A case of Aggravated Assault & the State of our Nation (Part 2 in the series – Verwoerd, Malan & a Case of Aggravated Assault)

40684047_10156576158143749_5505243098092929024_n

This is the second of three posts detailing incidents within two weeks, which had a dramatic impact on my life. Part 1 was about the book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” and a chapter in it that brings the credibility of one of the book’s authors, Mark Minnie, into question.

Verwoerd, Malan & a case of Aggravated Assault – Part 1 (Malan & the Boys of Bird Island)

In Part 2 I write about a case of aggravated assault on people dear to me and what it says about South Africa as nation still having to fully make peace with itself.

In the very early hours of Wednesday 15 August 2018, I received a call from the daughter of my Stepmother (70 years old), who lives next to them in an apartment in Port Edward, together with my Dad (76 years old). “Oupa and Ouma were attacked, and it does not look good, there is blood everywhere. We are waiting for the ambulance”. We rushed from Durban to Port Shepstone Hospital where I found my dad lying on a stretcher covered in blood. My Stepmother was still in Port Edward waiting for a transfer to Port Shepstone.

It turned out that they were attacked and severely assaulted for two hours by two youngers who barely stole anything of worth. My Dad’s skull was cracked after a severe beating with a rock, his jaw broken in two places, and he suffered a number of stabbed wounds. My Stepmother was similarly assaulted and traumatized.

Immediately following the event I wrote on Facebook that I never thought I would say this, but I hate this country at the Southern tip of Africa with a passion so strong that it scares me. I followed it up the next morning with the following post, wherein I tried to explain my feelings in more detail:

I’m a mess of emotions. After yesterday’s events, I woke up this morning and realized how much healing our country still needs. First of all, it struck me that almost two years ago to the date, my wife was assaulted outside of SARS in Pinetown, by two criminals. I remembered how my laatlammetjie bravely jumped on the back of one of the perpetrators and with her little female hands beaten him off my wife and how I found my wife bleeding in Pinetown’s streets in shock. An event that I have almost forgotten about, but which were pushed back in my consciousness by the shock of yesterday.

BREAKING: Grandmother viciously attacked outside Pinetown SARS

Then I think back to yesterday’s events and ask “God why my elderly father and stepmother? Surely they don’t deserve this?” My stepmother who used to operate a Black private school in Port St Johns until recently, mostly at a loss and using her own meager funding because of her love for children. How she was hurt by two youngsters, who are not much older than those that she now teaches at a different school. A brave Afrikaner woman who, in spite of what happened to her just yesterday, wanted to go back to the school to teach again today, because she did not want to let her mainly Black scholars down.

Then my thoughts drifted to those who so often claim that it’s us older Afrikaners fault that our children behave in an unbecoming manner, as children are not born with any inborn prejudices. I read my children’s and the daughter of my late sister’s heartbreaking messages (see postscripts 1, 2 and 3 for these messages) about their grandfather and yesterday’s events and ask myself, what then do I tell my children about some people who have no respect for human life and dignity? How do I convince them to still stay put and assist to make South Africa work? Then I realize this is a deeply personal matter that political and other social studies professors and analyst can analyze at wit’s end, but that its something that they do not know or understand anything about.

Then my mind jumped to my perhaps unjustified comment on Christi van der Westhuizen’s Facebook post yesterday. It was by coincidence the 1st post on my Facebook timeline that I read just after I saw my Dad bleeding and in shock, in the Port Shepstone hospital. I saw the pain and bitterness in his eyes and her “wink wink” I’m going to talk to my favorite Eusebius McKaiser on the radio this morning about white privilege, was in that moment just too much for me to handle.

Then I think of my earlier interaction with Christi about the Magnus Malan saga and how we all pursue the truth, but from different perspectives. She from a perspective that Apartheid was only evil and bad, me from a perspective that I do understand to an extent why my father and dear late mother supported the NP government at that time, namely the Afrikaner’s quest for a place they could call home and in the light of their parents and grandparents’ trans-generational trauma experienced as a result of the Anglo-Boer war.

Then I think of her wake-up call to me when she said Riaan, but PW Botha, personally called for the police file of the Bird Island case and destroyed the dossier! But just the next day I read that according to policeman Minnie’s then commander, the dossier was only about his investigation of Allen and his ties with Wiley, and then I wonder aloud, but why does the book make it out as if Magnus Malan and another unnamed previous Minister were also under investigation?

