According to some individuals and groups, there is a genocide against Afrikaners in particular and whites in general in South Africa. A number of websites have been developed to raise people’s ‘awareness’ about such a genocide. Whilst we appreciate that any life lost is a tragedy, we must also be guided by empirical data before arriving at conclusions.
Except for horrendous images posted on these websites, no evidence of a genocide against Afrikaners or white farmers in South Africa has been advanced so far. Neither Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) nor the South African Police Service (SAPS) have made any scientific finding about white genocide.
Is there a case of white genocide in South Africa?
In 2014 AfriForum, an Afrikaner civil group, initiated a process to argue that farm attacks in the country are racially motivated. The group is also one of the organisations leading a charge that there is a white genocide in South Africa. The bases used by these organisations do not make scientific sense, and are often used to raise tensions amongst South Africans.
In the 2016/17 financial year, there were 74 people murdered in farms or smallholdings, and not all of those murdered were white. The argument that the farm attacks are racially motivated is not supported by facts and statistics.
Whilst we need to condemn the acts of violence against any person, including farmers and farm workers of whatever race, our ultimate goal must be to find lasting, rather than temporary, solutions to this issue. In order to find sustainable solutions, we must deal with real problems, and not their symptoms.
In the same period mentioned above, there were 19 016 murders throughout South Africa. Statistically, the murders at farms and smallholdings constituted 0.4% of all murders in the 2016/17 financial year. Even if all the 74 murdered people were whites, the percentage would still be insignificant to suggest a genocide. So the argument of a genocide is not only opportunistic, but also dangerous.
The available data does not point to a genocide, nor intentional attacks on whites simply because they are white. The data from SAPS and Stats SA does, however, point to a very violent society. The available data also shows that a black person in the former township is more likely to be attacked or killed. It is therefore clear that we are dealing with a systemic problem of a violent society which is still reeling from the gruesome consequences of apartheid and colonialism.
Violence as a consequence of apartheid, alcohol abuse and skewed economic relations
According to a Crime Hotspot Analysis study done by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), police stations in former townships recorded most violent crimes, including murders. The police station precincts in townships have experienced high murder rates for more than a decade, and such cycles may be difficult to undo. According to official data, blacks in townships are more likely to be murdered that whites in farms. This factual picture contradicts the racially propelled propaganda advanced by AfriForum and other such organizations.
The creation by the racist apartheid regime of townships was deliberate. The intention was to keep Africans and blacks far away from ‘normal life’, and in social and economic ‘hell holes’. The current spatial and socio-economic patterns of townships bear the scars of our apartheid past. The taverns that mushroom daily, even near schools, are as a result of the bars and shebeens that were constructed to ensure alcohol abuse was the major form of leisure for blacks.
The support by the then regime of gangs was intended to inculcate a culture of violence amongst blacks. It is common knowledge that the involvement of the apartheid regime in the development of gangs still reflect in many of our townships today.
The fact that blacks were dumped into townships, which were without any economic base, and subjected to stringent policies governing their ability to participate in the economy, created places stinking with destitution and poverty. Such poverty incensed the violent nature of the people who grew up in these townships. It is because of these material conditions that we have a present scenario.
Overhaul apartheid make-up and create balanced economic relations
The extent of violent crime in South Africa should be worrying for all of us. Whether it is a baby who is bludgeoned with an axe by his uncle, or a husband stabbed to death by his wife, or a farm worker killed by the farm owner, who claims to have mistook the former for a monkey, crime must be discouraged.
AfriForum and other bodies must stop misleading people. There is no white genocide in South Africa. The high levels of violent crime and murder in South Africa need our utmost attention. Some of our townships are like war zones. Black lives matters, just like white lives. We must make all our areas safe for all South Africans. The skewed economic patterns must be altered, to minimise the risk of crime influenced by poverty and inequality. We all have a responsibility to arrest this situation. We must deal with our violent society, rather than raise unnecessary racial tensions.
- Makhele is an African Marxist and an ANC member in Mangaung, Free State. He writes in his personal capacity.