Monday, August 27, 2007

The Price of Black Life 4

I started writing here about white South African farmers killing Black folk on and around their farms in mid-January 2007. I simply started by creating the header: The Price of Black Life. Since then I have added a second, a third, and now fourth installment to this tragic discussion.

My first installment began: "In a South African town called Thabazimbi a 39 year old white farmer, Marchel Nel, testified in court that he shot and killed 11-year-old Sello Pete after mistaking him for a dog. "I didn't do it on purpose," was his defense and the court agreed. Nel has just been found guilty of culpable homicide and fined R20 000 or five years in prison."

My second installment began: "Jewell Crossberg (52), a white farmer in Musina (South Africa), shot and killed a Black Zimbabwean national, Jealous Dube (29), on his Limpopo farm in 2004. Crossberg does not deny shooting Dube. Instead, he argues that he mistook Dube for a baboon when he fired."

My third installment began: "I have written here before about white farmers who murder Black people on farms across South Africa ...

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng yesterday handed down sentences to three white men who were found guilty of torturing and murdering a Black man, Welile Motawane, in July 2003. The murderers names are: Ken Broodryk, Frederick Dunn and Schalk Nel. Broodryk was sentenced to 14 years and Dunn and Nell were sentenced to 10 years.

Yep that is right. In the post-apartheid era white farmers can still torture a Black man for hours and leave him for dead without too much of a prison sentence. Obviously, aspiring white murderers need not worry that they will spend more than a decade or so behind bars if they need to kill a Black person. Black life is still very cheap in these terms."

The present post (the fourth) draws heavily on an article written in the Sunday Times by Bongani Mthethwa. Please read the article to capture what the author intended.

What I want to list here is the ongoing racism that has white farmers murdering, and seriously assaulting Black folk. Mthethwa lists the following cases in his article:

(1) When Simphiwe Bophela (above) was just eleven years old she was chased by a farmer in a 4x4 vehicle when he found her collecting firewood on his farm. He chased her and she fell into a veld-fire where she suffered, third-degree burns on her legs, torso, neck and face. A case was filed and statements have been taken but that is about all. The farmer has not been charged;

(2) Bongiwe Xhakaza, was allegedly killed by a farmer while collecting wood; the farmer got off with a R4000 fine;

(3) Jabulisile Danisa from Hlobane was allegedly shot while collecting water, by a farmer who claimed to have mistaken her for a bird. Nothing came of her case;

(4) Piet Zungu from Gluckstadt was allegedly beaten up by farmers and left for dead after being suspected of cattle theft. A case was opened, but never got under way;

(5) Muntu Gumbi, 87, was allegedly kicked so badly by farmers after his cattle grazed on a farmer's land that his bladder ruptured and he lost the ability to speak. He couldn't testify against his attackers and they went unpunished;

(6) Bongani Ndlovu and Thulani Sithole were kidnapped by two white farmers who alledged they had stolen cattle. The farmers, Jan George van der Wath (58) of Goedehoop and Jacobus Johannes Uys, (56) took Ndlovu and Sithole to an army base near Gluckstadt where they were seriously assaulted, and suffocated with plastic bags. Ndlovu later committed suicide, saying in a note that he had done so because he had been punished for a crime he didn't commit. The white magistrate, Johan de Bruin, demanded that the case be heard in Afrikaans, despite the fact that the prosecution explained that the defendants, and others, could not understand Afrikaans. Last month, the magistrate found the two white farmers not guilty.

(7) Last week a Pretoria farmer was arrested for allegedly injecting his employee with medicine meant for pigs after he asked for time off to see a doctor. Farm labourer Rams Madibogo (23) from Atteridgeville, alleged that the farmer's friends had offered him R4000 to drop the case.

(8) A Limpopo farmer, Johan van Niekerk (69) was arrested and charged with the murder of Richard Mkhari, whose decomposed body was found tied to a tree with a rope on Vygeboom farm. He had been missing since he went hunting on the farm and Van Niekerk had been charged with his kidnapping.

Thirteen plus years after the election of Mandela, we are into our second decade of democracy, yet Black life is still close to worthless. There are literally hundreds more of these cases in post-apartheid South Africa.

