No parent wants to bury their child. We all want to see our children grow up and achieve all the things we may have failed to achieve, or do better than we did in our youth. As a parent, every day is a struggle to do what we can for our children’s future. The one place where all these hopes and aspirations are held is at school, so we work our butts off to try and provide the best future for our kids by taking them to good schools. We believe that they are safe at school, but this is no longer the case. What has recently been shown on social media is that many of our children are no longer safe, they are no longer children. When they belong to gangs, they are more exposed to drugs, alcohol and the thirst for blood.
What has become of our society? How did we get to the point where children as young as 13 are joining or forming gangs and brutally beating other kids to death? When did it become fashionable for teenagers to beat each other up and record this brutality so that the whole world sees? Have the family structures broken down so badly that children have absolutely no fear of jail, the police or simple law and order? These are the many questions that ran through my mind as I travelled to Polokwane to go and meet Thorisho Themane’s father. Thorisho was beaten so severely by a group of youth in his area that he succumbed to his injuries and died. The youth accused of killing Thorisho belong to a gang called the Madhura Squad, which has members as young as 13. News of his beating and death sent shockwaves across South Africa as the entire ordeal had been recorded and went viral on social media.
Thorisho’s father is a professor at the University of Limpopo. He is probably in his late sixties. He had three children and, with the death of Thorisho, now he is left with just two – Thorisho’s older brother and sister. When we walked into his office we were met with a warm smile that seemed to melt the ice in the room due to the reason for our visit. Professor Themane’s desk was strewn with papers and he was busy on the phone as we came in. He held the phone to his chest asking us to take our seats while he finished his call. I looked at his greying hair, his stern eyes and old soft hands that have written many papers and taught so many youth that graced the corridors of the university. I asked him during the interview about how he feels, knowing that the people responsible for his son’s murder are youth, children as young as thirteen that have committed this heinous crime. He simply replied, “I feel sorry for the parents, I am not angry. I have forgiven those kids because they are just children. They don’t know what they are doing. But I feel sorry for the parents that have kids that can do that”.
My heart sank when I heard these words. I wanted to cry, because I saw it in his eyes that he was truly hurt by what had happened to his son. he looked at me and said, “I cannot watch that video because I don’t think I can handle seeing what was done to my son”. Unfortunately, a week later, following Thorisho’s death, we heard of more incidents of killings and stabbings at schools by teenagers. Is this a reflection of who we are as a society? Are these children simply playing out what we have become? Where did we go wrong as a people that our children see fit to beat or stab someone to death to resolve their issues? I do not have answers to any of these questions. However, what I do know is that, if this does not stop, there will be more blood on the streets, more hymns to bid young ones farewell and more families shattered at the loss of their beloved children.