Am I the only guy in this country who is fed up with black agony, pain and suffering being reduced to a sideshow?

What is happening here is that black people are increasingly becoming invisible. Where is the outrage?

We should be screaming prejudice, discrimination, unequal treatment and racism when the trial of the State vs Oscar Pretorius gets all the media attention while a similar Thato Kutumela case next door is, largely, ignored.

We have got a black family whose 18-year-old daughter, Zanele Khumalo, was strangled and raped at her Garsfontein parent’s home by her boyfriend, Thato Kutumela.

The attack happened in April 2011. At present the plaintiff is in court arguing for mitigation of sentence after being found guilty last year.

Here is a case of a young, attractive, beautiful model who has been murdered at the hands of her intimate lover and partner. But because the couple is black, it is overlooked and dismissed as one of those things that happen in life. Crimes committed against black people do not grab media headlines in the same way.

The South African Institute of Race Relations research says there are more than 2 500 women who are killed by their lovers. Who are they? Where do they come from? And why is their story not being told? Are they mostly black?

Instead, we have got the media spotlight taking our time and resources to Oscar’s trial with prominent and expensive lawyers fighting it out in court. Why does this court case deserve more attention than the similar one next door? Is it because Oscar is a celebrity and Reeva is a white model? It is time that we asked tough questions of ourselves in this country. We demand equality of treatment.

Am I bringing race into media coverage and national discourse of events in this country? You have got to be kidding. Much as this is about young South African men who kill their girlfriends, there is also the question of race in what happens. I will tell you what I think: black life has become very cheap in this country! Nobody cares for what happens to black people.

You might think I am making a racist statement here, that I don’t like white people. I must make it clear that I do not hate white people. But someone has got to speak up. This is structural racism! I don’t think this country is living up to its ideals of justice and equality for all. Everyone has a right to be respected and treated with dignity.

As a country we seem to have chosen to ignore the agony, pain and suffering of the Khumalo family for no other reason than that they are black. We can respond to this charge by giving all sorts of reasons, including the fact that Oscar is an international sports icon and Reeva is … er, a beautiful and attractive white model.

While we all accept that, nobody will want to accept that this case is about a young white couple while the other one is about a young black couple. They are similar in many ways: Oscar is a male in his twenties and so is Thato. Reeva was an attractive model with a promising future and so was Zanele. And the spotlight is on the white case instead of equal treatment for the people involved irrespective of their colour, race, class or background. That is not what justice for all means.

I will admit one thing: the justice system is working well much as it is too slow in this country. We can be proud of our courts. But we cannot call ourselves a just and equal society when what happens in those courts projects inequality and injustice in how people are treated. We have to demand justice and equality, especially for black people in this country.

I tell everyone who cares to listen that this country does not have a single civil-society organisation whose single-minded purpose and agenda is to fight and oppose racism. Racism is not going to disappear by itself in this society. It demands activism and organisation.

You don’t have to tell me about the Human Rights Commission. That is a statutory body created by the state just like the Public Protector. I am talking about a grassroots-based organisation with highly principled ordinary folks committed to fighting racism in this country. Let us not talk too much about non-racialism or expect colour-blindness in a situation where blacks and whites are not treated the same. It is expecting too much from black people.

Why are the Khumalos in this mess? How did we, for example, end up with Mrs June Steenkamp’s agony, pain and trauma at losing her daughter being shared with the world while the similar experience of Mrs Busi Khumalo is, largely, disregarded? I will tell you what I think: Zanele is not Reeva.

We may not agree on how I see these two cases but we have to put our views out there to debate them. If you do not agree with me, don’t jump into calling me a black racist. We have to demand answers about the structural racism that is still pervasive in our country. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech racism. Mental liberation demands that free speech will not be silenced. Where I come from I was taught that I must tell my truth even if people do not agree with me.

Dear Mrs Khumalo, your daughter is not Reeva! There I said it.



Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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