One of the headline-grabbing stories in South Africa right now is the murder trial of Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte in the town of Coligny, in the North West Province. They are accused of killing 16 year-old Motlhomola Mosweu. The men, in their bail application, say that the boy accidentally fell off the back of their bakkie while they were taking him to the police station to reported his alleged theft.
Shenaaz Jamal gives us a brief, yet poignant, insight into the racism and discrimination that still is prevalent in the town, as well as a background to the case. You can read it here
Now, just last weekend, I went to the town of Piketberg for an overnight stay. Now, granted, staying in a town for 1 night barely gives one an insight as to the state of affairs there, and I plan to go back and spend a weekend there. But, driving along the main road and going into the coloured part of town, one cannot help but wonder if towns like these will ever transform into the inclusive society that Mandela and the rest of the authors of our democracy envisioned. And while the discrimination might not be as raw in Piketberg as that in Coligny (although the people I stayed with complained about racism in the customer service at one of the local banks), racism and racial prejudice is unfortunately all too common in small town South Africa.
Couple that with the high unemployment rate, and the shocking levels of abuse (abuse against women, alcohol and drugs being the main sources), and we have a ticking time bomb just about all over the country.
The over-arching question is this; what is the government going to do in order to reverse the legacy of Apartheid in rural South Africa?
My contestation is, that after 23 years of freedom, this government doesn’t have a clue, and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered with it.
The reason for me saying so is that, in my experience of working for a company with a base in a town, as well as the examples above, there are too many instances around the country to highlight the fact that relations between different races have degenerated the further we have gone into democracy. And while there are shining examples of reconciliation and trust-building between farmers and their workers, these are unfortunately overshadowed by the rising rate of farm murders, as well as instances such as the current Coligny murder case. Last year’s Coffin case in Middelburg is another such incident.
Race relations in towns are making the instances of racial discrimination in the urban areas look like a Sunday School picnic, and that is a very worrying trend. Given that the latest buzzword in the halls of power is Radical Economic Transformation, has the government, and especially the president, clearly articulated what it will mean for the inhabitants of towns such as Graaf-Reinet, Ashton, Piketberg and Coligny? Because, if not, they might just be adding fuel to the fire, and cause even greater divides where it is not needed.
Any attempt at nation-building will have to focus on the glaring racial divides in the rural areas, which is a monumental task. However, if we are to be a united nation, then we all must be allowed to air our grievances, and work toward the unity envisaged 23 years ago.
The road is still long…