Is SA crime a 'race war'?
Attacks on whites show racial prejudice to be a contributing factor
Rodney Warwick | Cape Argus |
April 05, 2008
Recently an Afrikaans Sunday newspaper published an account of the Pieterse family's trauma nearly two years ago outside Swartruggens in the North-West; an ordeal inflicted by three attackers.
Daleen Pieterse's husband was tortured with a hot kettle, stabbed and finally strangled with shoelaces. She and her 10-year-old son were viciously assaulted with molten plastic; her calf muscle was lacerated, clothes cut off and a knife forced between her legs. Her 3-year-old daughter was threatened with abduction and rape.
As in so many of these crime incidents accompanied by murder, sadism and sexual assault, the assailants were black and the victims white.
As with the Skielik shootings, it is impossible to miss the racial hate component, although such violent white racism is now an exception and mobilises massive media and government condemnation.
But the Pieterse's horror, although mirrored by numerous other occurrences, received just standard press attention, for anti-white "race crime" seldom prompts loud official condemnation.
Although perceptions of black hatred as a crime motive are verbalised among citizens, it is not considered appropriate to publicly dwell upon crime containing a discernibly nasty anti-white dimension.
I argue that it does, and results in serious implications for both the white community and the country's future.
But the white community is hardly the only "cultural" grouping suffering crime. Why then single it out for special study?
A short answer is that history has positioned South African whites in a unique place.
In most cases they are the descendants of colonists who transplanted the infrastructure of the modern state: the economic expertise of the industrial revolution and cultural manifestations that today are taken for granted, from mining, industry and education to newspapers and sports codes.
British and Dutch colonists assumed political mastery during long-past historical circumstances. In those centuries no white colonists operated outside hierarchical concepts of race.
Some historians argue that as a powerful demographic minority, whites chose segregation/apartheid as a radical survival option; an alternative to inevitable post World War 2 political instability and economic meltdown.
Emergent African leaders experimented with socialist alternatives and, in 1960, the PAC, ANC and SACP would not have settled for anything else; African nationalism was uncompromising in expecting whites to immediately relinquish state power.
Congo's collapse precipitated by military mutiny witnessed Belgium settlers being murdered and raped, events profoundly influencing white South African political outlook.
By the mid-1960s Verwoerd enjoyed overwhelming white support for his grand apartheid scheme.
Quantifiable projections of its long-term impracticality were muffled by government clarion calls against internal and external foes.
International isolation occurred while African governments threatened military intervention
By the end of the 1980s increasing civil strife and economic downturn ensured that constitutional change had to occur.
By the mid-1990s whites no longer controlled the state.
The ANC and its allies had shifted their own ideological positions and whites placed their faith in citizenship within a liberal democratic political settlement.
Historical processes which once gave their ancestors advantages, now also ensured that the white minority surrendered their political dominance for non-racial constitutional safeguards.
Their unique position in the crime debate is based upon this historical reality: white South Africans' potential physical vulnerability was implicit within the agreed political settlement, but bequeathing state leadership to the democratically elected majority government, they assumed racial concepts would carry no further statutory significance.
Now the de facto situation is that whites are under criminal siege explicitly because of their "race".
Despite evasion in acknowledging this, enough media reports confirm a shockingly high degree of anti-white violence accompanied by racial insults. How can this be given deeper explanation within current political sociology? What historical explanations might demonstrate where this race-hatred may lead?
I suggest that this "race crime" is a continuation of the chaotic 1980s civil war, only now it is no longer possible to connect it with franchise demands and race policy. It is an anarchistic random pillage, not dissimilar to the late 19th-century pogroms against Jews.
Although without state sanction, anti-white crime suits ANC perfidy of preaching non-racialism but also espousing aggressive "Africanisation" and the demolition of white South African historical identity.
For one result is that numerous whites flee their country.
It would be foolish to assume the white predicament has been unobserved by the swelling black criminal class. Placing their own interpretations upon the dramatically disempowered white community's position, the black criminal collective consciousness understands whites are now "historical fair game".
It is illogical to judgmentally link cultural groupings, let alone individuals, to their forefathers' moral controversies, but the shallowness of popular perceptions unfortunately ensures it is often inevitable.
Although the state opposes crime, it does so with steadily decreasing vigour. And occasionally anti-white venom coils out of black police members - the recently publicised violence by Cape Town Metro police members against white women have many reported equivalents.
British historian Niall Ferguson's recent landmark 20th-century history War of the World contains some chilling implications for racial minorities.
The last 100 years has demonstrated "the fragile edifice of civilisation" can quickly disintegrate under certain stress conditions, such as occurred within countries and empires: Turkish genocide of Armenians (1915); Japanese mass murders of the Chinese; the European Jewish Holocaust (1930s and 1940s), Rwanda and Bosnia (1990s).
These circumstances are particularly related to economic volatility.
While many of the black African community are very poor, there persists a perception, continually reinforced by the ANC and sections of the media, that the entire white community is "rich".
Such simplistic reasoning is easily digested by those bitter or frustrated at their poverty, with hateful attitudes re-emerging as dangerous stereotyping accepted as objective truth.
Ferguson explains: "Ethnic minorities are more likely to be viewed with greater hostility when times are hard."
Such can easily be applied to the cultural and social class kaleidoscope of South Africa with its history of white hegemony. 1994 effectively ended white group control over their destiny, a necessary step to prevent catastrophic civil war and economic collapse; but rather re-building a state based upon human rights.
It was a huge leap of faith for whites, but during those days the scenario was not popularly envisaged of the ANC statutorily shoving them aside alongside rampant race-motivated criminality.
Just as German, Turk, Japanese, Serb and Hutu attacked their victims, so now for white South Africans exist the same atrocity beginnings, albeit at a more scattered and disorganised level.
And although simply termed "crime" it easily recalls 1960 Congo. Such is indisputably the experience of numerous white individuals and groupings, right down to Ferguson's observations of how sexual violence accompanied all the above historical genocides. It is a ghastly reality to acknowledge.
The whites are dependent upon a government few of them really trust to provide official law enforcement. They live in suppressed fear, articulating their anxieties and crime accounts within neighbourhood watch system websites and veiled casual conversation.
Opposition politicians are reluctant to publicise conclusions that may compromise advocating a non-racial future where group emphasis for special consideration is not acceptable.
Unless the government ceases its obsession with race and draws all communities into participatory governance, we might have a terrible scenario a generation from now - the real possibility of descending into a hell of racial hatred, violence, dictatorship and economic ruin.
The press can lead the way by encouraging public debate on the extent to which violent crime resembles the beginnings of anti-white pogroms; inviting victims like the Pieterse family to tell their stories.
Rodney Warwick is completing a doctorate in history through UCT, entitled: White South Africa and Defence 1960-1968: Militarisation, Threat Perceptions and Counter Strategies
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