A war no­body can win

CityPress - - Voices -

It was the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and South African high-jump cham­pion Hestrie Cloete was go­ing for gold. A jour­nal­ist went to Cloete’s home town of Coligny, North West, to watch the event with her fam­ily. The jour­nal­ist re­turned with a story about how the fam­ily called then South African Na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Sam Ram­samy a “c**lie”, and would not al­low a black jour­nal­ist into their home to watch Cloete’s at­tempt at gold.

Cloete won sil­ver. This week, her town and its towns­folk came off far worse.

It’s 2017 and the at­ti­tudes that Cloete’s fam­ily dis­played then are still preva­lent to­day in the same small town.

At least three houses in the white part of town were torched, and busi­nesses were dam­aged and looted after two white farm­ers – young men aged 26 and 33 – al­legedly mur­dered a 12-year-old boy they found “tres­pass­ing” in a mealie field. At the time of writ­ing, the child had still not been iden­ti­fied.

A black res­i­dent in Coligny told City Press that the fa­ther of one of the ac­cused, be­fore he died last year, used to al­low peo­ple from a nearby in­for­mal set­tle­ment to look for fire­wood on his land. But now his son doesn’t want to see black peo­ple near his farm.

The child was killed close to a path that is used as a short cut from the shacks to town.

Black res­i­dents of Coligny say racism is an ev­ery­day re­al­ity for them. The k-word is freely used and of­ten heard on sur­round­ing farms. Black peo­ple work­ing at shops in town, they say, are still trained to serve white cus­tomers first.

It should hardly be a sur­prise, then, that the black res­i­dents hit back this week, torch­ing houses and loot­ing shops, and send­ing white res­i­dents flee­ing town into the arms of rel­a­tives who live else­where. After they fled, el­derly black work­ers em­ployed by whites were seen walk­ing out of the town­ship – they had been sent to check on their bosses’ prop­er­ties.

Let this week’s events serve as a warn­ing to racists in towns such as Coligny: black peo­ple are in­creas­ingly un­able to tol­er­ate bla­tant acts of racism by peo­ple who be­lieve their white skin en­ti­tles them to treat other hu­man be­ings as less than hu­man.

Let us work to­gether to erad­i­cate the scourge of racism, and fight it where we find it so that we do not look back on this week as the start of a war that no­body won.

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