Michael Francis
Michael Francis

Hate crimes and farming in SA

Eugene Terre’Blanche was a figure of ridicule and disdain for many people. He evoked strong responses of anger and shame for his political beliefs and in death further polarises South African society. I am horrified by the responses that bluntly state good riddance and that he deserved this type of death. I feel for his family and friends that suffered such a loss. And due to the means of the loss they must feel insecure and brutalised by the cruel discussions that justify and excuse the brutality.

He died a horrific brutal death that no person deserves. His death is clearly a hate crime and all the worse for it as it follows in the wake of Malema’s lack of conscience and grace in singing a brutal hate-filled song. Shouts of “kill the boer” may echo with the past struggle against apartheid, but even that echo is tainted with blood.

Kill the boer/ kill the farmer was a sickening call to rise up against civilians that should never be remembered fondly and not repeated as a slogan to challenge contemporary marginalisation. It belongs in a museum with a placard that discusses how humanity must never respond to tyranny with savagery. Such a response damns the future of a nation as the brutal murders all too common across the country attest to.

All crime and murder is horrific, but hate crimes deserve special attention and deserve recognition as such. Farm murders are hate crimes. To deny this is to dismiss the hate-filled language and socialisation that allows such crimes to be committed. Without recognition these crimes will never be properly addressed or understood.

Eugene Terre’Blanche’s death was a hate crime. Even if the initial reports of a wage dispute are true it is still a hate crime. A wage dispute that leads to a savage murder must be premised off of hate. One can dislike the man, hate his politics, but this cannot be used to condone or excuse the brutal death he suffered. His death does not challenge or refute his racial prejudice, but entrenches it among those that share those beliefs. His death further polarises South African society.

I have argued elsewhere that the race debate is a dead end and still believe it is, but there must be a discussion around race that is mature and honest. Too many people deny race conflicts/problems exist in South Africa all the while claiming the very integrity of race groups as a salient way to divide society up.

South Africa needs to find a way to move beyond race. As long as there is race-based categorisation we can expect race-based violence. Poverty obviously needs to be tackled as well, but the politicisation and crass populism that draws on crude notions and understandings of race as the excuse for poverty are intellectually impoverished themselves. We must be able to admit and frankly discuss hate crimes and racial violence. We can also admit there is race-based inequality from the apartheid past, but redrawing the apartheid categories is not a step forward or a viable solution for redress.

The race debate needs to acknowledge real racial tensions and find solutions to them. As things sit now we can expect more hate, more violence and more fear. The way race is used in South Africa it benefits a black middle class and black elite at the expense of poor blacks.

I am not sure I can offer solutions forward right now as leaders of South Africa deny the problems exist and keep on singing songs of death and destruction.

  • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

    While I agree that ET’s grisly killing is unfortunate, it certainly does not rise to the level of a hate crime.
    No matter how much you wish to apply your roommate, Brandon Huntley’s theory, that black criminals are selectively targeting whites it just makes not logical sense.

    The history of employer abuse of farmworkers, the isolation of remote farms and the violent past of ET makes the killing a logical outcome. Your isolation in Canada, precludes you understanding from the realities of SA crime and race relations and articles like yours only serves to polarize our country further.

  • Trisha

    This is probably one of the best commentaries on the brutal murder of Eugene Terreblanche. The rainbow is looking rather fragile at the moment and by acting on this article’s request for dialogue we might have some hope of salvaging it.

  • Belle

    I disagree with your assumption that ET’s killing was a hate crime … wait for the outcome of the court case before passing judgement. Who knows, those lads might have been drunk out of their skulls, or stoned on crystal meth.

    Regarding the current heightened racial tensions I want to remind people that during Apartheid we did NOT hate whites/blacks … in my memory we, black and white together, hated the Nationalist Party. And we despised its supporters, who were a dying breed already by the 1980s .. remember that the re-arranging of voting constituencies during the 1970s was done by the Nats because they realised that the majority whites no longer supported them … which is why a 100 farmers in Venterdorp could elect a single Nat MP while it took a million voters in Cape Town to elect a Prog MP.)

    This outright hatred of whites or blacks is a New Thing. Where does it come from? That is the question.

  • haiwa tigere

    yeah you right its a hate crime.
    Those 2 guys hated NOT getting paid. Thats what you mean right.

