A war nobody can win
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.