Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend: “Violence and brutality is in the news every day in South Africa.”
Last month, nine South African policemen catapulted our country yet again into the international headlines by dragging taxi driver Mido Macia down the street from behind their van. He was later found dead in his cell. But now I am reading of another horror, that did not make the international headlines. It was not captured on someone’s mobile phone.
Two men died after they were set alight by a mob in the Freedom Park informal settlement near Rustenburg. This is the town now famous for the massacre of 34 mineworkers by police at Lonmin’s Marikana mine on 16th August last year.
“One of the two men was already burnt beyond recognition whilst his counterpart was still in flames with a wooden table placed on top of his dead body [when police arrived],” a police spokesman said.
The story takes me back to the 1980s, when suspected police informers were “necklaced”: tyres doused with petrol put around their bodies and burnt alive. It is easy for one’s mind to leap back to the violence of those times. Dirk Coetzee, the man who started the apartheid government’s police hit squads in 1980 to kill liberation activists, has just died aged 67. He personally murdered seven activists.
Violence and brutality is in the news everyday in South Africa. We are a nation that is in mourning, asking ourselves why this happens. Why are we like this? In the weeks before and after Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius (above) was found dead at his house, reports of other cases, such as gruesome gang rapes, had the country in shock. Then there was the case of the nine policemen videoed dragging the taxi driver down the street. Once again, unbidden, the question has come to haunt us: are we an inherently violent and brutal nation?
Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s wife and a revered international activist, said at the memorial of the taxi driver that “South Africa is an angry nation.” “We are on the precipice of something very dangerous with the potential of not being able to stop the fall,” she said. “The level of anger and aggression [in this country] is rising. This is an expression of deeper trouble from the past…