    Its plain and simple. ET was ass broke was to lazy to herd his own cattle and sat on his fat backside while he employed someone to look after the cattle for him. He could not even pay the pittance he had promised them. These guys hated it and took the law into their own hands. that is wrong but thats the only hate here.Its this kind of talk from white people that makes blacks realise their bread is buttered at the ANC table. This kind of talk makes Malema a hero all for the wrong reasons- just because he opposes anything white.

    Black people despair at the extent their white folks will go to get their way.They will take the zulu nation and king to court because the Zulus killed a bull in a ceremony enshrined in time. Democracy is OK until it bothers white interests.People vote for polygamy by marrying may wives yet Zuma is made a fool for his marriages. Well he is pretty damn popular too.We keep saying polygamy may be an issue in your culture it is not with us but nobody listens day after day its the same attack attack attack anything african. Africans are no longer listening to you now. you have cried wolf once too often. Carry on with your whining ANC will keep on wining

  • Mich

    Terre’Blanche was not targeted for violence because he was a white farmer and his death was not a “hate crime”. Based on reports, it was a “crime of passion” committed by two disgruntled and most likely desperate people who wanted to be paid for services rendered. You are of course right that no one deserves to die in such a horrific fashion and that such violence should never be celebrated. Not when it is perpetrated against a man such as Terre’Blanche and not when he himself tried to kill others. Of course, given Terre’Blanche’s self-avowed status as a racist, when he was the one rendering the beating, the crime definitely fell under the category of a “hate”…

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/michaelfrancis Michael Francis

    @Dave Harris – As soon as you state”:

    “…makes the killing a logical outcome”.

    This shows your true colours and violent nature. All your talk about a common future for South Africa a lie, your politics are vile violent impulses lacking in humanity.

    I am arguing that there are huge racial problems in South Africa that need to be addressed and unpacked and not papered over. Your model for the future is saddening and horrific in ways you cannot see. It makes me sad for SA.

    And I am not so isolated from SA as I just came back from Durban and will be back in September. I have more ties to SA than you realise or comprehend. And unlike you I spend my time in rural spaces, on farms and in the remote spaces of this sad wonderful country.

  • Froggie

    @Michael

    Good article.

    I dissagree with “Eugene Terre’Blanche’s death was a hate crime. Even if the initial reports of a wage dispute are true it is still a hate crime. A wage dispute that leads to a savage murder must be premised off of hate.”

    The problem is many South Africans believe they can solve every dispute with murder or violence.

    Since 1994, 250 000 murders have taken place in SA, between 1000 and 3000 depending on source were white farmers.

    My domestic arrived at work shocked saying she had just witnessed a murder. One man owed another some money and asked for it several times(both were black). Eventually the one threatened that if the money were not paid by a certain date he would kill the person owning him money. D-day arrived and he calmly walked to the bus stop and stabbed to death the person owning him money, and waited around for the police to arrive and arrest him.

    A white friend of mine got tipped off with a phone call one night to watch his back at the shop he owned as one of the staff he had a dispute with had a stolen gun and was going to shoot him.

    I am from farming stock and can recount more farm murders than anyone would beleive, very often the motive is robbery.

    Yes racial hatred can play a part, but South Africans respect neither life nor the law, that is the real problem.

  • nguni

    Normally I find opinions on SA politics expressed from people living overseas unacceptable, but you have insight into our problems and have achieved a very sensible balance in this blog. Well done!

  • MLH

    If race-based categorisation and poverty were SA’s only problems, I’m sure even the ANC could address them with some merit.

    After last week, I am tired to death of discussing hate crimes and racial violence.

    And surely if race-based categorisation meets a timely death, there will be no need of a race debate?

  • Dave Joubert

    Whilst I concur that employer abuse happens on farms, it also happens in urban industry. Singing the song “…shoot the boer” makes totally no sense whatsoever in our political climate unless someone is wanting people to commit acts of violence against a hated group. From hate crimes against minorities, its an easy step towards genocide, given the right (or wrong?) circumstances. Hopefully South Africa’s very complex and sophisticated system of checks and balances can guard against that. David Harris, wake up and smell the burning tyres.

  • Michael Liermann

    Look, purely by the numbers, if white South Africans were being deliberately targeted for murder by black South Africans, then there would be no whites left alive in the country. It’s just that white South Africans have been fed that bollocks about white supremacy being the only thing preventing Mau Mau-style massacres that, by this point, many of their sphincters clench every time a black person even looks them in the eyes.

    So much as the reactionary right here in SA would like to see this as a hate crime in order to lend some credibility to their tired old apocalyptic visions and Old Testament rhetoric, it’s really not the case.

