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Violence keeps SA workers fearful and absent from work — survey

Half of South African employees see violence as the greatest risk they have to face in their daily lives‚ with at least 53% having personally felt the affect of violence close to home‚ a new survey has revealed.

The latest annual Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) violence survey‚ which was conducted among workers from crime hotspots in the Western Cape‚ Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal‚ also found that the majority‚ or 80%‚ of respondents felt unsafe in their neighbourhood — a major increase from the 61% last year.

The study‚ commissioned by French international banking group BNP Paribas and its consumer finance arm‚ revealed the affect of violence in gang-ridden and high-violence communities on corporate SA‚ with the organisations surveyed reporting an average of 20% of absenteeism as a result of violence.

The inaugural 2020 survey found that 81% of respondents had been late to work as a result of violence or crime‚ while 72% missed work altogether.

Almost 40% of corporates surveyed and 75 of the youth peacemaker network (WPDI) sample believed that community violence was a major contributor to absenteeism.

The survey found that the affect of violence on livelihoods and wellbeing has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic‚ with 76% of respondents convinced that violence had increased in their community — an increase of 12% compared to last year. More than 70% blamed the perceived increase in violence on unemployment and retrenchments.

In 29% of the cases reported the perpetrator of the violence was an intimate partner‚ compared to only 13% a year ago.

At least 58% of women had experienced gender-based violence (GBV). About 41% said they experienced GBV monthly.

The violence had left many women feeling disempowered‚ with at least 50% of those who experienced GBV reporting that they still lived in fear and 38% said they were either too ashamed or too scared to take action against their perpetrators.

Siwe Dhlamini‚ peace-building and conflict resolution trainer at WPDI‚ said: “This survey has confirmed what we have experienced in the communities. It has given us new insights‚ and has given us better tools to improve our work in communities. Not only that‚ but to be aware of factors that draw back development. At the end of the day‚ where there is violence there can never be development and peace‚ but in the absence of violence there can be development and there can be peace.”

Regan Adams‚ CEO at RCS (subsidiary of BNP Paribas)‚ said the latest survey made very stark reading and “leaves you quite overwhelmed”.

He said while many South Africans might be accustomed to this and not give it the attention it deserves‚ it was time to take action.

“It will take all of us … corporates‚ politicians‚ NGOs‚ the media to really zoom in on this topic. A lot of things we have mentioned here talk about the affects and the question is: how do we stamp this out at the root?”

He said there is no doubt that the level of violence in communities is a consequence of more deep-rooted issues that are structurally wrong in SA‚ and one of them is absent fathers.

“I don’t have all the answers‚ but there are some things that we can reflect on. The fact is that sustainable communities are only sustainable if there are sustainable households. We live in a country where almost two-thirds of the youth grow up with single parents. So we have a situation where there is not a functional family‚ there is not a father figure who can act as a role model and these things affect the youth. They affect how they grow up and affect where they look for role models.”

Adams said corporates often dealt with the affect of these structural issues‚ but they needed to be part of a solution.

“At the core our concern is the individual. We want people to be productive‚ but we want to help create better human beings. When we think about structurally addressing this problem we need to focus on the youth‚ making sure that they remain in the job‚ that they have livelihoods … that they understand how to support and honour women. This is where we need to teach our youth‚ especially the males. The men in this country need to do a lot more to take responsibility and accountability‚ to become the father figures that they are meant to represent‚ and to care and protect‚” he said.

The head of BNP Paribas SA‚ Kieran Fahy‚ said the survey showed the level of inequality that still existed in SA three decades after democracy.

“As a second-largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa‚ SA is marred by poverty‚ unemployment and inequality. This is especially the case in many townships. A huge divide between rich and poor endures.

“As a new resident of SA I find the information from the survey extremely grounding‚ it shows us where we stand today. But also fundamentally to see how we can‚ as a banking group and a major employer in SA‚ support positive change in local communities‚” said Fahy.

TimesLIVE

Source: ARENA Holdings.