The significance of “Africanness” on the development of ...

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The significance of “
African
ness” on the development of contemporary criminological propostions

Inaugural address

Prof Michelle Ovens



“A Buddhist baker once said, "We're all in this alone." We each face the integration of life, the universe
and everythi
ng with few really useful clues from our mainstream culture and educational systems. The
blind spot in our civilization when it comes to wholeness and loops goes back a long way. Our traditions
cling to the idea that explanations can be built of short cau
sal chains: event A causes event B, which
causes event C. Loops are prohibited because they are hard to analy
s
e, introducing non
-
linear terms into
the equations. Therefore our current scientific method has become a form of pretend madness in which
we deny

that anything is connected to anything else unless we can prove that it is. We use this method
because we can so much more easily start with assumed isolation

and then prove the connectedness of
the components of a system”.



Introduction


The latter stat
ement
regarding circularity
can be applied in our
analysis

of African philosophy and
should be kept in mind when African th
eories of crime are explored. Too often existing t
heoretical
assuptions have many blind spots and attempts to explain
causality of
c
rime from a linear perspective
may

leave us unsatified and wondering if what we see is reality or our vision of reality. The importance
in a search for causality
lies in circularity and wholeness.


In traditional African thought two basic notions of cau
sality exists, namely primary or non
-
mechanistic
and secondary and mechanistic (Sogolo 2002:192). Sogolo presents an example of someone becoming
ill to explain causality
. He illustrates
the
instance where someone fall
s

ill with
malaria, where the illness
i
s an afflication resulting from a mosquito biting the person. A Westerner would attribute the illness to
the bite and see it as a natural event that takes place accidently. It would be viewed as the primary cause
of the illness. However, according to Afri
can philosophy this answer would be based upon the
secondary and mechanistic notion of causality. Rather the sufferer will seek a primary cause and ask
“Why me, why such a sever
e

attack and why did it not happen to someone else” (Sogolo 2002:198).


This

view on primary and secondary causality may provide an explanation for the
African
belief that
when individuals become victims of a crime, it may not just be that they were victims of an opportunitic
crime but rather that someone deliberaly targeted them
for revenge or some other personal motive. Thus
asking the question of “why me”? Thus a secondary and mechanistic explanation of causality is sough
rather than an acceptance that the person was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Furthermore trad
itional African explanatory models are not intended for the control of natural
phenomenon. For example the telling of stories or divination are not used by African practioners to
“change the order of nature” (Sogolo 2002:192). No attempt is made to chang
e, stop or control events
from taking place. Any events are viewed as outside the realm of morals and that
they

cannot influence
events. The human
may

however i
ntervene in natural events. If
given prior
inform
ation or warning

of
an event the individual
can move beyond the reach and influence of the event.


Thus Segolo (2002:199) sees the quest to seek causality for primary causes beyond the level of the
physical realm. Unlike causality in Western cultures, the concept of chance is discounted and does no
t
play a significant role. Primary and secondary causes are not in conflict with each other. Rather they
form part of a two
-
dimensional approach to causal explanation in African thought.


African epistemology


2


On the notion of African thought, the Afr
ican epistemology should be explored.
One can
set off

with
the epistemology of the nature and origin of our knowledge of African theory and philosophy.
Epistemology asks the question “How do we know what we know?”
How do we know that what we
know is corr
ect! According to Kaphagawani and Malherbe (2002:219) while espistemology is the study
of knowledge, the way in which a society aquires its knowledge varies according to socio
-
cultural
contexts within which these knowledge claims have been formulated and a
rticulated. Thus the
variations within the many various cultures in Africa must be considered.


From a

traditional African
perspective
, knowledge is not acquired by labour but
is rather
"given" by the
ancestors (Hamminga). It is also based on the shared s
ocial dimension of not "I" know, but "we" know.


According to Nasseem (2002:259) much experience is passed down from one generation to the next.
Experiential knowledge form
s

the cornerstone of the African epistemology. This knowledge is also not
universal

but
local tribal, with

other tribes having aquired different knowledge (Hamminga).
Knowledge has it "biological variations"
and are uniquely diverse
like all other things in nature.

Modern African society has developed into its current form

through

the
advent of western thought and
should be understood within a framework
and

awareness of the conflicting nature of the two ideas of
knowledge, those Western and altenatively those African.


