Trigger Warning: Due to the nature of the topic, this article makes use of descriptions of violence or warfare (including instruments of violence, such as knives or guns), rape and abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual).
Many white Afrikaners in South Africa are convinced they are the victims of an ongoing genocide, perpetuated by black people as a form of revenge for the horrors inflicted upon them during Apartheid and colonialism. This idea is hinged on statistics focused on the number of violent farm attacks.
But these statistics have been so widely debunked; it is unfathomable that it still finds traction in conversations around the world. The former President of Genocide Watch – an international organization that monitors the potential for genocide in countries worldwide – Dr. Gregory Stanton, has himself said that a genocide against Afrikaners is not taking place.
“One of the false uses of Genocide Watch’s model for genocide prediction is the claim by some South Africans, racists in the United States, and a few South African expatriates, that South Africa is undergoing a ‘white genocide’. Genocide Watch has never said ‘white genocide’ is underway in South Africa.”
What is even more mystifying, is that Afrikaners often cite the work of Dr. Stanton when they make their misleading claims of being the victims of ethnic cleansing. This kind of false rhetoric is extremely dangerous, not only because it paints a warped picture of South African domestic affairs, but also because it gives off the impression that black people are ruthless killers when in fact the opposite is true.
Black South Africans have shown a superhuman kindness towards white people in the post-oppression years; indeed an unprecedented capacity for forgiveness. They have never sought vengeance, and have continued to live peacefully amongst their former oppressors who still maintain a lifestyle far beyond what most black people can afford.
Furthermore, claims of white genocide put the country at risk of losing even more investor confidence than it already has. All South Africans are subjected to unnecessarily violent crimes, but statistics show that black people are the most affected by heartless homicides. Countrywide, the recorded murder average currently sits at nearly 34 murders per 100,000 people.
The Republic of South Africa has a very long history of violence. Colonial invasion brought with it the savagery of white supremacist global conquest, and almost immediately resulted in the near total decimation of the San bushmen, a people known as the First Nations. They were hunted like antelope in a genocide committed by white settlers who wanted their hunting lands for agricultural purposes.
Before I get into the myth of white genocide in South Africa, it is necessary to provide a very brief summation of the country’s turbulent history.
Between the first arrival of European settlers in 1652 and the eventual start of Apartheid in 1948, colonialists made their way from the southern Cape into the interior and continually displaced black people and Khoisan, who were the original inhabitants of the soil. Contrary to popular belief amongst white supremacists, the Bantu-speaking people and Khoikhoi nations had been living peacefully, sharing pastoral land and resources for more than 2000 years before 1652. Black females were expert farmers, while males were pastoralists, herding valuable cattle stocks.
In other areas, black people had already been mining mineral resources for hundreds of years, making jewelry, objects, and implements that were extensively traded with seamen on the eastern coast traveling towards India and the East.
This way of life was mercilessly destroyed in a series of wars and skirmishes between the European invaders and the settled black Afrikans to whom the land belonged. The original inhabitants were further displaced and forced into small enclaves of ethnic homelands that eventually became known as Bantustans during Apartheid. These areas covered no more than eight percent of South Africa. The rest now belonged to whites.
Following two devastating civil wars, fought between the British and the Afrikaner people – who lost both of the wars – also known as Boers, the British granted the Boers independence. In 1948, Hendrik Verwoerd declared the start of Apartheid, now remembered as one of the most harrowing periods of human rights abuses in the history of humanity.
As my friend, clinical psychologist Mthetho Tshemese, recently noted in a seminal TEDx presentation, South Africa is collectively suffering from severe psychological trauma. In his words “we have unfinished business.” The cycle of continuous violence has never ceased.
On April 29 of this year, the body of 22-year-old Karabo Mokoena was found abandoned in a field in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg. She had been burnt to death by her ex-boyfriend.
Earlier in 2017, 64-year-old Nicci Simpson was attacked on her farm in the Vaal triangle. She had been cut, stabbed, and holes were drilled into the soles of her feet and her knees while being tortured for six hours.
Thirty-five-year-old Mandisa Mbambo was found in her home, naked, beaten, and with her hands and feet tied up. She had also been raped. Her crime? Mandisa was a black lesbian.
