The “macho man” attitude of South African men is one of the main reasons they have been ranked among the most violent in the world.
The rate of violence among young men in the country is nine times higher than the global average.
The global homicide death rate among men is 13.6 per 100000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Report on Violence and Health. In South Africa, it is 87 men per 100000, according to the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System.
South Africa ranks with Latin American countries such as Brazil (42.5 per 100000) and Colombia (122.4 per 100000) which have the highest homicide averages in the world.
This alarming trend is being explored by experts from the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) with government departments and universities in the hope of finding a solution.
An MRC study undertaken to examine the problem, which focused on young and middle-aged men, reviewed the scientific literature about male violence.
Some of the findings pulled from a variety of reports include:
# South African murders claim the lives of nine male victims to every female victim (National Injury Mortality Surveillance System, 2005 data);
# The rate at which men are murdered in South Africa is 6.4 times higher than in the rest of the world (WHO Report on Violence and Health); and
# Young South African men commit acts of violence at a rate nine times higher than the world average (WHO Bulletin).
The “macho man” attitude of South African men has been identified as one of the reasons they commit violent, often senseless, crimes.
Professor Kopano Ratele, acting director of the MRC’s Crime, Violence and Injury programme, said: “Our men can’t walk away from a challenge. Parents need to teach their children it is okay to walk away from conflict, instead of fighting with their fists.”
Only this week, a customer went on the rampage at a pharmacy in Somerset West in a fit of rage over a queue to pay. Dis-Chem director Kevin Sterling said a man, later identified as carpet shop owner Mustafa Akar “started letting rip with his mouth” and allegedly hit a staff member over the head with a 5kg bucket of supplements.
Somerset West police said Akar appeared in court on Tuesday and was charged with common assault and malicious damage to property.
In another case of male violence, a 16-year-old Oudtshoorn schoolboy has been charged with murder after he stabbed his uncle, 23, in the head last Saturday. The teen allegedly lost his temper because his uncle had eaten all the bread.
Ratele said researchers needed to focus on what society could do to reduce the chances of men becoming victims and perpetrators of violence.
“We can do this by building strong institutions—good schools where young men can make positive connections as well as good family structures,” Ratele said.
Alcohol abuse, lack of family structure, low levels of education, violence in the family, lack of community involvement and support, and cultural values are some of the reasons experts have identified as causes of male violence.
Factors protecting against male violence include “an education, maturity, vocational skills, religious and spiritual beliefs, positive family role models, presence of a father, close peer relations, a sense of community, recreation opportunities, affordable housing, welfare and economic opportunities “.
South African men who were exposed to parental violence or suffered physical abuse as children were at the greatest risk (27.5%) of becoming abusers of intimate partners themselves (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Organisations such as the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders help men to reform, often with good results. While serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery and assault, Deon Venter discovered a talent for art and won the best overall prize at the bi-annual Nicro art awards.
Since his release, Venter, who paints under the name Villain, has been living with a new wife in the quiet hamlet of Hondeklipbaai on the West Coast. He said he led a contented life, surviving on the money he made from selling paintings of flower landscapes, donkey carts and seascapes.