Nasseem (2002:264) states that the African epistemology maintains th
at no knowledge of reality exists
if the individual is detached therefrom. Knowledge is the integration and co
-
operation of all human
faculties, experiences and feelings.


Imagination, reasoning and thinking take place simultaneously. The
persons sense o
f reality
a
dv
ances

the individuals knowledge base.


One must guard against stating the African view as if it is a Western one (Nasseem 2002:263). By
implication this articulates the necessity to explore this view without placing it in relation to Western
paradigms. The African epistemology is based

upon

a cultural world which differs from a Western one
in relation to its philosphy of integration and principles of understanding.


Nasseem is of the opion that Senghor has made this critical flaw. Senghor’s (
in Nasseem 2002:261)
view is that the African epistemology started with the premise of “I feel therefore I am”. Nasseem
argues that this is a reflection of

the influence of

European scholars and that it should rather be
explained by the empistemology of
“We are, therefore I am” and
by
processes of interthinking.


However, throughout history the fabric of African society has been influenced, changing both the
pattern and search for knowledge (Nasseem 2002:263). According to Kaphagawani and Malherbe
(2002
: 219) the African epistemological continuum has been influenced by Islamic intrusion and the
integration of a Western scientific tradition. This has left its mark on African epistemolgy
, resulting in a

philosphy
which is
character
i
sed by the rational
,
il
luminative method of Islam, the analytical and
discursive pro
c
edures of the West and the internal original culture
-
bound participatory tradition of
Africa (Nasseem 2002:268).


This African epistemology
should

form the basis for any
dialogue
on African cri
minological theory
.

It
is necessary to distinguish between African and Western philosophy and to examine the affect on
theory.


Historical view


According to Dalgleish (
2005
) in the 2000’s attention to African criminological writings started to
transform
a
s several authors begun to advance criminology in this area of the world
.

Nevertheless, he
believes that historical criminology of the African continent is under
-
researched. Further to this the
penmanship concerning pre
-
colonial African history, especial
ly that of sub
-
Saharan West Africa is
largely ignored by mainstream academia.


3


Compared to Europe and America,
c
riminology in South Africa, has a short history and is founded on
the basis of Europian and American Criminology. South African
c
riminology ak
nowledges and applies
the theories of the pioneers in Criminology (Mannheim 1972).

In the past South African criminology
could be divided into three “ intellectual currents” (itallics own), namely “Afrikaner nationalist
criminology, legal reformist crimin
ology and…criminology for a democratic South Africa” (Van Zyl
Smit 1990 in ).


Presently there is much debate in academic circles to move away from Europ
e
an and American theories
of crime and to move towards an Africanisation of
c
riminology. However, as i
mportant as it is to
develop theories to explain unique South African criminological phenomenon, in part
,

Eurocentric
the
o
ries

may

still form the basis of further theoretical development
s
.
This
generalisation
should be
gaurded against as it
may
lead to
abs
olutism.
R
esearchers applying a euroecentric approach will
assess
and ev
a
l
uat
e other cultures by means of criteria with which the latt
er do not identify
n
or do
they

necessarily apply.


Agozino (2005:300) concentrates on some of the unique criminological p
erspectives emanating from
West Africa.

Within these
approaches
the concept of social control
comes strongly to the fore and
scientific research shows that, before contact with Europe, West Africa had sophisticated, effective, and
efficient social control

systems. According to Agozino (2005:119) scientific reviews of the long
-
standing cultures of West Africa demonstrate that the sub
-
region’s pre
-
colonial social controls worked
well and were dynamic and effective. For this reason the West’s imperialist i
ntrusions and
contaminations
upon

the indigenous West African criminology and social control systems were viewed
as offensive.


As we approach 2010, with the world’s eye on Africa, criminologists
are required

to look towards an
Afrocentric approach to crim
e. While Eurocentric theories have been applied in South African
criminology in the past, too often we are confronted by the fact that social scientists cannot apply these
paradigms to fully explain the crime phenomenon in South Africa

due to the differen
t epistemological
foundations of the two
world
views
. The need for South African theories of crime and deviance are
crucial for practitioners in the field of crime, criminology and criminal justice.


