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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Baby rapes 'indict' South Africans
Africa Media Watch
Following recent reports of baby rapes, the press agonizes over the nation's psyche and suggests the reasons behind such cases of depravity.

"We have been racking our brains trying to understand. The only thing we can say with absolute certainty is that there is something extremely wrong with the psyche of this nation," The Sunday Times writes.

"The fact that we are producing citizens capable of stooping to such a level of depravity is an indictment of us all," it says, and blames the incidents on South Africa's torrid history of apartheid which "dehumanised its citizens".

The cruel and perverse nature of much violent crime has everything to do with South Africa's violent past

The Daily Mail and Guardian
"Apartheid, relegated morality to the back seat and the war against it blurred the lines between right and wrong, turning youngsters into murderers," the paper said.

Apartheid Legacy

During the years of apartheid, "institutions that were meant to safeguard the morality of the nation - churches, human rights groups and other civil society formations - were all turned into instruments of war by the opponents and supporters of the system," the paper reflects.

"Today we are saddled with the legacy of that era," The Sunday Times adds.

A commentary writer in The City Press, expresses anger at "the socio-economic system that dehumanises and degrades black men".

"We talk about this country having one of the best constitutions in the world, but we forget this has not restored the self-respect and dignity of the majority of black men who have been brutalised by the apartheid system," the writer says.

Victims of the Sharpeville massacre, South Africa 1960
South Africa saw decades of violence under the apartheid system

The writer urges all South Africans to ask themselves what they have done "to turn these men into beasts".

The Daily Mail and Guardian agrees that "the cruel and perverse nature of much violent crime" in the country "has everything to do with South Africa's violent past".

"In the township upheavals of the apartheid days, the norms and taboos that hold society together were undermined as children threw hand grenades, witnessed violent death and torture, and burnt people alive," the paper says.

"To repair South Africa's moral fabric will take many years, and violent crime is not the sole product of government failure."

But, the Daily Mail and Guardian stresses, the guilty parties in the child rape are, first and foremost, the rapists.

'11 September'

The Natal Witness links the episodes of child rape with Aids, saying this is encouraged by the "shocking belief propagated by traditional healers that intercourse with a virgin cures Aids".

The monster was self-spawned

Daily Mail and Guardian

The paper calls on the government to establish a ministerial department of HIV/Aids as a matter of national emergency.

The Daily Mail and Guardian blames the situation on "a failure of fathers who have a natural duty to show their sons that they value women and cherish children".

"This is not happening enough," the paper adds.

An analysis in the Daily Mail and Guardian says the people in Louisvale where the first reported incident occurred, feel "the monster was self-spawned" and they could have perhaps done something to prevent what happened.

And East Cape News describes the gang-rape of nine-month-old Tshapeng by six men, as "the September 11 of child rape".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

11 Dec 01 | Africa
Baby rapes shock South Africa
28 Nov 01 | Africa
Africa devastated by Aids
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