But then my thoughts go to the Minnie family and what sorrow and sadness they must experience at this moment after his apparent suicide, compared to my family where loved ones got hurt, but thank God they still live. May they find peace and answers by God’s grace in this difficult time.

Then in my further search for the truth about the Malan case, I came across a contribution from Leopold Scholtz. In it, he writes that emotion is good, but only to a point and that yes, the past must be seen through the glasses of emotion, but always in equilibrium with rationality. Then I wonder whether analysts like Christi are not so overcome by emotions when viewing our troubled past, that they sometimes lose perspective?

Then I came across an article in News24 early this morning, in which Christi correctly explains the context in which the allegations that Magnus Malan is accused of in the book, took place. I read it and realize that we all seek the truth but still judge the past from our own context and perspective. She who sees the 1980s and the dark period in our history from the perspective of that the security forces during this period was only evil. Compared with me, and what I had experienced, given my work in townships at the time, which makes me want to shout out, hokaai Christi – the ANC was not always the angels during this period, their People’s War destroyed the lives of many ordinary black families. And then I wonder if she and my perspectives about the same period of our history could ever be reconciled?

But then luckily I came across another article this morning wherein the former coloured politician Peter Marais, urges that “The Afrikaner has to leave his nonsense.” He writes about what he promised his mother on her deathbed namely “You can fight against injustice, but you do not fight the Boers because your grandfather was a Boer.” The article once again made me realize how interwoven our past and shared history are, black, brown and white. His words leave me with the hope that one-day emotion and rationality will come into full equilibrium and that we will then be able as South Africans to take hands on the path of healing and reconciliation.

(See my previous post that also dealt with our shared history and how it should unite us as a nation – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Death: Time to Rediscover our Common History )

Dad and Tannie, I love you very much and sorry about the hurt and pain of yesterday. Thank you very much for your contribution to our country’s well-being and future for almost 70 years, we will never forget it.”

The whole incident made me reflect deeply on the state of our nation. I’m still very very angry at what happened, and it will take a long time for things to return to normal. My Dad and Stepmother is on the way to recovery but still severely traumatized. Luckily some of those involved has been caught and will stand trial for their evil deeds. One of the main perpetrators is however still on the loose but will hopefully be arrested soon.

The incident also made me think about how crime is viewed and reported in South Africa. A case of criminality like the assault and kidnapping of a man and the act of trying to shove him into a coffin is immediately condemned as a racists incident that receives endless newspaper coverage and condemnation by all. Aggravated assaults on defenseless old people like what happened to my family, and which happens to many other victims of crime on a daily basis, barely register any mention in the mainstream or social media. I can’t but wonder what agendas are at play in the way crime is reported upon in South Africa and how some incidents are immediately seen as having racist undertones, while others with many similarities are not.

I wanted to write some more about the scourge of farm murders after having read Ernst Roet’s book, Kill the Boer. The attack on my Dad took place not on a farm but on the outskirts of Port Edward and in an area surrounded by smallholdings. I decided not to do so in this post, lest I be called out for promoting the notion of a white genocide, when all I would, in fact, have asked for is that the government and police declare farm murders and attacks a priority crime, given the high prevalence thereof.

Below is the few local newspaper reports that covered the incident involving my Dad and Stepmother:

JUST IN: Knife attack leaves Port Edward couple traumatised

Four arrested for attack on Port Edward pensioners

UPDATE: Men arrested for Port Edward pensioner attack to apply for bail

__________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript 1: My eldest daughters Facebook post – “When will SA say ENOUGH is ENOUGH???

During ‘women’s month,’ as well as four days after my grandfather’s 76th birthday, he and his wife were subjected to a brutal and unwarranted attack by two cowardly thugs in Port Edward.

At 3.30am, these two cowards entered a fully-fenced complex, targeted my granddad and tannie (70) and thought it wise to brutally assault two old, defenseless elderly people. My grandfather, who cooperated every step of the way, was stabbed twice, his jaw broken and skull fractured. He is too old to fight back…these cowards only wanted to take his pride from him, nothing else. Tannie, who has dedicated her life to teaching poor, rural children, who will give you the last shirt off her back, also fell victim to these menaces, despite doing exactly as she was told.

When I arrived at the Port Shepstone state hospital, where my granddad was laying in a bed drenched in blood, my heart sank. We arrived in time for morning prayer. A short, black woman walks over to myself and Brendan: ‘Don’t cry dears, he’s in good hands.’ I wish I got her name; I want to thank her personally. Her words comforted me.