The need for African theories


Due to limited, if any,
African
models or theories of crime, the fields of philosophy and psychology are
drawn upon and studied to seek a basis for
the development of
unique African theor
ies
, upon which
African criminologists, and more spesifically South African criminologists ca
n make
inferences

regarding
the causality of
criminal behaviour. Due to the diverse and eclectic nature of South African
society, criminological theories
or models
would require

a

multivariate analysis and
application on a
multitude of levels
, allowing fo
r a

reflect
ion of

the many nuances of a
diverse

society.


African theories or paradigms should furthermore not merely

be applied to explain crime and causality,
but
also to d
irect researchers and practitioners in explaining criminal behaviour for purposes
of
profiling, prediction

of

lev
els of dangerousness and threat

posed to society.
It

should also assist the
judiciary and direct the court in a scientific and theoretical manner, to impose the most suitable
sentence
s

and
to

indivdualise punishment.


All to

often practising criminologists in the field of criminal profiling and forensics are required to rely
on European or Amer
i
can paradigms to form the basis of their findings and conclusions. While of
merit, and often with creative manipulation of existing

theory, the criminologist may
still
find it difficult
to explain the
causes

of crime. This may
be
exacerbated by a limited understanding of African
psychology

where behaviour is

influenced by
the

social context of group belonging rather than
individualis
m,
linked to

a long history of conflict and violence which has become deeply embedded
with
in society in one form or another.


4


Problems encountered


When

developing African criminological theories, academics need to consider and avoid mistakes of
generalisa
tion and
any attempts to
explain and examin
e

a phenomenon from a western perspective or
“looking glass”.

An understanding of African epistemology should form the foundation

for the
inter
pretation of criminality in African societies. This African paradigm
should
provide flexibility
allowing for dev
e
lopment
,
a
nd a

flux of change influenced by time and the cultural setting within
society.
Accepted paradigms should be

explored and build upon by social scientists.

However issues
such as ethnicity, plurality of

cultures and
unanimism

complicate the development of criminological
explanations of crime.

Cultural orientation
, which

further influence
s social dynamics should also be
taken into consideration
.


Issues of
e
thnicity

within

theory and application


An a
nal
ys
es of

African theory
require
s
cogni
tion

of ethnicity and ethics.
Any attempts to develop
discourse on ethnicity without aknowle
d
ging
or

ignoring these differences is unethical.

Minow (Muir
2000) refers to "the dilemma of difference".

This implies tha
t
if
too much emphas
i
s is placed on the
differences between people or
when society is

insensitive to them
,
people
may be

stigmatised because
they are different. This
creates

a dilemma in the development of “theories of difference” on Africa.
From a crimi
nological perspective
, both
theoretically and practically, it is important to accept the
variances

between people of different cultures in

the

treatment of offenders, rather than using the
differences to stigmatise or place them at a disadvantage.


African

culture has been in a transitionary phase
,
shift
ing

from traditional to modern
,

for many years

which has influenced individuals


identification with their own ethnicity
. This transition should not be
seen as an “improvement”
,

a western misconception
,

but

rather a
s an adaptation to the influences of
western culture.

The research of Ortu and Horton (2005:81)
,

however
,

discounts this
argument
regarding flu
c
tuations

in levels of ethnicity.


Ortu and Horton (2005:81) postulate that every child born into a so
ciety learns its traditions and norms,
including ethnic behaviour. Ethnic beliefs are found to endure for generations even after the rational for
the emergence of these beliefs
may
have faded or no longer exist. The doubt arises as to whether
ethnicity i
s an independent variable.

From the time a person is born, that individual responds to ethnic
cues and beliefs mediated by r
ole models

that help shape his or her personal character structure. The
individual internali
s
es experiences from earlier social pos
itions and ethnic matri
x
es (Ortu & Horton
2005:81).


Furthermore explanations for the persistence of individual ethnic identification may be explained even if
the
se people

have frequent contact with other ethnic groups. Early experiences, personal history
and
observations of the way
a
society treats
its

own ethnic group may have engendered in them a natural
awareness of their own ethnic origins.

“Historic beliefs are far more persistent than current learning or
teaching. Historical ethnocentrism certainly
remains in the minds of some ethnic groups and is passed
on from generation to generation” (Ortu & Horton 2005:81).

