South Africa: Early Childhood Development Policies Can Strike At the Heart of Our Culture of Violence


The biggest issue to confront in dealing with violent crime is not organised groups of criminals or insurgents, but a normalisation of violence that infects interpersonal relationships in South Africa. Increasing police resources or deploying the military does not resolve this issue. We need policy measures that address this distortion of our culture, and early childhood development is key to success.

South Africa is facing a widely acknowledged violence epidemic. Events like the July riots which killed more than 300 people and the taxi violence which flared up soon after, all make it feel as if South Africa's violence problem is getting worse.

Unfortunately, the data supports this narrative as the national murder rate (which is the most reliable indicator of violent crime) has steadily increased over the last 10 years. This is despite the good progress which was made after apartheid's end when the homicide rate fell by more than half between 1994 and 2011.

The murder problem is acutely felt in urban slums and townships of large metros. Cape Town for instance was listed as the most murderous city in the country in 2020, and the 8th most murderous city in the world. The bulk of these murders...

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