“Don’t be afraid, my darling” are the words 64-year-old Sue Howarth whispered to her partner, 66-year-old Robert Lynn. They had been attacked on their farm, stabbed, burnt with a blowtorch and dumped at the side of a deserted road with plastic bags stuffed down their throats and tied around their heads.
In 2014, Gift Disebo Makau, another black lesbian who lived in Ventersdorp, was found just 70 meters away from her mother’s home. She had been raped and killed by having a hose pipe forced down her throat.
In 2010, Attie Potgieter, 40, his wife Wilna, 36, and their 3-year-old daughter Willemien, were violently tortured and killed during a farm attack. Chillingly, the killers had left a note that was written in Sesotho. Translated, it read: “We have killed them. We are coming back.”
Who can forget the disturbing images of Mozambican immigrant Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, being beaten, stabbed and set alight in Ramaphosa informal settlement on May 18, 2008?
In January of this year, Hannes Kidson, and his wife, Ester Kidson, both 69-years-old, were attacked and killed on their farm in Oortjies. Both of their throats were cut.
Another Mozambican, Emmanuel Sithole, was repeatedly stabbed and battered during a surge of Xenophobic attacks in Alexandra township near Johannesburg. He bled to death in a filthy gutter, a mere 300 feet from a medical center that had been closed because the doctor was also a foreigner.
In 2011, Thulani Mkhentane, a self-proclaimed satanist, killed an elderly couple in Barkly East. David and Rachel de Villiers were stabbed multiple times, Rachel’s eyes were cut out, and the words “666 devil” were smeared on the wall in their blood. They were 86-years-old, and are survived by their 53-year-old differently-abled son.
And then there are those who kill their own families and friends.
Henri van Breda, a young man from Stellenbosch, is currently standing trial, accused of hacking members of his family to death in their home at De Zalze Golf Estate.
When Don Steenkamp was a 17-year-old teenager, he murdered his father, Deon Steenkamp, his mother Christel, and his 14-year-old sister Marthella, whom he had also raped.
Pieter le Roux, from a small town called Vermaaklikheid, repeatedly beat his mother over the head with a spade, but when this failed to kill her, he fetched a crowbar and stabbed her to death. Mrs. Van der Merwe had been very disapproving of Le Roux’s relationship with a black woman.
On August 18, 2008, Morne Harmse walked into his high school and sliced his friend, Jacques Pretorius, to death with a Samurai sword. Harmse also stabbed and injured two other boys and two school gardeners.
Johan Kotze, who was famously dubbed the Modimolle Monster after he had orchestrated the murder of his former brother-in-law, Conrad Bonnette, and the rape of his ex-wife Ina Bonnette.
And of course, who can forget the senseless murder of Reeva Steenkamp?
The killings I have highlighted above are just the tip of the iceberg. On average about 20,000 black people are murdered in South Africa each year. Moreover, according to Lizette Lancaster from the Institute for Security Studies, “Whites are far less likely to be murdered than their black or colored counterparts.” Lancaster also said that in roughly 86.9 percent of murders that are reported the victims are Afrikan, whereas as only 1.8 percent are white.
So where do the rumors of white genocide originate?
Farm attacks and murders. In a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma, penned in February of this year, AfriForum, an NPO that protects the rights of Afrikaners, claimed that at least 6,122 farm attacks and 1,254 farm murders occurred between 1991 and 2001. He also argued that farmers are being killed at a rate of 120/100,000, while in 2014, the rate increased to 132/100,000.
These statistics, which are nearly impossible to calculate, are, however, grossly exaggerated. According to the source of these statistics, Johan Burger, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, the statistic “was never meant to be a scientifically accurate fact, only an estimate to show how serious the situation is.” He also noted that the size of numbers involved “makes this type of calculation at best an indication rather than a scientifically acceptable ratio.”
Gareth Newham, also from the Institute for Security Studies, echoed Burger’s sentiments.
“I do not really know how one could get an accurate estimate of the murder and attack rate on farms given the complexities involved.”
Africa Check, an independent, non-partisan fact-checking organization, used Burger’s calculation method to adjust the farm murder rate according to available census data. Initially, Burger used Stats SA’s 2007 census of commercial agriculture’s estimate of 32,375 farmers to calculate his proposed murder rate of 133/100,000.