The issue of ethnicity is further
complicated by the plurality of cultures.



P
lurality of cultures


Problems surrounding the development o
f African theories of crime lie in the plurality of cultures
.
This
plurality is referred to by

Louw (1995) as racial and ethnic variety as well as other overlapping affinity
groups that constitute
African

and specifically South African society.

Louw (199
5)

goes further to
identif
y
ing other categories
, besides

race or ethnicity
,

which further thwart any attempt to develop a
theory for understanding and explaining crime in South African society. These categories include those
of literate/illiterate, urbanis
ed/non
-
urbanised, and perhaps even the somewhat controversial categories of
5


pre
-
modern
, modern
, and post
-
modern. The latter should be the focus of academic debate and study as it
in itself causes controversy in the study of African
epistemology
.


The fact
is that there is not just one African society
, but

many African societies. Any claims or
references to "African society" are generali
s
ations, and are at

most family resemblances between a
plurality of predominantly traditional African societies. Societies
or cultures cannot be viewed as
monolithic, transparent and neatly demarcated wholes.

Rather, t
hey overlap in a variety of ways (Van
der Merwe, in Louw 1995).


The problem of plurality is further exacerbated by the fact that social scientists may adopt a
view of
either absolutism or relativism.


Ab
solutism or relativism


Louw (1995) postulates that th
e

plurality of cultures may cause researchers to resort to either absolutism
or relativism in their assessment of other cultures. The absolutist will dogmatic
ally and arbitrarily
evaluate someone from another culture by means of criteria with which the latter does not
necessarily
identify
.


Absolutism impedes the self
-
understanding of the other or others. Louw (1995)
attributes

absolutism
among members of a com
munity, as a source of violence in society and believes that it is this
characteristic that regularly facilitates political unrest and bloody conflicts.

On the other hand, the
relativist may attempt to transcend and avoid the latter mistake by adopting th
e view that surrenders the
assessment of the other to “subjective arbitrariness”. The relativist is of the opinion that there are no
criteria in view of which the other might be judged non
-
arbitrarily or objectively.


Relativism deprives one of the right t
o criticise another group or culture in fear of being absolutist.


The
criminologist must find a scientific midway whereby an objective and empathetic evaluation of another
person’s “otherness” is possible using assessment tools that make provision for thi
s “otherness” or
uniqueness. This may be done by

placing the offender within a framework which clearly provides and
creates a setting for the characteristics of

complexity, interconnectedness and mutual relationship.


Winch (Hughes 1998:127) postulates tha
t two
variables

may
either
be called the same or different
,

only
with reference to a

set of criteria which lay down what is to be regarded as a relevant difference.

When
the
variables

in question ar
e purely physical the criteria
will of course be those of

the observer.
But
when one is dealing with intellectual or indeed, any kind of social aspects, that is

not so.


For their being
intellectual or social

in character depends entirely upon their belonging in a certain way to a system of
ideas and modes of li
ving”

(Winch Hughes 1998:127)
.


In African theory it is thus important to
transcend
from criteria which may be set by the observer and to
rather focus on belonging in a certain way to a system of ideas and modes of living. Winch
(Hughes
1998:127)
explains
this process as
the rules of social interaction
.

These rules of social interaction are
the shared actions of members of a specific language and culture. The concept of
u
buntu can also be
illustrated in terms of these
rules

of social interaction
.

Louw (19
95) regards
u
buntu as an African or
African
-
inspired version of an effective decolonising assessment of the other. This assessment of the
other also transcends absolutism without

resorting to relativism.



Unanimism


While
it is crucial to avoid a
n

absolut
ist or relativist stance
, a
nother major point of concern is the danger
of reifying
, and
converting

or a
bstracting the stereotype of the African as simply less evolved (Basu
1998). This is known as
u
nanimism. The term, popularised by Hountondji, illustrates

the “strange and
unwarranted assumption that all the inhabitants of the vast and varied continent of Africa can be
supposed to resemble each other
by

any salient characteristic of thought or culture”.

This vie
w
impedes

a greater

understanding of
the cult
ural variety found within the different tribes.
S
alient characteristic
s

6


such as

the rules of social interaction or ubuntu
which
determine the functioning of the community

will
not be identified or understood
.


