09 December, 2010

Checkered history, conflicted present

This is a hard post to write. It’s going to be hard to understand – especially for those “outside” the complex situation in South Africa. Its more of a report than a reflection… that comes next…

Last Thursday, December 2nd a Free State farmer, his wife and their 3-year old daughter were killed by a group of young men. On the same day on a farm in North West Province a 63-year-old women was killed and her husband badly beaten. Six suspects, including 3 farm workers appeared in Lindley Magistrates Court earlier this week in connection with the Free State farm killings. 

Leader of the Afrikaner nationalist Freedom Front, Pieter Mulder, who is Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries expressed his anger and frustration outside the court, saying “... it is difficult to explain this other than an act of racism.” Reportedly over 3000 white farmers in South Africa have been murdered since 1994 (http://www.farmitracker.com/).

Civil rights group AfriForum, which has specific emphasis on Afrikaans youth, called for the ANC and its youth league leader Julius Malema to take responsibility, because of the continued use of the legally prohibited "Shoot the Boer" slogan. SASCO, a black nationalist student organization responded by calling AfriForum a "group of racist children who are crazy".

Five days after the horrific incidents the ruling African National Congress (ANC) strongly condemned the killings. "Racially blurring issues of crime and justice can only serve to polarize our nation, instead of uniting it," the party spokesperson said. This while the ANC went to court just this week to appeal the banning order against the ‘struggle’ song "Kill the boer".

These latest deadly farm attacks prompted an anonymous, highly emotive and, in many internet Forums, generally ridiculed, call via internet and email for a ‘National day of Remembrance and mourning for the Genocide of Afrikaner farmers” (‘n nasionale dag van rou, en dus ‘n Nasionale Dag van Herinnering In protes teen die Volksmoord van Boere) on Monday 13th December. Businesses were urged to close, and those who declined to take part were labelled as traitors (volksverraaiers) and threatened with protest and boycott actions, and “other appropriate measures.”

The colours of the Rainbow Nation seem to be coming out in the wash.

And next week is South Africa’s national Day of Reconciliation!

The concept and practice of ‘Reconciliation’ presupposes a conflict and offers a way through the conflict. And South African society is no stranger either to conflict or to conflict resolution. More on this next time…

{As a brief but unavoidable aside… December 10th is International Human Rights Day. This day 62 years ago the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. South Africa commemorates Human Rights Day on 21st March.  On that day in 1960 the South African Police (many of them young,  nervous and hyped-up white conscripts) fired upon a peaceful protest in Sharpeville agains the apartheid “Pass Laws”. Sixty nine people were killed and as many as 300 injured. Sharpville Day was commemorated by anti-apartheid activists until it was declared a national holiday by the first  South African government after fully democratic elections in 1994.}.....


  1. And people say countries don't have karma!
    As long as people hold on to the ideas of revenge and unforgiveness, these kinds of things will happen. One sad aspect is that it gives violent thugs and self-interested troublemakers room to forgive their actions on the basis of previous wrongs, even if they themselves have suffered no wrong. In fact, I suspect truly grossly wronged people tend to resist the desire for payback, because they realise just how futile it is in returning what was taken from them, and how innocent people tend to get hurt in the resulting conflict.
    That's not to say that compensation should not be available to people who have been wronged, but it MUST be in accordance with fair, equitable and lawful ideals, not simple tit for tat payback. Solve grievances, don't sow the seeds of new ones.

  2. I agree with the comment "that it gives violent thugs and self-interested troublemakers room to forgive their actions on the basis of previous wrongs" - there is way these killings are justified on the basis of past grievances. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in SA, soon after democracy, brought to light some horrific atrocities, there was huge pain, great grief but more, from the depths of their heart, many people forgave - and it brought healing to us all. How deep this healing and forgiveness is, let's see