South Africa: the number of murders, which reached nearly 19,000 last year, according to official sources.
There are small wars in Africa that produce fewer deaths in a single year.
The 2007 murder of Dube, an international reggae music star, was especially shocking since he was killed in front of his two children and his killers, all allegedly apprehended, seemingly knew they were murdering a national hero. That Dube’s killers are only now facing trial highlights the complexity of South Africa’s crime problem: weak police work, poor gun controls and ineffective courts all combine to “lower the bar” for people who rely on killing as a tool to promote their personal interests.
South Africa wants to lead the entire region in new economic and cultural directions, and the country’s best and brightest of the country have much to offer the rest of Africa. But until basic social order is created and sustained, Africa’s wealthiest country won’t be a role model for its neighbors but rather will represent a depressing anti-model for how inequality and the dysfunction of basic institutions can combine to routinize violence, erase physical security and intensify the criminalization of everyday life.