I have not forgotten Mark Scott-Crossley, the white farmer, who beat and then threw his former Black employee, Nelson Chisale, into a lion's enclosure in 2004. The half-eaten body of Chisale was found and Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2005. Earlier this month, Scott-Crossley asked the the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to review his case and sentence.

I don't have to tell you what I think the SCA should do with his appeal.

There is need for a serious and far-reaching investigation into this human rights atrocity. The South African Human Rights Commission is moving to investigate the conditions that give rise to the kinds of brutality listed above. Public hearings are set to take place on the 18th - 20th September 2007, in Johannesburg.

I hope that the connections to the judicial system and police are not overlooked. Racism in these contexts is still a system of white abuse, and privileges. The majoritarian color of the South African government is merely incidental to that system.

And we are not free.



Tom said...

Horrible stories. We hear almost nothing about it in the media here.

Ridwan said...

"Horrible stories" they are Tom. And you hardly read about them in South Africa.

A point I have threaded throughout my discussion is that white South Africans are hardly taking notice of this ongoing brutality.

A damn shame. Especially when they wank so persistently about crime and corruption all the time.

Of course, crime and corruption are positioned to seem like a Black pathology.


Dione said...

White South Africans are for the most part, very racist ignorant people. The government stays in power by "forgetting" to notice the injustice that happens to black people. Any Democracy that has happened in South Africa is very much like what happened in America when the Civil War ended. Slavery still continued in it's many forms, and today there is still racial inequality.
It is a completely ridiculous excuse to say you thought that black person over there was a bird or what not and shoot at them. The fact that the excuse is allowed is bullshit. The insinuation that the person looked like an animal, that you couldn't tell the difference!, I just feel so bad for anyone not white in South Africa.....

alleman said...

What prevented judge Mokgoatlheng to hand down longer sentences?
How many black people are killed or attacked by white farmers in a year?
How many white farmers are attacked by black people in a year?
I think you will find that the latter outnumber the former by hundreds of times.

And how do we decide with which victims our sympathies lie? How do we decide to write about racist attacks on only one side, and present that as a case of continuing injustice, while ignoring the very existence of ongoing attacks on the other side?

Ridwan said...

Alleman I gave the reason why the sentence by Judge Mokgoatlheng was so lenient. I wrote in the original post: "The judge nontheless found that the murder was not premeditated and he pointed out that the three showed no signs of remorse."

The sentences, based on the evidence collected through sloppy police work, did not amount to first degree murder. It should of. But it did not.

The intent of white farmers to murder Black folks is a longstanding part of settler rationale.

How do you think your ancestors got all the land?

The judge, however, dealt with these legal issues from a "mens rea and actus rea" perspective.

The prosecution could not prove that the white farmers had premeditated the murder.

It is important to note that the judge did comment that the actions of the white farmers were "callous and calculated" and worse, that they showed no "remorse".

Why should they though? Whites killing Blacks in these circumstances is almost a colonial birthright. Remorse is reserved for life that is valued.

We will get a clearer picture of numbers of Blacks that have been killed by white farmers once the SAHR commission tables its invesigation next month.

I suspect you may think you know the numbers already? Will you be providing evidence in Johannesburg.

I know the chairpersons, Jody Kollapen, if you need me to hook you up with giving evidence.

Better still, this is his office administrator's email:

I am sure that all of South Africa will like to know what you claim here.

Hopefully you can do so without just assuming the the white myth that more Blacks kill whites on farms, or in any other circumstance.

If I am to understand some ot the nonsense you are posing here then it would mean that several hundreds of whites are killed by Blacks each year.


This is absolute crap. This is nothing more than white victimization heresy.

Let me say, nonetheless, that whites are attacked and robbed and also killed on farms in South Africa.

And that is a horrible and unacceptable thing in any terms.

But you are way off to claim general white victimization of this kind.

Show us your statistics. And show it outside of the general crime and robbery situation that permeates all lives in SAfrica.

Whites are no more at risk than Blacks of being killed by Blacks in robberies on farms.

What I am talking about here is an historical murder that has linkages to white racism and its under-valueing of Black life today.

It is an absolute shame that you, as a white Afrikaner, can barely bring yourself to acknowledge this brutality. And its persistent proportions.

