Kerushun Pillay
Kerushun Pillay

Mvoko mugging video: Racial divisions find life in the comment section

Vuyo Mvoko, an SABC contributing editor, was mugged last night. Did you hear about it? Perhaps you’ve seen the viral video that caught the offenders’ faces. It’s everywhere; on all major local news websites. Maybe, upon seeing it, you feel you have a sympathetic message to share, or maybe you’re just outraged at the frequency of crime in the country.

Well why not go ahead and share your views. It’s what the internet has allowed us to do, after all. Here is one that was posted on the video uploaded by the SABC:

“Hey look – It’s South Africa! Where so Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela sang about killing white people. Where so many white people have been killed since the fall of apartheid that they’re officially on genocide watch. Where a once booming economy has been turned into a corrupt and broken rape capital of the world. Where the standard of living has plummeted since apartheid fell. At least they got rid of evil whitey. Clearly they were the problem here.”

The story here is simple: a man got mugged on the job. It becomes major news because of Mvoko’s status and profile. One hopes that this incident serves as a springboard to fuel inquiry into petty crimes in South Africa and, of course, the quality of the police service, which has surely got to come under intense scrutiny for this case seeing that the culprits have been identified.

So why then has it inspired a social media storm defined by racial divisions, political party polarisations, and aggressive keyboard one-upmanship?


At the time of writing, the top comment on the aforementioned mugging video goes thus: “South Africa right now. The ANC is the cancer killing the country. Other parties must be able to organise an effective platform, with security and corruption fighting at the center [sic]”.

It goes on to say: “[The ANC has been in charge] for the last two decades. If current levels of violence and corruption can’t be attributed to the people who’ve run the country for 21 years, then who’s to blame ?!”

Hang on a minute. How did a video of a mugging warrant such sentiments? The comment appears completely out of place. A mugging is a tragic, if uninteresting, everyday occurrence the world over. While there may very well be a greater regularity in South Africa, a mugging is a fairly unspectacular event, given importance here — where it otherwise would not have — because of the particular offended.

While it could be rightly pointed out that the root causes of petty crimes may lie in social and political issues brought on through the effectiveness of governmental policy and service delivery, these are still hardly appropriate statements to make on this particular story.

The sad truth is that all that major incidents ever seem to do in South Africa is spark a furious back-and-forth made by those who are all-too-eager to defend the group to which they are identified. The comments themselves are usually so clearly prejudiced and agenda-driven that they appear as if the writer had been sitting on them, waiting for an opportunity to air their views.

Another story in the last 24 hours was the desecration of the statue of Cecil Rhodes on the UCT campus. While the debate of politics and race is indeed more appropriate in this instance, it still managed to birth needlessly coarse comments.

News24’s Facebook post of a comment piece on the issue sparked a full-on debate: on one side it was blacks arguing that the gesture was a stand against white supremacy. This was countered by accusations of black idiocy, ANC incompetence, as well as comment-section staple, reverse racism.

Even pieces that aim to provide a balanced look at issues seem to stir. The comments on an analytical piece on the Mail & Guardian about white privilege again featured a very obvious — and furious — black/white divide, indicating that we are still steadfastly clinging onto our particular race with a violent us-and-them mentality.

Critical theories of race and race politics have a firm interest in understanding the embedded practices of race. It implores one to dig deep to see the tensions, prejudices, and implications of being a particular colour.

For South Africa, one does not need anything else but to be vigilant to the obvious. One can choose — as many do — to ignore the gaps in healthcare, education, wealth, access to opportunities. One can dismiss the implicit divisions, prejudices, assumptions, and geographical separations. But if you need convincing of racial tensions in our country, all you need do is wait for the next big story, and take a look at the comment section.

Image – Screengrab

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    • i lagardien

      I don’t usually comment, or even read comments section, but enjoyed this.

    • Paulo Areal

      Its the same as JZ bringing up Jan van Riebeck

    • Tiredof Corruption

      How biased is this article, leaning towards blame of whites for all the racial abuse. So predictable.

    • Bobinatorz

      If i’ve learned anything from reading the comments section, it’s that it’s a waste of time reading the comments section. When people get together in anonymous or semi-anonymous platforms, without the benefit of visual cues, tones of voice, quick clarification or even the realisation that you’re talking to an actual human being, conversations tend to become misunderstood and angry. I don’t believe that what you see online is a reflection of how people would communicate in person.

    • Dr Who

      It was definitely orchestrated and perpetrated by agents of the DA, one of the perps has a blue T-shirt. The agenda? Simple, to paint the SABC into a corner and try sell a good news story about the current state of our nation.

    • VictorMike

      Thanks for bringing up this issue. I am so tired of all the BS that occurs on SA public forums. 2 annoying types of comments constantly occur: 1. “Look what they (blacks) have done to our country since 1994″; 2. “We must not let a white person have any power, because they will bring back apartheid.” My opinion? Gather up both these groups, and ship them to separate islands where they can live out their small minded, idiotic lives.

    • keithbe

      Not just racial tension damnit! Religious, political, gender based, lower/middle/upper class, xenophobic to name but few. Low and behold not limited to SA. Worldwide!

    • Mike

      He does not “blame whites” at all – it’s a very evenly-written article. Anyway, you just proved his point – well done.

    • mia

      Really enjoyed the article and hope that others who write racist comments take note of their stupidity. But then pigs may fly…..

    • Samora Bikwani

      but whites even formalised racism, it was government policy that the majority of them happily voted for. so racism does lean heavily on their side

    • Fogworth Motswafere

      There we go!

    • RSA.MommaCyndi

      I find it strange that a minuscule number of people can make so much noise about nothing. Sure, you get the trolls who take a nasty delight in stirring up dissent but you get a handful (often who do not even live in the country anymore) who really are poisoned through and through. Giving them this much recognition is not helping.

      In some ways, it is possibly a good thing. Obviously some people have issues. The whole ‘rainbow nation’ thing didn’t allow for honest, blunt conversation about the past. The vast majority of us have worked our issues out. It seems that some still need a platform to work theirs out. The comments section is a daft variation of a psychiatry session.

    • Masana Ndinga

      So true! But also very frightening – it scares me that there are people sitting behind the protection of their computer screens thinking such racist, sexist, classist thoughts. A few years ago two UK twitter offenders were sentenced for violent threats of sexual violence, their justification: boredom.