However, Africa Check notes that “the 2007 figure of 32,375 full-time farmers is not appropriate to use, as the survey was only conducted on commercial farms registered to pay value-added tax (VAT).” According to the same study, an additional 818,503 farming community members were recorded.
At this population number, “farm murder rate for 2015/16 would be 5.6 murders per 100,000 people living and/or working on farms registered to pay value-added tax.”
In a 2016 survey, Stats SA approximated that 2.3 million households were dependent on farming, including subsistence, smallholding and commercial farming. An estimated 11 million people reside in those households. Thus, using that population figure, “the farm murder rate drops to 0.4 murders per 100,000” in South Africa.
Moreover, what the “white genocide” transmitters neglect to report is that at least 38.4 percent of farm attack victims are Afrikan. A News24 report recently documented an attack on a black farmer, Michael Molefe, his wife Mosima, and their newborn baby. Despite sustaining bullet wounds, the whole family survived. But in a twist that is indicative of South Africa’s ongoing racism, Mr. Molefe notes that the white-owned neighborhood watch, MonitorNet, “initially thought [he] was one of the suspects.”
As reported in The Daily Maverick, secretary general of the African Farmers Association of South Africa, Aggrey Mahanjana, says “farm attacks are not a major preoccupation” for its mainly black members.
“We take it as normal crime, like any other crime in the republic. We as black farmers regard the issue as serious, but we cannot single it out as if it must be given special attention. For us, bigger daily issues are stock theft, vandalism of property, people removing irrigation systems from our farms…”
However, Mahanjana concedes that farms are “soft targets” due to the extreme isolation, and he is unhappy about police protection becoming ever more scarce in rural areas.
In 2014, Pieter Mulder, leader of Freedom Front Plus made an appeal to the United Nations to provide assistance in addressing and preventing what he claimed amounted to the “genocide” of whites. Mulder recommended that “the UN general secretary initiates a full investigation to pressurize the SA government to immediately implement effective measures to put an end to these atrocities.”
During his plea, Mulder used the inaccurate statistics that were previously discussed. It is despicable that a South African Member of Parliament would travel to the world’s leading international peacekeeping organization seeking help for a pandemic that does not exist.
Why did Mulder not ask the U.N. to address the overall rate of murders, violent crimes, and the inordinately high rape and femicide statistics? I find it abhorrent that Freedom Front Plus and AfriForum, among others, perpetually isolate Afrikaners from the rest of the population to center themselves as victims. Worse still, is that the isolation is justified with what turns out to be blatant lies.
I do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, condone the violent attacks on both black and white farms. I have been repulsed and traumatized while reading about these incidents, and I do not wish such a fate on anybody. There is no doubt that people living in rural areas are under a unique threat due to being vulnerable in homes that are often surrounded by vast stretches of farmlands.
I also fully support the calls from black and white farmers asking the government to increase the amount of police presence in these areas. The attacks must be stopped, at all costs.
However, the right-wing Afrikaans community and the white supremacists abroad must stop referring to this violence as a white genocide. It is simply not true, and working towards a united country requires us to abandon this isolationist victim mentality.
Statistics show that white people overwhelmingly enjoy very high-quality lifestyles in South Africa. We are the economically dominant demographic, and the research shows we still greatly benefit from the structures of Apartheid. Facts are facts.
If any demographic in this country were to legitimately claim a genocide was perpetrated against them, it would be black people. Dr. Gregory Stanton, using his widely criticized “10 Stages” theory, believes that “Genocide is a process that develops in ten stages that are predictable but not inexorable.” Let’s use his theory as a way to determine if genocide was committed against black people in South Africa.
Interestingly, Dr. Stanton says that “Genocidal acts need not kill or cause the death of members of a group.”
Stage one, “Classification,” is represented by a government’s classification of its citizens into an “us and them” paradigm. Here ethnicities, religions, and nationalities place a significant role. White colonial settlers spent 365 years perfecting the art of an “us and them” style of classification. A mere 23 years after the fall of these systems, the lasting legacy of centuries of racial divisions and white on black brutality has not yet healed. In fact, far from it.