Moments later, a nurse puts an open needle on the dirty table. Oupa asks me to lift the backrest of the bed, but I can’t, it’s broken. I then ask for a pillow…’We don’t have pillows here.’

A male nurse walks over…he first sticks a syringe with a clean needle in Oupa; then, I hear my mother’s voice in my head. ‘Don’t you dare put that dirty needle in him,’ I find myself saying.

Poor Oupa was drenched in blood. So I asked for a wet cloth to clean him a little.

As I wiped the blood from his hands, I already said to myself ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! BLEED MY BELOVED COUNTRY, but I will never bleed for you again.

Our government is failing us…not white, black, coloured or Indian, IT IS FAILING ALL OFF US! It protects the rich, the corrupt, the murderers, the thieves, the kidnappers, and rapists. But it fails its vulnerable; women, children, the elderly and frail.

So dear SA, my beloved, beautiful country, when the rubbish of this country is done taking, and when there is nothing or no-one left to take from, remember the day I wrote this…asking you: WHEN WILL ENOUGH BE ENOUGH?!

Hours later, we’re told Oupa has to go for facial reconstructive surgery in Durban, but he will be kept overnight for observation. Two, frail, old people’s lives have been turned upside down because two good-for-nothing cowards wanted a little power trip.

Now, IS THERE ANY COUNTRY OUT THERE THAT HAS SPACE FOR 2 hardworking individuals who would love to give their daughter a fighting chance at a better future?

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…

I can still smell his blood, even after washing my hands and having a shower. I hope I smell it until I leave, so it serves as a constant reminder of why I left SA…Bleed my beloved country.”

Postscript 2: My youngest daughters Facebook post – “I don’t even have words for what two disgusting savages have done to my amazing grandparents.  May your guilt catch up to you and eat you alive. To my family, I love you all.”

Postscript 3: The daughter of my sister’s Facebook post – “I am trying to use my words wisely, I am trying to say what I want to say without prejudice, but I am finding it very difficult, I am so angry, I am so full of hate! How does one human being do this horrible thing to another? What type of person must you be? How could these two barbaric monsters do what they did to two elderly, defenseless, good-hearted people? How do they brutally attack for hours on end and not feel a thing? How am I not supposed to feel hate and anger, how am I supposed to stay true this country that I love, how am I supposed to love and accept. People who know me, know that I have no problems with people of other religions, race, creed ( all this bullshit) that divides us. I think there is a little place under the sun for each of us to live in harmony. But today, today I cannot. My grandfather and his girlfriend were attacked and beaten and tortured by two monsters in the early hours of this morning, and for what? There wasn’t really anything of worth to steal. They went there to inflict pain and suffering. I do not want to share my world with monsters like these. And most importantly I do not want my children exposed to this sickness. Angry and hate are actually not strong enough words for what I feel. I am scaring myself because I am feeling vengeful, I wish I could hurt this low life’s like they hurt my grandparents. I am sad that it has come to this. Cry the beloved country.”

White privilege – an alternative point of view

The topic of white privilege has become a heated one with many people arguing that its a reality in today’s society whereas just as many others are arguing that its a myth. Given South Africa’s troubled past and recent incidents of naked racism this debate is especially topical at the moment.

Sara Gon of the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) wrote about the myth of white privilege and argues that whilst whites were privileged under apartheid the answer thereto it is not black privilege but rather access to advantage:

“A privilege is a special right or advantage granted or available only to a particular person or group.

Whites were a privileged group under apartheid. Indisputable. This was the reason for apartheid. Whites gained access to education, job and wealth opportunities that were denied to blacks. This is no myth.

But white privilege as a method of attack and insult is becoming a leit motif in our politics. And white guilt is always on hand.

……….The tone is totalitarian and intolerant. It also implies that black advancement cannot occur without white degradation. Thus blacks remain victims who cannot redeem their own lives without the subjugation of whites.

The ignored truth is that being white under apartheid didn’t automatically lead to success. Whites still had to work hard to realise the benefits of advantage. Most did, some didn’t. Advantage didn’t cause success to just fall into white laps. Hard work and commitment had to be exercised to realise the benefits.

………..It is crucial to understand that once advantaged has been gained, it is seldom lost, whatever your colour.

Blacks are increasingly entering the middle class. They work hard, earn good salaries, buy houses and educate their children. Their children are then poised to take advantage of this background. No group, whatever its colour, is going to see its children regress into poverty.