  • http://Bloghome chris2

    Many bloggers seem to be banging on about race, racial tensions, racism, etc. I believe it is more a question of culture than specifically race. Culture embraces value systems, beliefs and behaviour. Culture is a much better descriptor for conflict than ‘race’, as is evidenced in the Balkans (former Yugoslavia) and closer to home, the ‘xenophobic’ violence. In SA externalities like colour or traditional group definitions like ‘black’, ‘coloured’, ‘indian’ or ‘white’ tend to determine one’s initial expectation of someone’s disposition and behaviour according to some generalised preconceptions. Only by closer interaction are the preconceptions adjusted and can ‘racial’ barriers be bridged and other affinities start to dominate. Close friendships usually occur only beween persons with shared fields of interest, similar value systems and compatible behaviour. Common courtesy is obligatory when dealing with a stranger of any description.

  • Herbert

    Linking an old ANC liberation song to the murder of Eugene Terreblanche seems like a long shot to make political hay for a spent force while the sun shines.
    Crime in our country knows no racial bounds and according to recent figures, published by Nationmaster.com, 0.47 out of 1000 South Africans of all races will become victims of murder by the end of the year. (UK 0.014 in comparison)

    If anyone else than Terreblanche was to have met the maker at the hands of violence last Saturday night he or she would simply and silently have become another notch on the scale of the sad fact above.
    If a culprit needs to be found for this latest act of crime than it would perhaps be more expedient to focus on law enforcement and an effective judicial system which deals ruthlessly with crime.
    A point in case is Eugene Terreblanche’s conviction, some years back, for attempted murder. After serving three of his six year sentence he was released while his victim never fully recovered from this attack and was left with severe brain damage and disabled for life.
    I am trying to put myself in the place of the victim’s father and I wonder if I would feel that justice had been done if my son was at the receiving end of Terreblanche’s brutality.

    Nation building requires many skills one of which is mature leadership on all levels of society.
    Africa is a continent where symbols

  • Clean Air

    In South Africa we have a culture of lawlessness and violence.

    This was justified when apartheid was the order of the day and the enemy, unfortunately the ANC have not been able to change this culture of violence and lawlessness, now it is part of everyday life and dircted at ordinary citizens in the form of violent crime.

    Our leaders have to stamp out this culture in their own political parties and political rhetoric and lead by example.

    My experience as a member of a minority racial group is incredible good-will between races, a bit of irritation here and there due to cultural misunderstandings but I don’t swallow the hate-crime theory, which is harped on by the right wing who will promote any conspiracy theory to fit their distorted world view.

  • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

    @Michael Francis
    “All your talk about a common future for South Africa a lie, your politics are vile violent impulses lacking in humanity”
    And all I hear from you is hype about white farmers being persecuted by black criminals! What about the crime that affects black farm workers on a daily basis? Have you EVER raised your voice against this?

    Just like your roommate Brandon Huntley, your belief that blacks are persecuting whites shows how alien South African culture is to you. If I were you, I’d stick to solving the racial problems in Canada, and help your roommate Brandon Huntley to prepare for his extradition back to SA.

    “unlike you I spend my time in rural spaces, on farms and in the remote spaces”
    You like living on the edge don’t ya eh! LOL

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/michaelfrancis Michael Francis

    @Chris2 – It is a culture issue as racism can be part of culture. I am concerned with growing racial polarisation and hatred as someone remarked above the rainbow is looking fragile.

  • lister

    I live on a farm in SA and find that people shout hatred and race when and where it suits them and its usually from the ones that are racist in nature. We have employed and treated our staff with dignity and respect and in general it has been good. The farm worker abuse issue is something blown totally out of proportion. I am involved in farm ministry and have contact with farm labourers in several areas, it is blown out of proportion by those who wish to fuel racism and polirisation. I wish both sides with their hate mindedness would stop shouting – Stick to facts guys. ET’s death is tragic, just as any human being, hate crime or not. Malema’s cries of kill the boer kill the farmer coincided with visits to Zim – I wonder if any of you hapen to know what has hapened there? based on race too! M also in public said that what hapened in Zim is what is on the cards for SA and at the time of ET’s murder. So why is it so hard to see the fears of white SA citizens – Oh sorry!! when its white theyre crying wolfe!! or being racist!! Theyre not allowed to say anything anymore!! The race issue will not dissapear until race is removed from laws favouring one race above another (Formerly known as racism – but it only when its white on black)