You are way out of line to come on here and make excuses for these white racist farmers.

The answer to your last question is simple. I decide to write on the side of justice.

The murder of Black people by white farmers is a gross injustice that is hidded in the media.

The contexts of my work is about the hands of colonialism and its continued reach.

In SAfrica the question of truth and justice and land rights are unresolved.

More than 80% of all farm land are owned by whites. And I am not even adding in rest that is controlled by white companies.

Whites make up 4million in a country of 47million people. This number alone is a gross brutality.

A brutality you want to conveniently hide with your flimsy posturing.

White SAfricans in any context, have enslaved and colonized entire populations for centuries in Sfrica.

You may want to forget the framework of murder and oppression that this has created.

I don't.

That is how decide where to write. The case for culpability is clear.

You are in denial Alleman. And that is a major part of why the struggle to liberate SAfrica is not over.


ps. What do you have to say to the families of the people killed by white farmers? How about the little teenage girl that must live with scars from being pushed into a veld fire?

Geez jong, you are treading on some treacherous territory here!

Ridwan said...

I am still so amazed at the level of duplicity and deceit that white SAfricans bring to the debates over race and racism.

Alleman is still being cordial here. You should see some of the stuff that floats around. See YouTube, for example.

Part of the problem is the nature of the transition.

It raises the question of what was reconciled in 1994.

This is a complex question but there are clear indications that most whites hardly expect to be held responsible or accountable, for what happened under apartheid.

And apartheid did not end in 1994. Racism is about structure and white privilege has a strong system to back it up in SAfrica.

Bishop Tutu said a year ago that he was really saddened that most whites have not even tried to confront their role in apartheid.

I would add that some have.

Most though posture a new politics of deracialized fairness in which the past, and its structural presence, is ignored or worse, denied.

Whites in SAfrica should, as Tutu and others have said, thank Black people for letting them slide 13 plus years into the post-apartheid era.

Judging by what most of them think, they are hardly sorry for the suffering they and theirs inflicted.

No different than whites in the US though. The disease of white racism is a global one.

And in SAfrica we will never find true peace until the past is confronted beyond the footmen like Vlok.

Central to all of this is the issue of land repatriation.

Now watch some white person tell me that if whites were removed from the land all of Africans will starve.

Of course. White agency is God in these terms.

But we are not fooled.


alleman said...

(written before I've seen your last comment)
You make a lot of assumptions - I did not attempt to deny the brutality of some farmers or make excuses for them. In a short comment I pointed out that you were one-sided and in denial about the other side. That does not mean I condone any brutal acts by white farmers, but I deny that this is what farmers generally are like as you suggest. I object to the way individual white criminals are being held up as representative of white farmers in general, and to the idea that their crimes should be used as a stick to hit out against white farmers in general. White farmers have no more control over white criminals than black politicians over black criminals.

The statistics of farm attacks are in the public domain - 636 in 2005/'06 (88 people were killed) and 794 in 2006/'07 (86 killed), whereas, as you point out, the statistics of attacks by farmers is unknown. Therefore, my statement that attacks by blacks on white farmers outnumber attacks by white farmers by 'hundreds of times' cannot be supported by any formal statistics - it is merely my impression, and perhaps stating that impression can be seen as one-sided identity politics. But it is hard not to react in that way to your blog which is not a serious attempt to be just and fair minded, but rather a good example of hostile identity politics, where one side is clearly identified as the problem; the enemy even.

This is what I mean:

"The intent of white farmers to murder Black folks is a longstanding part of settler rationale"
"they wank so persistently about crime and corruption all the time"
"How do you think your ancestors got all the land?"
"Whites killing Blacks in these circumstances is almost a colonial birthright"

Ridwan said...

Alleman you are being deceitful. Your entry here is exactly as you intended.

What do you want us to know abuot you when you question how many Blacks are killed by whites versus whites by Blacks?

Am I missing some conversation you may have intended?

And how fair is it for you to condemn my entire blog as not being "serious" or "fair minded" ...

I've read some of yours you know.

Nontheless, your thoughts are welcome here, of course.

But that does not mean that I will not point out that your thinking is flawed, even racist now.

