Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Price of Black Life 5

A white South African farmer, Stephanus Cornelius van Aardt (50), killed farm worker Elliot Magabane by viciously beating him with a "knobkerrie (pictured) and the flat side of a spade."

The beating was said to be about an alleged theft of R350 ($50). Magubane died from "extensive brain damage" 36 hours later.

He was 15 years old.

Van Aardt was found guilty of the murder in 2006. He was sentenced to a mere 12 years in prison. He appealed both his conviction and his sentence but the High Court in Grahamstown rejected his appeal.

The court ruled today that Van Aardt had "the requisite intent to kill Magabane, and he could have reasonably seen that his actions would cause the victim's death." Also that he "did not seek medical help for the victim to avoid involving the police."

I have written about white farmers who murder their Black farm workers more times than I want to remember. And sadly, I don't expect that this will be the last time.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has just completed hearings into the plight of Black farm workers who live and work on white farms.

It is interesting to note that the SAHRC draws a structural link between slavery and the present conditions that many farm workers endure on white-owned farms. This link is used to develop the position that the still strange relationship that exists between white farmers and their workers is best described as a system of racialized paternalism.

The SAHRC "concept paper" argues that:

"The plight of farm workers is a complex one and the atypical nature of labour relations on farms is one that has its historical roots in 17th century slavery in South Africa. Numerous studies have shown that those who work on the farm are not only in an employment relationship with the farmer.

Instead, they live together as a ‘community’ but it is a ‘community’ in which the farmer has extensive control over practically every aspect of the farm worker’s life, from his or her work, housing, access to medical facilities, food, electricity, water, education and to the movement and labour of the farm worker’s children and spouse.

Therefore, the struggle on farms was historically not limited to wages and working conditions but to housing, recreation, education, health and the rights of children and spouses living on the farm. Central to the atypical employment relationship on farms is the paternalist discourse that is not only based on the notion of the farm as family but also a discourse based on race."

I think that the SAHRC has aptly described the general lot of farm workers on white farms throughout South Africa. And keep in mind that the majority of farms are owned by whites.

A reporter who sat in on the SAHRC hearings described what s/he saw: It "was like watching a movie. I sat in disbelief, wondering whether the people giving testimony were from another country or another era. The stories seemed surreal."

I don't expect that too many white farmers would agree with the reporter or the SAHRC's assessments. If you read the comments from Alleman on my "The Price of Black Life 4" you will note that white farmers prefer to see themselves as victims of the post-apartheid era.

A pervasive argument is that white farmers are attacked and killed by Blacks on their farms almost daily. This they believe is the 'real' racism on farms.


White farmers are not being attacked by Blacks who harbour a racist agenda. Most of the violence that farmers experience is unfortunately part of the crime reality that all South Africans face.

And inside of this reality, Blacks are more likely to be a victim of criminal violence than whites. In fact, whites make up almost 10% of the population, yet according to the Medical Research Council they account for less than 5% of all murder victims under any circumstance (racialized or not).

This means that being white alone significantly reduces the chances of being murdered in South Africa. In effect, the chance that a white person will be murdered is 50% less than the national average.

This is a statistical reality that must be appreciated when reckless pundits try to inflate hype about Blacks murdering whites.

Furthermore, please don't twist what I am saying here. I am not even trying to suggest that all white farmers abuse, or murder, their workers. Or that the same is true for all other whites.

This is not the point. The point is that too many white farmers still brutalize their workers. And in this regard, not much has changed since the 'end' of apartheid in 1994.

I will leave you with a reader's comment on what the reporter above described. The author is obviously white, and the comment is typical of the denial and vindictiveness that characterizes whiteness in South Africa.

morecats said at Sep 23 2007 11:57AM:

"The moron that wote this piece of garbage is obviously totally out of touch with farming. The life on a farm starts at dawn and ends at sunset as providing food for the nation is a huge endevour. The so-called abuses listed by this bunny hugger like working with toxic chemicals (normal part of farming) sexual abuses (99% perpertrated by farm workers on one another)and other crap spewed by this ignoramus, should be disregarded with the disdain it deserves. Nothing said about farmer intimidation, farm murders and landgrabs as this will not be a great Hollywood movie as it involves abuses against whites. My opinion is that if farm workers are not happy with their circumstances, pick-up-sticks and go to Zimbabwe. There is a great scope of employment opportunities on black owned farms with nothing going on. Get real!!"

And we are not free.


Shus li chu dut nah (Spring Thunder) said...

Well, apartheid only ended 13 years ago, I'm sure the bugs will get worked out soon! Just look at the great and glorious United States of America; it ended racial discrimination in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This act, of course, outlawed segregation in schools and other public places. Uppity n*'s everywhere could start drinking from the same water fountains as whites! Now that's justice.

Admittedly, there are still just a few "bugs" to be worked out of the U.S. as well; like the dangers of DWB, the disparity of health care and life expectancy between whites and others, the overarching mentality that POC's are for the advantage of whites, the confederate flag that is proudly displayed on a Belmont business here in Portland, the skinhead rally coming to Portland, the Jena six, getting beaten in school for dropping a piece of infinitum

Thanks for bringing this sickening situation to light, Ridwan.

Now, where is Funky Friday??????


Ridwan said...

Hey there Shusli. Great comment! You are right sista ... it takes time for racism to refine itself into just kinks.

I just read your post on the child who had her wrist broken by a security cop. She dropped cake on the floor ... a deviant she is no doubt.

(See Shusli's post at:

I am gonna get back on the Funky Fridays after Ramadan ends. I promise ya ;0)

Be well and I can't wait to celebrate with you on the 7th. I was so eager that I had decided the celebration was today!

Luckily your husband set me right. Well he was humane and kind.

He did not slam me to the floor, call me a "nappy-head", break my wrist, fire my moms, and then return to arrest me with the state on his side.

Thanks for writing my sista.