People who commit racist attacks cause apartheid to again haunt us and again brutalise us, writes Murray Williams.
It was a weekend like most others in many parts of South Africa - extraordinarily violent and perfectly “normal”. And yet most of the news that week was dominated, instead, by another story - that of three young men.
Prosecutor Nathan Johnson told the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court how Delia Adonis, 52, a Manenberg mother-of-six, was attacked in a shopping centre’s parking lot on October 17.
Adonis has since identified three of her five attackers as Chad De Matos, Aaron Mack and Mitchell Turner.
Johnson said: “Adonis witnessed the five leave Tiger Tiger nightclub and beat up another patron. After helping the victim by alerting law enforcement officers, Adonis was attacked by the five men, who also verbally abused her with racial slurs.
“She was kicked on her head and face and could not move. If her son had not intervened, she could have been killed.”
Now some might wonder why a story about an assault makes the headlines, when many suffered far worse.
Gugulethu’s Community Police Forum chairman Ernest Matsolo made precisely this point, even arguing that the murder of a 32-year-old woman should not be “singled out”.
He said Gugulethu was in a “dire, sad state”, with as many as 18 murders in November alone.
So, why the headline dominance around the assault of Delia Adonis? Why is this story the “most-viewed” and “most commented” upon?
The reason is very simple, very powerful and profoundly legitimate.
First, let’s be clear: the three in the dock are innocent until proven guilty.
Second, they still have their say - in keeping with the fundamental principle of fairness, audi alteram partem, “hear the other side too”. And, third, we all know to be extremely circumspect when dealing with “late night events” around parties, bars or nightclubs. Almost always, “another side to the story” emerges.
But if this trio of young men committed a racist attack, they should know why it’s a very big deal.
Racist attacks are so hated by many of us because they remind us of the “bully state” that ruled this land for so long; of a society in which a particular racial group ruled the roost and were “untouchable”, to beat and bully as they pleased, either in person, collectively or as the state.
And it’s not just about the past, but the present. All around our society, the damage of apartheid is still in stark view.
We see it in our racially-divided towns and cities, in the grossly unequal access to crucial resources along racial lines.
Apartheid’s swathe of destruction is in plain sight almost wherever we look. A racist attack represents the worst of what we were as a society, and we funnel our collective anger at such attacks, as apartheid cruelly revisited. People who commit racist attacks cause apartheid to again haunt us, again brutalise us, again shame us - still.
They force into full view again our history of pure evil.