Stage two is referred to as “Symbolization.” During this stage, the previously mentioned classifications are assigned symbols, such as a swastika, or the color-coded stars that Jewish people had to wear during the Second World War. According to Dr. Stanton, symbols “do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to dehumanization.”
Countless examples of symbols that led to dehumanization can be located in South Africa’s very recent history. Signs that demarcated areas for “Europeans/Whites Only,” or “Caution: Beware of the Natives” were on full display for more than 50 years.
Stage three is “Discrimination.” Dr. Stanton mentions that a “dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups. The powerless group may not be accorded full civil rights, voting rights, or even citizenship.” One word: Apartheid.
“Dehumanization” is stage four, and in order to be legitimate, requires a dominant group to deny the humanity of a minority. Dr. Stanton says that during this stage, people “are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.” Ala Penny Sparrow’s “monkeys” in 2016, Matthew Theunissen’s “black fucking c*nts” in 2016, and Willem de Klerk’s “twee bobbejane” last month.
City Press journalist, Ndileka Lujabe, provided a summary of the most publicized incidents of dehumanization in South Africa over the last year. Phillip Roodt called black beachgoers “cockroaches” that “stole money to go on holiday.” A High Court judge, Mabel Jansen, said that “rape was part of black men’s culture,” and Sodwana Bay guest house owner Andre Slade told prospective black guests that they “don’t accept blacks” because “you can’t mix an apricot and a peach.”
In November last year, Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa was caught trespassing and was subsequently assaulted and forced into a coffin by white farmers, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson.
Ben Sasonof took to Facebook to make dehumanizing statements about black Durban beachgoers, saying that the beach “must have smelt like the inside of Zuma’s asshole” called Mohammed Jameel Abdulla a “stupid monkey bastard you!” Shortly after that, Vanessa Hartley, a resident in Hout Bay, also took to Facebook to say that black people are “like stupid animals. We should tie them to a rope.”
Only last year, the now infamous Vicky Momberg said that “one kaffir is bad enough,” and that “the kaffirs here in Joburg are terrible. I’m so sick of it.” Ms. Momberg also said black people were “opinionated,” “arrogant,” “useless,” and that the next time she sees a black person “[she] will drive [them] over.” This is not an isolated incident, as many whites would like to believe. Moving in certain white fraternities, where it is considered safe to do so, one hears these sort of utterances frequently.
Some openly call for black people to be murdered.
And the list goes on. A simple social media search of these abhorrent terms brings them all to the surface.
Dr. Stanton’s stage five is “Organization” and stage six is “Polarization.” According to Stanton, genocide is always organized and usually by the state. However, it can also be informally coordinated. As for polarization, well, white South Africans are doing it all the time.
“Preparation” is the seventh stage, and includes plans such as Hitler’s “Final Solution” during World War II. Dr. Stanton says that these schemes are often cloaked in euphemisms, such as “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.” There has been no call for any part of stage seven in South Africa.
Stage eight is when the “Purification” process begins. Here we see the property being expropriated. There has been some land reform, but not nearly enough. Lest we forget the 1913 Natives Land Act, the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936, and the Group Areas Act of 1950, which was amended in 1957 and 1966. The black majority were forced into much smaller areas, far away from the city, while the white minority owned most of the country.
Stage nine on Dr. Stanton’s list is “Extermination,” which happens once the perpetrators “do not believe their victims to be fully human” and usually “results in revenge killings by groups against each other,” and an attempt to “annihilate the group’s existence from history.”
The final stage is “Denial.” White South Africans have never apologized for Apartheid and colonialism. A few feeble and wholly inadequate acknowledgments have been attempted by some whites. However, the historical pain that weighs heavily on the shoulders of black people has never been compassionately and unequivocally recognized.
Now, repeat after me: There is no white genocide taking place. Again. There is no white genocide taking place. Repeat the following phrase in the mirror each morning: Everyone in South Africa is dealing with violent crimes.
I leave you with a quote taken from a crime report by Africa Check.
“The sooner we all understand the reality of crime as it affects all individuals, the better that those living in South Africa will be able to engage with, participate in or lobby for initiatives aimed at addressing the very real problems that do exist, and that affect individuals from every community. Crime touches all of us, irrespective of race.”
[Featured Image by Getty Images]