Was it or wasn't it a racial attack? That's the discussion that unfolded on South African social media after City Press reported yesterday that a group of boys from an agricultural high school in the Northern Cape made a video of themselves brutally assaulting a black pupil and raping him with a broom stick.
The video shows six white pupils, wearing only their underpants, attacking the fellow pupil. The assault allegedly took place in the hostel of the school, which is situated in the town of Jan Kempdorp, on the border with the North West.
The four-minute video shows the victim bound by his hands and feet to a steel framed bed. His assailants paint him with a white substance which appears to be the consistency of shaving cream, while a handful of black pupils watch.
At the end of the video, which City Press has seen, the child is clearly raped.
Beeld editor Adriaan Basson kicked off the discussion, questioning whether initiations at school was a bigger factor in the attack, rather than race.
What will @DBE_SA do about the rape of a child in #JanKempdorp during initiation? Time to consider wholesale ban of this backward practice? — Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) February 6, 2015
@MTshwete @tanskeptic @DBE_SA Just watched edited video. Rainbow of kids cheering on the abuse. Doesn't look like racial attack. — Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) February 6, 2015
But others, like DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme and author Eusebius McKaiser, pointed out that the diverse racial make-up of the children watching the attack didn't exclude race as a factor.
@AdriaanBasson I have. Just because kids of other races were watching does not automatically mean, no racism. Racial power dynamics.. — Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) February 6, 2015
@zilevandamme @AdriaanBasson I agree Phumzile. How absurd. Racism REQUIRES several race groups present to be possible.An odd comment Adriaan — Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) February 6, 2015Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete took exception to Basson's comments.
It's not racism, it's just white kids brutally assaulting a black kid, just like Apartheid was just whites defending themselves. — Mayihlome (@MTshwete) February 6, 2015
When you instinctively defend racism, guess what?..........you are racist too — Mayihlome (@MTshwete) February 6, 2015
Others weighed in with some believing race was not a factor while some disagreed:
@pieterlouw @TOMolefe @EsethuHasane I hate to agree with @AdriaanBasson but I think initiation was a bigger factor than race here. — Johan Pienaar (@JohanPienaar) February 6, 2015
@JohanPienaar there's a difference in saying attack wasn't racial, and that 'initiation' was a bigger factor. Adriaan is saying the former. — T. O. (@TOMolefe) February 6, 2015
@TOMolefe That is not how I read it, I also read the mother's comments on race and they seem to back Adriaan up. — Johan Pienaar (@JohanPienaar) February 6, 2015
@pieterlouw @TOMolefe @EsethuHasane @AdriaanBasson If you remove racism the incident would still have occurred according to the mother — Johan Pienaar (@JohanPienaar) February 6, 2015
But for most people reacting to the story, the mere act was horrific and condolences poured in for the family.
@JohanPienaar The fact that this boy was attacked in such a manner is still a bigger problem to me as the motive behind it. Abuse is wrong — Pieter Louw (@pieterlouw) February 6, 2015