Another week and yet another racial scandal in South Africa. It all started when popular Afrikaner singer Steve Hofmeyer blamed South African blacks for the brutal murder of a farmer: Attie Potgieter, his wife and their three-year old child. Hofmeyer wrote the following on his Facebook profile, “Blacks (God knows, probably not all of them, but most of those I have observed) feel justified and entitled in everything, from quotas-low matric marks to land-rights brutality. We MUST generalise. Most black people I know are not violent, but they slurp up the propaganda of entitlement. (That’s) exactly what gives killers what they need to justify their brutality. I do not know how the world thinks we should transform, integrate and let go of our prejudices and stay nice, tolerant Christians when blacks shoot a three-year old child in the head. Sorry to emphasise the colour, but I’m struggling to spot the whites who climb over black walls to do that to their children.” These comments by Hofmeyer on his Facebook profile were “liked” by 2070 people (no prizes for guessing the colour of their skin) and he received 791 comments. Elna Strydom’s comment was, “you are spot-on. Then the government says farm murders are not racially motivated. Bullshit, of course they are.” Petro Burzler’s comment was as follows, “have your say Steve, you are our spokesman. It’s time for the racism card to be burnt because it seems it’s the only thing that can be spelt.” As always there was the usual emotive response on my part to these obviously prejudiced statements. I wanted to suggest that maybe Hofmeyer needs to expand his circle of black friends, because I personally know many black people who wouldn’t sanction the murder of anyone, let alone a three-year old child, whether directly or indirectly. I wanted to engage in an intellectual debate about how Hofmeyer’s statement not only lacked cogency, but was clearly invalid as its premise (that black people by virtue of their support for the “propaganda of entitlement”), whatever that means, I hope Hofmeyer himself knows the meaning of that phrase, did not support its conclusion that this gives killers the justification they need to brutally murder an innocent family. I wanted to point out that this was at best an untested hypothesis which therefore could not be accepted as fact. I wanted to point out to Hofmeyer that if he was really serious about “being a nice, tolerant Christian even in the midst of blacks shooting innocent, three-year old white children in the head” then maybe taking Jesus’ injunction to “turn the other cheek” might help. Lastly I also wanted to highlight the fact that Hofmeyer may indeed be struggling to “spot the whites who climb over black walls to do that to their children” but the black majority and I have no struggle whatsoever in seeing a white man who threw a black worker into a lion’s den and watched him getting eaten alive, go scot free after spending only five years in prison for his crime, or seeing a hot-headed young Afrikaner youth go into an informal settlement and shoot a few black people dead all because of the colour of their skin or watching a few Afrikaner youths at the University of the Free State urinate into some food, giving that food to a few, old, unskilled black workers to eat, make a video about it and have a few laughs at the expense of these old women. Upon getting caught and exposed I see the clear silence of the Afrikaans community to this inhumane treatment of poor black workers by these youth and instead all I see is a race-based defence of their behaviour by the Afrikaner community. Finally I want to argue to Hofmeyer that the black majority and I have no struggle whatsoever in remembering the inhumane living conditions that most black workers are subjected to by white farmers and the cold reality that most of these white farmers’ dogs have better living conditions and are treated with more dignity than poor black workers. I want to say all of these things and more to Hofmeyer and his ilk but I realise that this will not take us anywhere. This will not help solve the problem and move us forward as a nation. So as offended as I am by Hofmeyer’s obviously racially biased, untrue, emotive statement I decided to look beyond it and hear the cry of a people. Perhaps the key is not to address this individual issue on its own, but to look beyond the emotion, the untruths, the fabrications, the clear and unjustified bias and generalisation and to hear the genuine concern of a people, the Afrikaner people. A people who are proud, hard-working, who genuinely love South Africa and have a significant role to play in its development. A people who are as authentically African as I and all the other black tribal groups are, who have strengths and weaknesses, unjustified biases and prejudices, fears and concerns just like every other ethnic group. It then dawns on me that perhaps if all of us where able to look beyond the isolated issues and events that invariably bring out our prejudices and our racial biases and we chose to hear the fears and concerns of those who are on the opposite side of the racial divide and to think through how we can address those with immediacy, we would finally find the path to authentic nationhood. Perhaps if we could all do that, we would be able to mourn the murder of a farmer, his wife and their three-year old child for what it genuinely is: the tragic and unnecessary death of human beings who have inherent value to us all by virtue of their humanity, irrespective of what race they belong to. Perhaps if we all were willing to look beyond how offended we are when racial issues arise and to rather see, feel and hear the cry of the other racial group, perhaps then we could become the South Africa of 1994, the country that stood as the envy of the world, the country that gave the world a practical example of reconciliation, of a people willing to go beyond generations of hatred, mistrust, injustice and violence to walk together and build a united, prosperous, world-leading nation.
- So Much For The African Solution!
- Companies and Social Responsibility