I have provided more than 8 specific examples of white farmers murdering or seriously assaulting Blacks in the last 4 or so years.

You have given some numbers that you claim are in the "public domain." What does than mean?

There are facts of whiteness that defeat my critique of white excess here?

Facts and figures that you arrive at to do what? Prove that the other side of the story is just as worthy of contempt?

You can't be serious.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, that Blacks have done to whites in any context, can be outweighed by colonialism and apartheid.

Nothing, nada, and definitely niks.

And apartheid benefitted you and not me.

Are you telling me that whites do not wank about crime in SA all the time? This even when they are living in Australia, England, or the US?

Are you telling me that whites bought the land they now over-occupy through fair trade?

That the killing of Blacks by whites in apartheid times was mostly overlooked?

What is your thinking here boet? Did you not grow up with a Black woman working for you, invisible?

Or Black people slogging days of labor to build for whiteness?

Only to have their children massacred by whites in Soweto, Galashewe, elsewhere?

What did Black folks gain from the sweat that ran off their backs while the master sat and supervised the building of SAfrica?

You are living with blinders on. Out there are a whole lot of Black folks, many who worked for you and yours, living in squalor even while you still live unflinched.

Still, I know that whites have been attacked, robbed, and killed in the last 13 years. It is a sad reality of life that has no-one has escaped.

Even my frail father is a victim of it ... and he is not white. And yes the Black attackers who called him "father" did not spare him.

The largest percentage of people who are victimized by Black crime are, Blacks. Not whites.

But Blacks do not racialize crime like whites do. Do they?

A study out of UCT found that more white men commit suicide than are killed by Blacks in an average year, since apartheid.

Why you think? Is it just a matter of murder by proxy?

The impression you and many other whites want to build is that whites are victims of Black violence. Predominantly.

You may not just say it outright. But hell, who is being fooled by the game you got going on my blog?

You need to deal closer with the fact that many whites have been involved in gross violations of human rights on farms.

Don't ignore my post entirely. The issue is contexualized in a history you and yours know well.

I am not in denial about anything Alleman. I know what apartheid did to us. It is too close to my body to just forget.

I saw farms in the Northern Cape that were run, still run, like slave plantations.

I know of a specific case on a farm called Killarney, close to Windsorton, where the white farmer paid his workers in tokens and not real money.

Farm workers then used the tokens to buy food from the farm store he ran. Even the children of farm workers were schooled entirely on the farm.

The workers could never leave. They were enslaved and worked long and arduous hours for nothing.

That case included sexual abuse by the farmer, rape by his family members, etc.

It was investigated by the SAHRC.

It all came to a head when one of the sons of the farmer killed a worker in mid-1990.

I also remember a very prominent case of a white farmer who killed a farm worker because he claimed that the worker's "kaffir dog" had impregnated his "white dog."

You know about these? Are they serious enough for you to take a stand?

To look deeper than you are doing here?

When you want to then we can talk. Right now we are on opposite sides for sure.

And my side is not about racist denial. My people never brought yours to SAfrica in chains. My people did not live off of yours for five decades only to have you come here and tell me I victimize all white farmers.

You have no standing here. Your history is one of brutality and bloodshed.

I am far from in-denial about sh*t.

There used to be a saying about white South Africans that would be passed around when we talked of how white people ignore us. Folks would say: "They know nothing about us but we know everything about them. That will be there downfall in the end."

This is a truism. Still. Partly because we live in the path of white excess at all times. Our lives were/are less because whites had to have everything.

And everything through theft and brutality.

Where in that consciousness would you like me to stand?

With whites? Understanding that they are now victims too?

That I should afford you and yours a second chance at humanity because you say so, with arrogance?

Show me your actions. Show me your deeds.

Don't sh*t on what I know and live because you think the past is not to be factored here.

The past is still the present in SAfrica and you know that too well.

White farmers have historically abused Black workers from the time of Jan Van Riebeck.

The high rated of fetal alcohol syndrome is directly tied to the "dop system."

A system that still exists among wine farmers in Stellenbosch and elsewhere.

Paying Blacks/coloureds to work with wine. Shameful hey?

There is a lot more here than you want to admit too.

White South Africans got off easy for what was done to Blacks.

