20 November 2020:

  • A study commissioned by BNP Paribas Group South Africa and its consumer finance arm, RCS, explored the long lasting and far-reaching effects of societal violence on communities and business in South Africa. The research was inspired by the work of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) which is supported by BNP Paribas and RCS as part of a five year partnership in the Cape Flats.
  • The inaugural research focused on the experiences of people living in South African ‘crime hot spots’. The study surveyed over 100 respondents from areas with high levels of gang violence, such as Eldorado Park in Gauteng and areas in the Cape Flats like Mitchell’s Plain, Kraaifontein and Athlone.
  • From the enduring psychological impact of violence on workers, to absenteeism and impaired job performance – the research found among other key takeaways that 81% of respondents said they – or a family member or colleague, had been late for work as a result of violence or crime, while 72% reported having missed work altogether.

Speaking yesterday at an event to unpack the study’s findings further, Vikas Khandelwal, Head of Territory for BNP Paribas South Africa, explained the critical need to better understand the relationship between violence and the effect it has on both the community and South African workplace. “As Corporate South Africa, we need to better understand and bolster peace efforts, not only to assist our staff and communities, but to alleviate the productivity impact on business to support a thriving economy. Before we can do this, we need to gain a deeper understanding of the complex and deep-rooted challenges facing our communities. This requires further research in the area of community violence, and the wide-spread impact this continues to have on employees, businesses and the wider economy.

As a second speaker in the unveiling of the new research, Sandi Richardson, HR Executive at RCS used her in depth knowledge as a Human Resource professional to articulate an all too familiar issue. “53% of respondents in this survey reported that they – or a family member or colleague – had been mentally impacted at work as a result of violence or crime. We cannot address this issue in isolation. We need a collaborative and multi-faceted approach to promoting peace; in which the private sector must play a key role.

Siwe Dhlamini, the Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Education (CRE) Trainer in Schools at WPDI contextualised the research and reinforced the problem of violence as a shared one. “Two thirds of the people surveyed in this study have been verbally threatened with violence, or verbally abused or threatened with a deadly weapon, with most threats coming from gang members and strangers.

Graduates of the WPDI programme are often young people from these surveyed areas, and are part of the communities most affected by gang violence. The research conducted by BNP Paribas & RCS is further evidence of the complexities and challenges faced by these residents, but the study also gives us hope that community engagement can address these key issues through our young ambassadors. This year’s cohort of peace makers will go out into the community to engage with residents to mediate conflicts and foster peace where it’s needed the most.”  Siwe concluded.

At a macro, nation-wide level, these findings reflect the research of the 2020 Global Peace Index which lists South Africa as having the 22nd largest economic cost of violence ranked by GDP – on par with Zimbabwe which only has 13% of SA’s GDP. Despite being the second-largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is also marked by significant rates of poverty, unemployment, and income inequality, with 61% of young people – aged 15 to 24 unemployed, often have no choice but to join a gang for economic gain.

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