When we try to develop African theor
ies
we mus
t thus take Basu’s concerns into account. Basu (1998)

emphasis
es

the dangers associated with the use of the term of
an
African culture or philosophy.

Basu
says that to do so is “shallow at best and may be tantamount to chicanery (deceit or deception).

If

we
say that they are indeed deeply

different in so significant a matter as their intellectual traits and world
-
views, are we not accepting as reality the worst kind of racist superstition?”

With regard to African
criminological theor
ies

one would thus ha
ve to

avoid

sweeping generali
s
ations.

The
easy
ac
c
eptance

of
difference
s

may
further
serve as self
-
fulfilling prophecies


the Westerner expecting to find
divination
and witchcraft behind crime in Africa

wil
l probably find precisely that.


Basu (1998) fur
ther supports the value of

African philosopher

s thought
s

and critique
s
, and
the
importance of th
eir perspectives.


An African t
heory would thus not be a given blueprint, by which the
African

offender can be analysed and classified but would rather provide

a “distinctive
, self justifying
realm of discourse with its own logic and standards of rationality...
” (Hughes 1990:128).

The latter
discourse must thus form the basis of an “African theoretical approach”.


Now that the main concepts that create a challe
nge
to
understanding African epistemology and
philosophy

have been identified
, pyschological explanations of African criminality can be extrapolated
on.


P
sychological explanations




Jung
’s psychoanalytical theory has the

closest
bearing on

the African pe
rspective. Jung’s theory clearly
reflects the influence of his travels to North, East and Central Africa where he developed a fascination
for Africa. Jung’s views were
greatly inspired

by
h
is contact with African
philosophy and
perspective
s
on

life. The

influence of the African epistemological viewpoints greatly influenced him and realised in
his later work. The most
prominant

indication of this
African inspiration
can be seen in
J
ung’s
interpretation and explanation of the collective unconscious, the u
nconscious and communal species
memory. In his view these aspects never achieve consciousness and represent accumulated experiences.
Jungs view on the collective unconscious corresponds closely with the African perspective of the
collective conscious

and

the role t
hat
it
plays
i
n the development of ethnicity
, in a process whereby t
he
individual internalises experiences from earlier social positions and ethnic matrixes (Ortu & Horton
2005:81).


Other western theories which
correspond with
the African
philo
sophical view on circularity rather than
the more linear western
perspective and serve as a frame of reference are
s
ystems theory

and
cybernetics
.

System

describes any "experience
-
cluster" that can be mapped as a set of interacting
elements over time. Typ
ically, a system is mapped by identifying the pathways of information flow
,

and
possibly also the flow of energy, matter and other variables. Cybernetics is an extension hereof and a
development within systemic theory
. I
t is the study of systems which c
an be mapped using loops (or
more complicated looping structures) in the network defining the flow of information which takes place
within any system. Bateson (Becvar & Becvar 1996:76) defines systems theory as the study of systems
which can be mapped usin
g any kind of network to define the flow of information. This includes the
study of systems whose emergent properties we cannot yet predict owing to a lack of plausable
mechanisms, rigorous mapping techniques and/or robust mathematical treatment. This vie
w helps us to
understand the African perspective as it studies the properties that emerge from the interconnectedness
and complexity of relationships between parts
, clearly illustrated by the collective consciousness
.


Muir (2000) states that the need for

cybernetics and systems theory is based upon the following
,

"When
we try to pick up anything by itself we find it is attached to everything in the universe." This
interrelatedness is comparable with the wholeness of the African experience. Muir (2000) s
peculates
that if the science, religion, philosophy and epistemology of western civilisation were “in better shape
7


(more
organic
), we would not need cybernetics and systems theory as separate areas of inquiry. Rather
they would be woven into the fabric of

our knowledge as already are other prior mental tools such as
,

the flexibility of language... our tradition of education has a blind spot when it comes to complexity,
interconnectedness and relationship”.


African psychology


Due to limited criminologic
al theories from a purely African perspective, psychological theori
e
s are
explored in an effort to come to a better understanding of criminality within an African context.
Psychological theories are based upon knowledge gained from anthropologists and are
still in their
infancy (Meyer, Moore & Viljoen 1997:615). This knowledge has been accumulated from examining
traditional world
-
views, norms, values and customs among Africans.