They walked away from centuries of massacres with a handshake from the ANC.

In an another place and time, it would have, should have, been different.


Professor Zero said...

I read this post and thought, OMG, like Brazil! Where these landowners in the hinterlands can get away with virtually anything, partly because they're so isolated, partly because they often have relatives in the govenment / the judiciary or who are in other ways pillars of society, and partly because, well, abolition is still an incomplete project.

It's interesting to talk to Brazilians about that though because the popular view is that since slavery is officially over, since there have never been apartheid-like laws, and since many Brazilians are 'mixed' at least culturally if not also racially, there is no racism ... and yet if you look at institutions and structures it's as plain as day.

Also in the U.S. most people do not have a clear idea of what racism actually is. They think it is prejudice at an individual level. If you tell them it's structural and that they're implicated if they're white even if they aren't prejudiced themselves or rich, they
have a really hard time getting it.

And then I have a *lot* of white friends who do get a lot of it (apparently) but *still* do not understand why Black people are pissed off. And if you say to them, "Because the problem isn't over" and they don't get that, what it means logically is that they really don't get much of it.

Ridwan said...

Professor Zero you raise the level of discussion here. Thank you for the comparative examples.

I teach a class called Racism this Fall. I have taught it before and I know of the demons you speak.

I remember that Anthony W. Marx wrote a compelling book that compares S.Africa, Brazil, and the US, in the terms you reference.

One of the concepts I walked away with was: "Money Whitens."

So if you are rich in Brazil, Marx says that it does not matter if you are not white.

The soccer giant Pele, for example, can transcend his Black skin.

But it is different in the US. Blacks are never exempt from being Black no matter what.

In fact the more money a Black person may have ... the more suspicion is raised.

In S.Africa the situation may be a mix where rich, and politically influential Blacks are concerned.

Yet, the thing that remains the same is the agency, and assumed normativeness, of whiteness.

Whiteness is also in these terms, ahistorical. It is never negative.

So it is 'normal' for Alleman to ask me to be "fair" when he ignores the past and its present weight.

"Fairness" is my duty to the normative agency of whiteness.

In these contexts, many whites act as if the past is to be left in the past.

Apartheid was solved. Mandela said so.

Moving beyond responsibility is functional, and normal.

You will hardly find a white person who will admit to supporting apartheid. They have disappeared.

Some of my white colleagues there go to pains telling how they did their compulsory army service under duress.

The old Nuremberg defense, I followed orders. But I did so knowing that I was not consenting!


Today the issue is further complicated by a country that has, outside of Brazil, the most skewed income of any developing nation.

The distance between whites and Blacks in this regard is simply stunning.

It is important, therefore, to recognize that poverty is a direct outcome of apartheid. And life under poverty is a violent existence. In these terms there is a lot violent crime.

But do Black people wake up in the morning to victimize whites?

The answer is simply no.

When Blacks went to vote in 1994 they left revenge out as a response.

Instead, 43million Blacks and Others voted to have a Government of Unity. And whites were welcomed.

SAfrica did not fall into the bloodbath that many whites said it would.

And there are challenges still. But are they to be racialized?

Blacks suffer most in terms of the incidence of violent crime. This is not to say that we should minimize crimes against whites and others.

What we should not do is to racialize Black crime and then posit whites as the primary victims.

We have come a long way in SAfrica.
And the distance travelled is in no short measure the result of Blacks not taking revenge on whites.


Rent Party said...

It is indeed interesting how *non* vengeful Blacks actually are.

Money whitens, correct, not nearly so easily as in the US, although money does make life easier. I should get the Marx book. I think some people like Sammy Davis Jr. did actually become as beloved by whites as Pele. Pele had 100% name and face recognition and this helps a *lot* to escape racism in Brazil.

I suspect that the "money whitens" myth in Brazil is actually one more of their self-justifications. White people there are always saying it. You can be black colored but turn into an honorary white if you collude enough with whiteness. The idea is built into the sentence - money whitens. You need to WHITEN, you can't be treated decently as a Black.

Pele, for instance, stayed on the right side of the whites by publicly supporting the U.S. backed military regime, dating and socializing white, etc. They would never have loved him so much had he just been a good soccer player and gotten rich. Or if he'd gone up against the government like Muhammad Ali, God forbid.

