Living with trauma: Phumzile Van Damme says SA has post-traumatic stress disorder

13 October 2020 - 12:00
Phumzile Van Damme says South Africans 'have become desensitised, a defence mechanism from the trauma of knowing we are governed by crooks'. File photo
Phumzile Van Damme says South Africans 'have become desensitised, a defence mechanism from the trauma of knowing we are governed by crooks'. File photo
Image: Esa Alexander

DA MP Phumzile Van Damme has opened up about the trauma many in South Africa face on a daily basis, including fears over crime and unemployment.

“Who was it that said SA is a country with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), living with generational and present trauma? That person was correct,” she tweeted on Monday.

“Trauma for having lived under apartheid. Trauma from unemployment so much so that many give up looking for work. The trauma of fear of crime.

“Cry, the beloved country.”

Recent unemployment figures from Stats SA sent shock waves across SA when they revealed that 2.2 million South Africans had lost jobs during the lockdown. Businesses considered non-essential service providers halted operations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Stats SA report said the unemployment rate fell from 30.1% in the first quarter to 23% in the second quarter because many job seekers were unable to actively look for work due to the lockdown. This resulted in many people being categorised as “not economically active.”

Van Damme said she struggles with chronic anxiety, and that she learnt from her therapist that more people were being were being treated for mental illnesses including stress, anxiety and PTSD.

These issues, said Van Damme, are worsened by daily reports about corruption.

“The trauma is exacerbated by the daily reports of corruption. Scandals so big that in other countries, governments would resign. Here, daily, there is a fresh scandal. We have become desensitised, a defence mechanism from the trauma of knowing we are governed by crooks,” she said.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, or the Hawks, recently conducted a string of arrests of business owners, companies and government officials who are being investigated for corruption. These include seven suspects who are implicated in alleged corruption and fraud relating to the 2014 Free State asbestos project.

On gender-based violence (GBV), Van Damme said: “I live in fear of violence, rape, kidnapping. Daily. I carry it with me.”


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