It is important to consider that, because of the shift from a traditional way
of life to a modern
westernised life
-

style, African thinking is changing. The more modernised Africans become, the more
they may be inclined to think and function like westerners. However, traditions, values and norms are
often deeply entrenched and may

play a more important role in the peoples daily functioning than may
be expected.

As early as 1969 Mbiti (1969:XI) wrote: “...If anything changes they are generally on the
surface, affecting the material side of life, and only reach the deeper levels of
thinking pattern
s
,
language content, mental images, emotions, beliefs and responses in situations of need

. This reflects
the
earlier
views expressed by Nasseem (2002).


African culture has a rich heritage, and African thought is derived from symbols, myt
hs and collective
rituals. The African view of the world and other people is founded on a holistic and anthropological
ontology. Humans form an invisible whole with the cosmos
, thus can be viewed in
unity with God and
natu
r
e. Humans are the point of depa
rture and centre of the universe.


The African cosmic whole comprises of the the macro
-
cosmos, meso
-
cosmos and micro
-
cosmos

systems
. The macro
-
cosmos is
characterised by
the person
s

daily li
fe

and implies a collective existence.
It influences the differe
nce in ethos and values among people. The macro
-
cosmos is influenced by both
the meso
-
cosmos and the micro
-
cosmos.
The meso
-
cosmos level is a kind of no
-
man’s
-
land. At this
level coincidence and forces such as malignant spirits and sorcerers hold sway.


The micro
-
cosmos is the source of an African’s daily living or every day life. This gives rise to the
collective existence which is influenced by both the macro
-
cosmos and the meso
-
cosmos. It is at this
level where the difference
between
African and
W
e
stern ethos and values is the greatest. The micro
-
cosmos influences the relationship between individual and community.

The meso
-
cosmos level explain
s

the human dynamics of the African individual. Behaviour is seen to be caused by neither intrapsychic
nor

interpersonal dynamics, but by external agents outside the person.


The micro
-
cosmos is the source of an African’s daily living or every day life. This gives rise to the
collective existence which is influenced by both the macro
-
cosmos and the meso
-
cos
mos. It is at this
level where the difference
between
African and
W
estern ethos and values is the greatest. The micro
-
cosmos influences the relationship between individual and community.

The African functions within a
collective existence, and t
he very i
dentity of the African is embedded in the collective existence and life
experiences such as suffering, life, and death, and events such as marriage are shared with the group.
From an African perspective the person

does not draw a line between

self


and t
he object. The
African will sympathise, abandon his

or
her personality and identify with the Other. The African does
not assimilate but becomes assimilated. This is a further fact which makes the African prone to
becoming involved in crime

and easily d
rawn into collective criminality
.


Taking these psychological components and processes into account
an

African perspective
of personal
accountability
does not fit into the ambit of the modern legal system.
F
rom a

traditional

African
perspective, behaviour

is not caused by intrapsychic or interpersonal dynamics,
rather
individuals
are

8


held responsible or accountable for their own actions or behaviour because the cause thereof is ascribed
to external, supernatural beings or powers. Thus the person is unable

to take initiative to seek solutions,
and it is necessary to look for invisible powers and beings behind the empirical, rational reality. These
factors
should

not excuse behaviour or exempt the individual from responsibility but
rather

be
recognised as
mitigating.


The above psychology
may

play an integral role in
the sentencing of offenders

whose value system
s are

based upon the African perspective.

However, the court system does not take this psychology into
account. It is necessary for this informat
ion to be brought to the attention of the court for consideration
during sentencing and decision
-
making regarding form
s

of punishment. The use of presentence
investigations and the presentation of presentence reports to the court would bring about a just
process
of decision making by introducing African causality theories. An important part hereof would be the
introduction and explanation of the collective conscious.


African psychology does not account for the individual personality structure. Instead,
dynamics are
attributed to activities of ancestral spirits and other magical powers outside the personality. The naming
of children is a typical example. The name given to the child describes his or her personality or an event
in his or her life. In oth
er words, the name is descriptive of the individual.


African behaviour and functioning could best be explained from a ecosystemic perspective where the
person is viewed as a system which comprises subsystems, which in turn form part of a larger
suprasys
tem. Traditional African cognitive functioning is based on intuition and emotion and not on
pure rationality as among Westerners. African rational functioning is linked
to

the collective way of
life, and reasoning is intuitive through participation.

