Date: Fri, May 9, 2008 5:26am
South Africa Bulletin from the headquarters of TAU SA in Pretoria.
The Savagery of South African Crime
Lien Gronum was an energetic and attractive South African woman who moved with her husband to a small farm outside Brits in the North West province of South Africa from their house in suburban West Rand after their children left home. While her husband took some farm workers to town, Mrs. Gronum was attacked, savagely beaten and eventually brutally murdered with a breadknife and a sharp letter-opener by members of her staff. Her husband came upon her body when he returned to the farm an hour or so later.
This is but one example of the spate of vicious murders and attacks which have seared South Africa's rural communities over the past few months.
Farm attacks in South Africa have never been pretty, only last week, Qatar-based TV station Al Jazeera told of what SA farmers are up against. The programme showed graphic photos of the bloodied and dismembered bodies of farmers and their families, photos rarely if ever seen in South Africa's media. What sickens people is the utter brutality and barbarity of the attacks. But then South Africa is part of a savage continent which no public relations patina can really hide.
Underneath it all lurks the Sierra Leone syndrome, like a shark moving through water. Human Rights Watch issued a report in 1999 detailing atrocities committed by black against black during that country's civil war, where RUF rebels slaughtered humans in a manner which stunned the world. Says the report: "The rebel occupation of Freetown was characterized by the systematic and widespread perpetration of all classes of gross human rights abuses against the population. Civilians were gunned down within their houses, rounded up and massacred on the streets, thrown from the upper floors of buildings, used as human shields, and burned alive in cars and buses. They had their limbs hacked off with machetes, eyes gouged out with knives, hands smashed with hammers, and bodies burned with boiling water. Women and girls were systematically sexually abused and children and young people abducted by the hundreds".
Certainly South Africa hasn't reached that point yet, but the savagery endemic to South African crime is making news. Over the past few months, terrible things have happened in our country. A Groblersdal farmer was shot stone dead in his living room while watching television. An Indian woman from Ottosdal was brutally murdered in her home. The assailants were arrested, escaped from police custody and then proceeded to break into farmhouses outside the town, finally killing a farmer by sawing his throat until his head was attached to his body by the skin only. His wife was repeatedly raped and then shot dead.
Another farmer outside Pretoria was attacked by twelve men, his family tied up and brutally assaulted. A recently released parolee murdered a young man of 27 in front of his three year old son in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. An elderly couple on a farm outside Lichtenburg were murdered, he was shot and his wife had her throat cut.
A widow (70) from North West was murdered by a man who had been sentenced to death, then released. Her throat was cut and the murderer raped her dead body.
South Africa's newspapers are replete with crime: old people savagely beaten and killed for a cell phone, a young dancer suffocated and shot in her house. Later the complex's security guard was arrested for the murder. Violent crime stalks our hospitals, doctors and nurses are "working in fear" declared a Sunday newspaper as criminals have declared hospitals "their new hunting ground". The Johannesburg Hospital has effectively been turned into a "fortress", yet a senior doctor was attacked after coming off night shift with a gun to his head in a lift. In the Cape, a recent survey revealed that 30% of general nurses, 22% of midwives and 54% of psychiatric nurses have been seriously assaulted. Young student doctors and nurses have been raped.
Rape is endemic to South Africa - rape has always been a tool of war in Africa, yet South Africa's rape rate is the highest in the world, and we are defined as a peaceful nation. In early April a young woman and her husband attended an Emigration Expo and on the following day the woman was raped while lying next to her six year old son. Her tear-filled face filled the newspapers. Needless to say the family of four cannot wait to leave the land of their birth.
Parents collecting children from school in broad daylight have been robbed and hijacked. A family of four emigrated to America six years ago after the father was shot in the back during a hijacking. Refused a further stay, they were repatriated to South Africa where in early April, they were again hijacked and the wife's brother was shot dead by the hijackers, in front of two small children. The brother's daughter had been killed seven hours before in a motor accident with a taxi.
People are regularly killed in their houses - in Garsfontein, Pretoria, serious crime has increased by 40% over the past year. An eighteen-year-old Pretoria girl was shot five times in her house and left for dead. Paralysed, she is now trying to walk. Security complexes are no longer secure, criminals rent houses within the complex and conduct their operations from the house.
In Craighall Park, Johannesburg, the help of a witch doctor was sought to kill the employer of a domestic who had worked for the house owner for thirteen years. The lady divorcee was killed by deep knife wounds to her head. In Rustenburg in March, a man was given a 20-year sentence for torturing a house owner by burning him with boiling water, cutting open his forehead, garotting him with a shoelace, then assaulting his family, three children, with a knife. The murderer had already committed crimes of assault and robbery and had been out on early release.
In another instance, an elderly Johannesburg man received third degree burns over 60% of his skin when he was tortured for hours with boiling water repeatedly poured over his body. He died ten days later. This month, a man from Knysna in the Western Cape was found guilty of murdering two young women. One was smothered to death in a flower bed and a month later he murdered and raped another girl, and set her car alight. Her burnt body was found near the wreck, raped and covered with assault wounds.
Human Rights Watch
It is interesting that the international organization Human Rights Watch makes no mention of the brutality of these crimes on their website and in their reports, especially the murder and assaults against the commercial farming community of South Africa. According to the Al Jazeera TV programme "No White in the South African Rainbow", South African commercial farmers are the most murdered group outside a war zone. But no special attention is paid either to this phenomenon by the US State Department's "Country Report on Human Rights Practices"
The Human Rights Watch latest report on human rights in South Africa covers HIV abuses, "institutionalized racial inequality", the mistreatment of people at the Johannesburg Methodist Church, sexual violence, abuses in political asylum procedures, the targeting of lesbians for murder, migrants abused by farmers, the non-granting of full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, children threatened by AIDS, the rights of rural schoolchildren, and the lack of basic services for farm workers, especially housing. Nowhere is there anything specific said about the gory murders and assaults on the commercial farming sector in South Africa.
The US State Department's March 2007 Report on Human Rights in South Africa sends out the same message. One lone paragraph in a 45 page report is devoted to farm murders, and these are explained as "motivated by financial gain". There are no descriptions of the killings. But Mr. Mark Scott-Crossley, the man who was convicted of placing a black person's body in a lion enclosure, is called "a white farmer" which he definitely is not. Other white farmers who have been involved in killing people trespassing on their farms are given prominence, but there is nothing to show what is happening to white farmers themselves. Scores of other human rights abuses in South Africa are itemized by the State Department including human trafficking and HIV problems, but the onslaught on the commercial farming sector is missing.
It could be said that the endemic violence is simply a continuation of the violence and the rendering of South Africa as "ungovernable" by the ANC/SACP alliance in the run up to their revolutionary takeover of South Africa. What you reap, you sow.
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