Succeeding generations usually build on success. The real challenge for South Africa is to increase the size of the middle class.

The Awake SA initiative launched recently argues that white privilege is a reality that needs to be acknowledged. On its website Awake SA define and describe white privilege as follows:

“Society values certain aspects of our identity over others. In its simplest form, privilege means that we experience advantages over other people, as a result of possessing these valued aspects. Privilege normally refers to something that you were born with, rather than something you worked for – an example is society treating males differently to females based purely on their gender.

When we talk about white privilege, we are talking about the perks in life that we experience, that have been denied to others, based on the colour of our skin. This is done unknowingly, not on purpose, and is entrenched in our society as a norm.

Does it mean that you should feel guilty? No, you didn’t ask to be born white.

Does it mean that you’ve had an easy life? No, everyone has their fair share of hardships in life.

To have white privilege simply means that you gained an unearned advantage, in comparison to others. This is not through any fault of your own, but rather, as a result of prejudice and longstanding structures in our society.

White privilege is experienced differently according to class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography and age. For example, a white, middle aged blue collar Afrikaner woman from a rural community may not experience white privilege in the same way as a young, English South African who grew up in Johannesburg. Her passport of white privilege operates in unique ways for her as it does for each holder.

By examining your white privilege, you are critically reflecting on the ways that your skin colour has afforded you advantages, and disadvantaged others – even though you didn’t ask for any advantages or earn them.

Only by acknowledging it, learning about it, and speaking about it, are we able to truly make a change to the way we view and interact with each other.”

In response to the above post of Awake SA, I proposed the following alternative view on the thorny issue of white privilege:

Congratulations for launching this initiative. It’s a very important matter that requires due attention. Having said that I do think that the matter could be approached from a different point of view, a view that should not put any reasonable person’s back up, ensure that as many people as possible sign your proposed pledge without any reservation and therefore achieve what you are trying to do with this noble campaign.

It’s human nature, wrongly or rightly, to believe that what we have achieved in life are due to hard work, commitment and perseverance. That’s why it’s difficult to even begin to consider that who we are is perhaps, even in part, because of opportunities that have been denied to others. You yourself acknowledge that it’s not an easy thing to do.

I would however even go further to say that to request a person to consider that what he or she is are not earned but only due to privilege, how well meaning or intended, is inherently unfair. To do so denies that person’s self and dignity as its ‘attacks’ the basis of that person’s being, personal effort and heritage. It also takes away such persons human agency to act in a given environment, to make choices freely about his or her life and future. It limits such persons choices as they are ‘instructed’ to willingly or unwillingly  accept that they are privileged and are therefore required to act in a certain manner.

In addition, whilst I personally don’t deny the existence of white privilege, it’s impossible to quantify the extent of such privilege. Each white person’s circumstances are vastly different which you yourself highlight through the blue collar Afrikaner women versus young English man example. A blanket approach to ascribe white privilege equally to all white persons however does not allow any room whatsoever for such circumstances to be considered. Even if it could it would still be impossible to quantify the extent of privilege of one white person as opposed to another.

Lastly, it would be dishonest to argue that white privilege is the one and only reason that many of our fellow South Africans today are still poor and many more lack access to opportunities. Surely many other factors also played a role one of which is historical considerations such as the developmental gap that existed in Africa even before the European nations scrambled to acquire colonies on the continent. Another is the current governments failure to deliver on its mandate and open up economic opportunities to all.

What do I then propose? That the sting be taken out of the matter by urging South Africans of means, black and white, to acknowledge their privilege as opposed to white privilege per se. No reasonable person that are privileged today, irrespective of the reasons for such privilege, should have any qualms about acknowledging that they are more privileged than many many of our fellow citizens.

It will remove the feeling of quilt and it would then not be seen as an insult or attack on any person’s being, achievements or heritage and not act as a constraint to anybody’s human agency. It will also de-racialize the debate as it would also create room for black South Africans of means to also freely acknowledge their privilege.

I would argue that this approach will get the majority of white people to sign your pledge without delay and to commit themselves to work towards uplifting our fellow citizens (which I do think most white people already do by being loyal taxpayers of national and local government taxes, that are used to build a social welfare safety net for millions of poorer individuals and to provide free water and electricity to just as many poor households).

In conclusion, my suggested approach would also speak at a spiritual level to the hearts of especially older white people, who like me, are still devotedly Christian to act as the Holy Scripture demands in 1 John 3 verse 17:

“17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”