The

African concept of time further influences
African epistemology.


The African concept of time is two dimensional, with a long history, a present and almost no future.
The future has no meaning because it is not yet experienced. Experience is derived fro
m previous
generations. Traditional Africans have actual time, potential time and no time. Actual time comprises of
events currently taking place, while potential time includes events that will definitely happen in the near
future or in a natural rhythm,
such as the certainty that the sun will set and rise. This has implications
for the incarceration of the inmate and the rehabilitation programmes offered

to Africans
.
Programmes
offered
are future orientated
, where
rehabilitation
is aimed

to reintegrate

the offender back into society
in the future. It may thus be postulated that it would be difficult for the African to accept rehabilitation
programmes that are future orientated.


All the latter components play an integral role in the mental health and
optimal functioning of

th
e
African individual. African personality t
heory
accepts

that Africans use the left and right side of the
brain in a balanced manner, unlike
W
esterners who only use one side at a time.
The perception is held
that t
he balanced us
e increases optimal psychological health and functioning.
It is believed that
im
balance
d use of the brain,

as in the case of
W
esterners
,
causes stress and tension.

Furthermore t
he
collective existence of the African
is also believed to

promotes optimal f
unctioning. Where
W
esterners
strive towards individualisation and competition, which often results in stress, Africans are characterised
by selflessness and a collective existence. This offers security and thus counters anxiety and stress or
tension. Ho
wever, when the African is separated from the collective group or becomes alienated the
resultant stress and tension levels are not as easily dealt with. Stressor
s

encountered in the criminal
justice system may intensify this stress and may affect the men
tal health of African offenders and may
lead to alienation. The need to belong to a group may be a m
ajor contributing factor for

why African
offenders become involved in gang activities
, when removed from their family systems and support
networks
.








Modernisation has broken down th
e Africans

collective existence and eliminated the natural inherent
ability to counteract stress, anxiety and tension. The traditional system has immense super power, the
group is str
onger than individual members, resulting

in a

strong
social
control mechanism. A break
9


from tradition

may result in weaker social control mechanisms

which
contribute to crime
when

the
individual
feels a lessor level of social cohesion and belonging.

A breakdown in social control

may
make the i
ndividual more prone to

commit
ting

crimes against
society
.
In
1969, Mbiti foresaw this
process of separation and alienation

and

maintain
ed

that

“Modernisation has removed the African from
the support group where stressors such as povert
y

leave the indivi
dual isolated and without support.
This situation can be referred to as a void in which this lone figure stands

( Mbiti 1969)
.”

Thus this is in
stark contrast to the concept of ubuntu.


African ontology and epistemology are two aspects of the same realit
y which manifest in the philosphy
of
u
buntu. This term encompases the idea of

be
-
ing


in general.
T
raditional
African
religion does not
focus on the individual but
rather
on the community to which the individual belongs. This illustrates the
collectiv
e conscious and implies collective responsibility. The modern legal system is based upon
individual responsibility where only the offender is held responsible, unlike
earlier

times when
tribes or

families were held collectively responsible for a members i
nfringements or actions
,
the collective
conscious. The implication of
this
slow
withdrawal

from this

system is that the modern African has
become isolated. Modernisation has led to the destruction of the solid religious base of African culture
which in t
urn, has led to
people

struggling with the conflict of losing their historical roots. Terblanche
(Prinsloo 1998:77) describes this process as the disintegration of the regulating systems resulting in a
state of dysfunction.

One cannot discuss African per
sonality without
elaborating on

the concept of
ubuntu.


Fourie (2008:53) views ubuntuism as an intellectual quest to rediscover and re
-
establish idealised values
of traditional African cultures and traditional African communities.

"A person is a person th
rough other
persons" (Louw 1995).

In African tradition this saying has a deeply religious meaning. The

person


that
one
will event
ually

become

in a process
"through other persons" is, ultimately, an ancestor.

In this
context a
ncestors include extended f
amily

and in

African society an inextricable bond exists between
man, his or her ancestors and whatever is regarded as the “Supreme Being”. Ubuntu forms an integral
part of African religion and indicates a deep respect and regard for religious beliefs and
practices.


