Parents and guardians need to take responsibility for what we have become as a society

Parents of Thorisho, Maria and Mahlaphahlapana Themane and other family members during the funeral service of Thorisho Themane on March 2 2019. Themane was killed by a gang of high school pupils in Flora Park, Polokwane, in Limpopo.
Parents of Thorisho, Maria and Mahlaphahlapana Themane and other family members during the funeral service of Thorisho Themane on March 2 2019. Themane was killed by a gang of high school pupils in Flora Park, Polokwane, in Limpopo.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/Sowetan

The recent incidents which saw the deaths of musician Thorisho Themane and Matwetwe star Sibusiso Khwinana triggered shock and anger among South Africans.

Some pleaded with the authorities to do more to ensure that we're safer in our communities, while others dared the government to implement harsher sentences on those implicated in the two murders.

These incidents did more than just stir emotions and reactions; they highlighted the crisis we're in as a society.

The incidents are symptomatic of social ills that we are aware of, but choose to ignore. We generally choose to look the other way until things affect us directly or when things get so bad we can't ignore them. Like when someone dies. And when that happens, we look for someone to point a finger at. Often it is the police or the government who take the blame.

While the reaction and condemnation is deserved, we must also take responsibility for the mess that we find ourselves in as society - the mess that is ill-disciplined kids who see it fit to assault or stab another child to death.

The government and the police must ensure that they enforce the law and that those who are in prisons are rehabilitated - but discipline starts at home.

I am a parent to an infant so have very little experience on what it takes to parent effectively and properly, but I express this opinion as a child whose values of discipline were instilled from a very young age.

The non-accountability from us as a society is not the only thing that I find appalling, but the idea of what discipline should be and what it is meant to achieve.

I've read a tweet or two about how children must be scared of their elders and another about reconsidering corporal punishment. I disagree. Fear and abuse are not what it will take to fix the vortex of mess we're in.

The problem is bigger than parents and guardians dodging responsibility for their ill-disciplined, ill-mannered children who have a complete disregard for human life. Perhaps the problem is parents have no idea what to do; they bring kids into the world, and simply hope for the best.

I don't have all the answers but I know for a fact that we do not only need to have a deeper conversation about raising good citizens; we also need to take some responsibility for how we have raised our children, who they have become and how they behave.

The suspects in custody for the murder of Thoriso aged 15 and 16 and have a reputation for terrorising their communities. Although this is not known for a fact, chances are that they are problematic even within their families.

The discussion should be about dealing with troublesome children as early as possible. What do parents do the first time their 12-year comes home drunk?

How do parents respond to reports that their child is a bully at school?

How do we disconnect children from unhealthy influences?

How do parents balance their work and professional responsibilities with family life so that children do not have abandonment issues, and as a result feel the need to be in a gang to get attention and feel like they belong?

Unfortunately, there is no manual and even when we think we are doing the very best as parents, sometimes it's not enough. Other times, our best is not what is needed for the situation. As parents, sometimes we need to reach out to other parents, our families and organisations and ask for help and guidance.

Sadly, we might even find ourselves with the option of calling the police on our own children when they turn to criminal ways.

I am in no way blaming parents for the barbaric acts which led to Thoriso being kicked to death and Sibusiso getting stabbed for a cellphone. I'm just saying that when things go seriously wrong at home, parents should not be afraid to seek help - any kind of help - to reign in unruly children.

It could save a life.


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