Saturday, 7 August 2004

We all know someone who has been murdered

By Shaun Willcock

This morning’s newspaper carried the story: a 68-year-old white woman, a farmer’s wife, was murdered, her throat slit and her body dumped in the sugar-cane fields. When she didn’t return home, her husband raised the alarm, and they eventually found her body that night in a field.

Yet another gruesome killing, an everyday occurrence now in South Africa. But this time it was different for my wife and I. We knew this woman. My mother knew her very well. One of her sons was in my class at school, all those years ago. Another son was in my wife’s class at the same school.

I spent my high school years in the small town of Wartburg, the centre of a thriving farming community in South Africa’s beautiful “garden province” of KwaZulu-Natal. My wife went to school there too. Wartburg was a beautiful little town. In the seventies, when I was a teenager, it was a wonderfully safe environment for anyone to live in. Children could walk freely in the streets, even at night. The elderly were secure. Those years of my life were carefree ones indeed. We would ramble through the nearby forests, we’d go for bike rides along country roads.Wartburg is still a beautiful little town.

But today, as indeed throughout the entire country, this is a farming community under attack. There have been a number of attacks on farmers, and more than one brutal murder. And now this one. A harmless, elderly lady. Murdered. There is hardly a white person in this country who does not know of someone who has been attacked, raped, or murdered. Often it is a loved one: a family member, a friend. Violent crime has touched us all.

South Africa’s white community is under siege. The government can deny this all it likes, but it is the stark truth. The murder rate is over 70 people per hundred thousand of the population. By contrast, in the United States it is ten per hundred thousand; in the UK it is two per hundred thousand. There are in excess of 27000 murders a year. That is far more than the entire population of the town of Wartburg. In fact, that would be more than the combined populations of more than one little town in that part of our province. So it is as if an entire town, or two or three, were obliterated off the map. Every year.

Since the Marxist-controlled African National Congress of Nelson Mandela came to power ten years ago, over 1200 farmers have been brutally murdered. The police say this is not racially motivated. Yes it is. It is a systematic, deliberate, cold-blooded programme to drive the white farmers off their farms. And yet this year the ANC harps on and on about “Ten Years of Freedom.” Freedom? Who is free in SA today? I could ask another question – was anyone really enslaved prior to the ANC takeover in 1994? – but I’ll pass that one by for the moment.

Who is free today? Are people free to live in peace and safety in their own homes? No; they have to barricade themselves inside their own homes as if they were criminals in a high-security prison, while the real criminals roam freely outside. Are they free to walk around without fear of molestation? No; even fishermen at the beach have to fish in groups, and cyclists are wearing bullet-proof vests, and joggers are being assaulted.

Are they free to defend themselves or their families? No; the new firearms legislation makes it virtually impossible for anyone to obtain a firearm for self-defence, or to use it if it is ever obtained. Are they free to have a family picnic at a city park? No; they are liable to be held up at gunpoint or knifepoint. Where is true freedom, if there is no true freedom of movement, or if one is not free to relax, to let down one’s guard for a moment, even in one’s own home?

Ten Years of Freedom? It would be a joke if it wasn’t so tragic.

And today, another family mourns the loss of a beloved wife and mother. After a decade in power, this is all the ANC can offer the people of South Africa. A country in ruins, an entire nation behind bars.

19 July 2004

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