It
however may
appear as if
u
buntu
and the
concept of individuality
are

a contradiction of terms.

Ubuntu claims that the self or individual is constituted by one’s relations with others.

But if this is the
case, between who are these relation
s?

Shutte (1993:56) concurs with this concept and views

pe
ople

and personal relations
as


equally primordial

.


According to Schutte,

African
epistemology explains

this contradiction
by means of the concept

of
“S
eriti

. Seriti is an energy, power or force

which is
maintained
which allows
pe
oples to
unite
through

personal interaction with others. Thus “the self” and
others can be seen as equiprimordial or as aspects of the same universal field of force.

However, as
Shutte observes, this "solution" of the c
ontradiction posed by the
u
buntu conception of individuality,
comes at a price

...in the perspective opened up by the African idea of the universe as a

field of forces, it
is difficult to see how the existing individual can have any enduring reality at all
, much less how he or
she can be possessed of the freedom and responsibility that is usually reckoned the most valuable mark
of personhood


(Shutte 1993:56).


Care must be taken not to see the inclusivist, collectivist or communalist conception of individu
ality as
an oppressive collectivism or communalism.


The African concept of man does not negate individuality.
It simply discourages the view that the individual should take precedence over the community (Ndaba
1994). Furthermore, Ndaba states that
the co
llective consciousness
evident in the African culture does
not mean that the “African subject wallows in a formless, shapeless or rudimentary collectivity... It
simply means that the African subjectivity develops and thrives in a relational setting provide
d by
ongoing contact and interaction with others” (Ndaba 1994:14).


Van der Merwe (1996:1) poses the question whether Africans do adhere to
u
buntu or, at least,
endeavour to do so? And if so, he queries whether
u
buntu is uniquely or exclusively African? Th
e
example of the relatively non
-
violent transition of South African society from a totalitarian state to a
multi
-
party democracy is seen as not merely the result of the compromising negotiations of politicians.
10


Van der Merwe believes that it is the result
of the emergence of an ethos of solidarity, a commitment to
peaceful co
-
existence amongst ordinary South Africans in spite of their differences, in the spirit of
u
buntu.


Conclusion


Western and African perspectives or theories hav
e different epistemological and ontological points of
departure. It can be extrapolated that Western theories are scientific, analytical and reductionistic
whereas the African approach is based upon subjective, direct experience. Western theories serve t
o
analyse, predict and control human behaviour, while the African approach strives towards intuition and
integration.


Current criminological theories are based upon a
W
estern perspective and explain the
phenomenon of crime and criminality from a
W
estern,
first
-

world perspective. This has a limiting
effect on criminological research in South Africa
.


If we acknowledge that culture may largely control the way in which we think or function, it is
important to study the effect of culture and tradition on be
haviour.
Too

date very little attention has
been paid to the development of African theor
ies
, and the lack of African based criminological
perspectives is a serious drawback
.


T
he value of developing and adopting African discourse has been considered by A
merican academics
for many years
(Willis, Evans &
La
Grange 1999:227).
Social scientists

propose the exploration of
theories and constructs from
other indigenous societies to compare them to existing Western theories

through means o
f analysis and integrati
on.

They focus on theories which have been developed within
historical and sociocultural contexts which differ
from

those in America. The

latter scientist
s

studie
d

South Africa
, without

includ
ing

the rest of the African continent.

They could not extract
information for
their study, probably due to a limited understanding of the African epistemology and personality.


The basis of African theor
ies

or paradigm
s

should thus be

established
by examining and extrapolating
upon
existing theories derived from the

fields of philosophy and psychology in South Africa.

In a paper
presented by Prof Gutto
(2008:4)
to the VP: Tuition and Research in April 2008 he proposes that
Unisa’s offerings and the content thereof should ensure that there is “ sufficient infusion of

African
philosophical and epitemological underpinnings
..” This paper has investig
ated these very principles in
the development of an African theory (perspective, paradigm) to crime in South Africa.


In conclusion, the theory or approach to crime and crim
ial behaviour explored and illustrated within this
paper is in no way proposed to be complete or the only way to explain this encompassing phenomenon
of crime as it takes place in South Africa

but rather strives to generate cr
i
tical discourse in the field
of
criminology and related social sciences
.


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