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Farm attacks: through the eyes of a black journalist

   03 November 2017   l   Johnny Masilela    l   Views: 4312   l   18 days ago  


The uptick in violent attacks on often elderly farmers begs the question: how do black people view the whole tragedy?

The answer — or part thereof — is multi-layered and should take into account the nation’s transition from Apartheid into the Mandela era.

Time was when black people were often glued to their TV screens, to watch the African-American Big John Tate, take on Gerrie “Die Boomstraat Bek” Coetzee, in a heavyweight world title boxing match-up.

When Coetzee took one to the jaw and stumbled backwards onto the canvas, the townships and villages roared at the triumph of the black brother (Tate) over the white “oppressor” Coetzee.

This mind-set came down crumbling when, side by side, Mandela and Francois Pienaar lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy, with blacks joining their white compatriots, in celebration over the triumph of the Amabokoboko.

Let there be no doubt the symbolic picture of the smiling Pienaar and Madiba — in a Springbok T-shirt, nogal — changed race-based mistrust for all time.

Suddenly in shebeens, buses and trains, township and village folk spoke with pride about “our” Springboks, police, and also folks who provide food security, “our” Afrikaner farmers.

As recent as a few weeks ago, the cruel attack on Cecil and Pattie Petersen at their farm outside Bela-Bela, attracted the attention not only of Die Pos and sister publication, The Beat, but also the mainstream press such as the Sowetan.

The upwards of 157 views on The Beat’s website following the arrest of the alleged murderers can testify to the kind of anger and concern gripping the townships at the time.

In the Bela-Bela township the black middle-class spoke in hushed tones about how farm attacks could strain race relations in what is generally a serene Waterberg region.

Andrew Laka, the local co-ordinator for the SA Communist Party, said political formations across the spectrum were outraged by the attack, and relieved over the swift arrests.

“Remember, these farmers provide work for the poorest of the poor. Now that the Petersen’s are no more, we all fear for possible job losses,” he said.   

Indeed, there was a collective sigh of relief all-round, after the suspects were rounded up by the police in faraway Kanana, outside Hammanskraal.

  • Johnny Masilela is the editor of sister newspaper The Beat 




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