Cape Argus (South Africa)
April 05, 2008 Saturday
Is SA crime a ‘race war’?
Attacks on whites show prejudice to be a contributing factor, writes
Recently an Afrikaans Sunday newspaper published an account of the
Pieterse family’s trauma nearly two years ago outside Swartruggens in
the North-West; an ordeal inflicted by three attackers.
Daleen Pieterse’s husband was tortured with a hot kettle, stabbed and
finally strangled with shoelaces. She and her 10-year-old son were
viciously assaulted with molten plastic; her calf muscle was
lacerated, clothes cut off and a knife forced between her legs. Her
3-year-old daughter was threatened with abduction and rape.
As in so many of these crime incidents accompanied by murder, sadism
and sexual assault, the assailants were black and the victims white.
As with the Skielik shootings, it is impossible to miss the racial
hate component, although such violent white racism is now an
exception and mobilises massive media and government condemnation.
But the Pieterse’s horror, although mirrored by numerous other
occurrences, received just standard press attention, for anti-white
"race crime" seldom prompts loud official condemnation.
Although perceptions of black hatred as a crime motive are verbalised
among citizens, it is not considered appropriate to publicly dwell
upon crime containing a discernibly nasty anti-white dimension.
I argue that it does, and results in serious implications for both
the white community and the country’s future.
But the white community is hardly the only "cultural" grouping
suffering crime. Why then single it out for special study?
A short answer is that history has positioned South African whites in
a unique place.
In most cases they are the descendants of colonists who transplanted
the infrastructure of the modern state: the economic expertise of the
industrial revolution and cultural manifestations that today are
taken for granted, from mining, industry and education to newspapers
and sports codes.
British and Dutch colonists assumed political mastery during
long-past historical circumstances. In those centuries no white
colonists operated outside hierarchical concepts of race.
Some historians argue that as a powerful demographic minority, whites
chose segregation/apartheid as a radical survival option; an
alternative to inevitable post World War 2 political instability and
Emergent African leaders experimented with socialist alternatives
and, in 1960, the PAC, ANC and SACP would not have settled for
anything else; African nationalism was uncompromising in expecting
whites to immediately relinquish state power.
Congo’s collapse precipitated by military mutiny witnessed Belgium
settlers being murdered and raped, events profoundly influencing
white South African political outlook.
By the mid-1960s Verwoerd enjoyed overwhelming white support for his
grand apartheid scheme.
Quantifiable projections of its long-term impracticality were muffled
by government clarion calls against internal and external foes.
International isolation occurred while African governments threatened
By the end of the 1980s increasing civil strife and economic downturn
ensured that constitutional change had to occur.
By the mid-1990s whites no longer controlled the state.
The ANC and its allies had shifted their own ideological positions
and whites placed their faith in citizenship within a liberal
democratic political settlement.
Historical processes which once gave their ancestors advantages, now
also ensured that the white minority surrendered their political
dominance for non-racial constitutional safeguards.
Their unique position in the crime debate is based upon this
historical reality: white South Africans’ potential physical
vulnerability was implicit within the agreed political settlement,
but bequeathing state leadership to the democratically elected
majority government, they assumed racial concepts would carry no
further statutory significance.
Now the de facto situation is that whites are under criminal siege
explicitly because of their "race".
Despite evasion in acknowledging this, enough media reports confirm a
shockingly high degree of anti-white violence accompanied by racial
insults. How can this be given deeper explanation within current
political sociology? What historical explanations might demonstrate
where this race-hatred may lead?
I suggest that this "race crime" is a continuation of the chaotic
1980s civil war, only now it is no longer possible to connect it with
franchise demands and race policy. It is an anarchistic random
pillage, not dissimilar to the late 19th-century pogroms against
Although without state sanction, anti-white crime suits ANC perfidy
of preaching non-racialism but also espousing aggressive
"Africanisation" and the demolition of white South African historical
For one result is that numerous whites flee their country.
It would be foolish to assume the white predicament has been
unobserved by the swelling black criminal class. Placing their own
interpretations upon the dramatically disempowered white community’s
position, the black criminal collective consciousness understands
whites are now "historical fair game".
It is illogical to judgmentally link cultural groupings, let alone
individuals, to their forefathers’ moral controversies, but the
shallowness of popular perceptions unfortunately ensures it is often
Although the state opposes crime, it does so with steadily decreasing
vigour. And occasionally anti-white venom coils out of black police
members – the recently publicised violence by Cape Town Metro police
members against white women have many reported equivalents.
British historian Niall Ferguson’s recent landmark 20th-century
history War of the World contains some chilling implications for
The last 100 years has demonstrated "the fragile edifice of
civilisation" can quickly disintegrate under certain stress
conditions, such as occurred within countries and empires: Turkish
genocide of Armenians (1915); Japanese mass murders of the Chinese;
the European Jewish Holocaust (1930s and 1940s), Rwanda and Bosnia
These circumstances are particularly related to economic volatility.
While many of the black African community are very poor, there
persists a perception, continually reinforced by the ANC and sections
of the media, that the entire white community is "rich".
Such simplistic reasoning is easily digested by those bitter or
frustrated at their poverty, with hateful attitudes re-emerging as
dangerous stereotyping accepted as objective truth.
Ferguson explains: "Ethnic minorities are more likely to be viewed
with greater hostility when times are hard."
Such can easily be applied to the cultural and social class
kaleidoscope of South Africa with its history of white hegemony. 1994
effectively ended white group control over their destiny, a necessary
step to prevent catastrophic civil war and economic collapse; but
rather re-building a state based upon human rights.
It was a huge leap of faith for whites, but during those days the
scenario was not popularly envisaged of the ANC statutorily shoving
them aside alongside rampant race-motivated criminality.
Just as German, Turk, Japanese, Serb and Hutu attacked their victims,
so now for white South Africans exist the same atrocity beginnings,
albeit at a more scattered and disorganised level.
And although simply termed "crime" it easily recalls 1960 Congo. Such
is indisputably the experience of numerous white individuals and
groupings, right down to Ferguson’s observations of how sexual
violence accompanied all the above historical genocides. It is a
ghastly reality to acknowledge.
The whites are dependent upon a government few of them really trust
to provide official law enforcement. They live in suppressed fear,
articulating their anxieties and crime accounts within neighbourhood
watch system websites and veiled casual conversation.
Opposition politicians are reluctant to publicise conclusions that
may compromise advocating a non-racial future where group emphasis
for special consideration is not acceptable.
Unless the government ceases its obsession with race and draws all
communities into participatory governance, we might have a terrible
scenario a generation from now – the real possibility of descending
into a hell of racial hatred, violence, dictatorship and economic
The press can lead the way by encouraging public debate on the extent
to which violent crime resembles the beginnings of anti-white
pogroms; inviting victims like the Pieterse family to tell their
l Rodney Warwick is completing a doctorate in history through UCT,
entitled: White South Africa and Defence 1960-1968: Militarisation,
Threat Perceptions and Counter Strategies