By Peter Harris
Published by Random House
ON a normal day, meaning when there are no violent uprisings like xenophobia, around 50 people are murdered in South Africa.
It is also reported that a child goes missing every five hours.
While the United Nations (UN) interregional crime and research institute claims that the violent crimes experienced in South Africa are typical of a developing country, there is more to that narrative.
Poverty and poverty breeds violence.
In the case of Africa, violence has been part of the society for five centuries.
In order to enslave or colonise a particular race, high forms of violence have to be meted out.
Today it is reported that the Congo is one of the most violent places on earth.
What these international ‘watchers’ will not say is that for decades white terrorists like king Leopold II would send his minions to dangle severed body parts of children to the workers in the plantations as ‘motivation’ for good workmanship.
Women were dragged and raped right before the black workers’ eyes if they did not produce enough quantities of rubber.
Hence the violence in the Congo as in many other parts of the ‘developing’ world should be put in its true historical context just like in South Africa.
Many throughout the continent are alarmed and shocked at the violent ‘afro-phobic’ clashes happening in South Africa, but those that know the history of South Africa are not surprised.
Violence is the language most former colonies have known and understand well.
Peter Harris in his book, Birth gives a blow-by-blow account of the countdown to the elections.
Harris is a white South African lawyer who was head of the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
In the book, the author draws attention to the vulnerability that the nation faced as it prepared for the first multi-racial elections.
Harris draws explicit attention and detail to the bloodshed including the lengths both races would go to protect their interests.
“There is talk at the meeting of an uprising of the Afrikaner people, an insurrection that will be supported by massive sections of the defense force and police, making use of weaponry that has been stockpiled for years and in the bush…the fighting generals order intensive training every weekend for all AWB. The stockpiling of weapons, explosives and foodstuffs increases,” writes Harris.
As the part of the IEC, Harris saw first-hand some of the brutal attacks in South Africa, the bomb blasts, mindless massacres and assassinations.
“Two minibuses arrive at the packed taxi rank at the peak of the rush hour in Germiston,” he says.
“The doors open and ten attackers armed with Ak47s emerge.
“The crowd at the taxi rank stampede in panic as the gunmen open fire and mow down the screaming commuters. It is Wednesday September 8 1993.
“Twenty people die and 23 are injured. The gunmen… calmly reloading their magazines when they are empty and opening fire again.”
In another shooting, the men shoot 12 passengers in a taxi and burn them inside the vehicle.
“I drive back along Khumalo Street, turning left into the Thokoza Police Station, wanting to speak to the commander,” Harris writes.
“On the flaxen winter lawn is a row of bodies. I count 18 bodies. The blood has dried on their fatal wounds.”
However, as the citizens fought, maimed and killed each other Nelson Mandela, De Klerk and others were on the negotiating table.
To put this mindless blood-letting into context, the white apartheid government was notorious for gunning down its citizens as well as displacing them from their homelands.
African leaders are known to be jailed for such human rights atrocities but not colonial powers.
After all the violence and the Mandela-De Klerk negotiations, one out of five African households in South Africa have running water while every white household has running water.
One quarter of all African households get less than R300 a month.
Two thirds live below the poverty datum line which is R900 a month while two thirds of white households get more than R2 000 a month.
Two thirds of African children and half of coloured children live in overcrowded houses yet only one out of 100 white children live in overcrowded conditions.
Less than half of African children live in a proper brick house as the rest live in shacks or huts.
On the other hand, most white children live in a brick house.
This is the situation in South Africa today.
In fact in 1995, the Mandela government voted a law in the parliament to pay 6,5 Trillion Rand to white people as compensation to give the land back to black people who were decades earlier thrown in open trucks and dumped on arid land.
From 2012 to 2013, the government used 1,2 Trillion Rand to buy land from whites for 100 000 blacks.
What is disturbing in the book was the writer’s attempt to legitimise the existence of the Afrikaner and the British stock in South Africa.
Throughout the book he makes consistent references to lineage whenever he describes ‘respected’ Boers
“An Afrikaner whose forbearers had arrived in the cape in the late 1700 and whose descendants fought against the British in the Boer war,… a man known for breaking the mould, for placing integrity before allegiance,” writes Harris.
Such language only sanitises the truth about these usurpers and there is no honour in murder.
South Africa today in all its scars is a reflection of decades of brutality.
After all, it was the first country in Africa to be colonised in 1652.