There was a famous case about ten years ago involving the segregated elevators. (Yes they have segregated elevators, 'social' and 'service', it isn't officially racial segregation but in practice it is since all social visitors in buildings with elevators are white and all service visitors Black, with few exception.) A Black girl went up in the social elevator, or tried to, because she was a social visitor, was supposed to knock at the front not the back door of the flat. She got thrown off the elevator for being black, told to go to the service elevator.

She was able to fight it and it became a big famous case because her father was the state governor (yes, you can be elected governor while Black or Black in color, this is one of the subtleties). They may elect you governor but this does not mean people your color can go up in the social elevator.

So: money whitens to a certain extent, but the whites also have to know you. Each Black person needs personal, individual endorsement and if they are not showing this at all times, things go worse. You need money to get the full endorsement, but you still need the endorsement itself.

In that way it is like being a slave and needing the endorsement of your master to travel around and so on. It is also rather parallel to the endorsement process of non-moneyed Blacks by whites during slavery or Jim Crow or probably right now: I might go in and speak up for my gardener, who has been arrested for stealing apples. People would be ready to hang him but would then say, oh, you know him? (He's yours? you vouch for him?) All right, then. Suddenly stealing apples would not seem so terrible. He'd be OK because a white person - preferably a man, of course, endorsed him.

Of course there are all sorts of exceptions and gradations and subtleties in the Brazil sitaution I'm not going into here. But I think that when you strip the situation down this is the basic structure you've got. Because of Gilberto Freyre's work on racial mixture and national identity in the thirties, it is still *widely* believed that Brazil is more tolerant than the U.S. and so on but that is because it was contrasted to a Jim Crow U.S. by people who were in denial about the
de facto Jim Crow situation in Brazil. We're actually quite similar, or so I find at least.

Ridwan said...

Rent Party this is a compelling comment/analysis. It really strikes a chord for me.

I have been suspicious of the "money whitens" assertion. But there is where I left it.

In the manner that you contextualize it here, it makes greater sense.

I can see that it is not really very different than the US or SAfrica.

Money buys access, even though it is mediated by race, it allows for association with powerful whites.

But I know that such access is tied to conforming. You point to this very clearly.

I think of Michael Jordan in the US, as similar to Pele. Jordan did not take political positions on Blackness.

His image was so compelling that Madison Avenue sold the "I want to be Like Mike" campaign to white America.

Nothing about Jordan threatened whiteness. His money and stature were/are not unsettling.

But the limits were/are clearly known.

In SAfrica "money whitens" in much the same way.

White capital also, however, wants to endorse Black participation in very careful ways.

There are only 4million whites afterall.

So white capital reaches out and chooses aspects of Blackness that do not conflict.

It is more complicated than I am portraying here.

But the Anglonization of Blackness is what I am driving at. Making Blackness compatible with values of whiteness ...

It is a new kind of ownership. Even a novel twist, perhaps, to how "money whitens" in some agreed upon areas.

But it still posits whiteness as desirable, normative, and in these terms, the ultimate gatekeeper of standards and access, for example.

Robert Sobukwe (the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress) used to relate a story of ownership of Blacks from his childhood that has stuck with me.

Sobukwe grew up in a rural area in SAfrica and he lived in and around farms owned by white Afrikaners.

He said that at times he would run to open the gates for farmers as they exited/entered their property.

And the farmer would invariably ask him: "whose little kaffir are you?"

Sobukwe would name a white farmer in the area and the farmer would sometimes tell him to go and knock on the backdoor of his house and ask the Black maid to give him tea with sugar.

It was the "sugar" that Sobukwe wanted. It was a treat not found in his impoverished life.

But access to that treat came at the gate (a greater metaphor now). An acceptance that being called the derogatory "kaffir" was part of the 'price' of access.

It may be that Sobukwe chose to live in contrast to this arrangement, because of his childhood experience at the gate.

But I think that what you are driving at is most important to note, there is definitive price to pay beyond 'money'.

So "money whitens", maybe, but money is not all that is at stake.

Rent Party thank you for making me think this morning. I am grateful.

Peace and struggle,