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SA cries foul over old flag

Dylann Roof is pictured in this undated photo taken from his Facebook account in a jacket that bears the flags of apartheid-era South Africa (top) and the former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Dylann Roof is pictured in this undated photo taken from his Facebook account in a jacket that bears the flags of apartheid-era South Africa (top) and the former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Published Jun 21, 2015

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Durban - The FW de Klerk Foundation has strongly condemned the brutal and senseless murder of nine African Americans at a Church in the US this week.

The foundation also lambasted the 21-year-old perpetrator Dylann Roof for using the old apartheid South African flag and a Rhodesian flag in one of his Facebook photos, saying that such an incident should not be associated with our country.

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“It remains to be established why the alleged perpetrator was wearing old South African and Rhodesian flags in one of his Facebook photos. Whatever the reason, he is deeply mistaken if he imagines anyone in South Africa – from across the political spectrum – would have any reaction other than the deepest revulsion to the cold-blooded killing of innocent worshippers,” said the director of the foundation, Dave Steward.

Roof shot and killed the nine African American worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Church after he sat with the churchgoers for more than an hour in their Bible study group.

Steward said the incident was reminiscent of the brutal killing by gunmen of 11 worshippers at St James’s Church in Kenilworth in 1993, and the “white-wolf” Barend Strydom, who shot and killed seven black South Africans at Strijdom Square in Pretoria in 1988.

He said it was a reminder that underlined the importance of combating racism and hatred with all the resources at our disposal wherever it occurred.

Anti-apartheid activist, clinical psychologist and academic Saths Cooper said the US shooter probably had no relation at all to Rhodesia or apartheid South Africa, they just suited his purpose and ideology because they were societies premised on racial superiority.

“This shooter obviously looked into the past (of South Africa and then Rhodesia) for justification of his beliefs. They played into his bigotry and his deep-seated unresolved inferiority and insecurity. Racism is a human deviation of the lowest order, and it is used to find excuses for one’s own pitiful circumstances. You target someone else as being the reason why you have been placed there,” said Cooper.

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He said we often live cheek by jowl in South Africa, but we don’t exhibit these extreme tendencies.

“I’m hoping that something like this will never happen here. Our kids are different from those in America, I believe. They make friends, irrespective of colour. That hope for our future is a massive one. We have come a long way, but those little pockets of racism are still a problem we can’t ignore,” said Cooper.

Other local experts condemned the attack, but are divided about whether such an attack could occur in the new South Africa, with some saying that because racism is still rife, it could be a possibility.

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Mienke Steytler, the spokeswoman for the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), said it was hard to tell if such a racial attack could happen here.

“It seems like the man behind this attack was just a lonely, psychotic boy and that’s why he carried out the attack. Scarily, something like this could happen anywhere in the world because these types of people do exist,” she said.

Steytler also said that recent research conducted by the SAIRR revealed that only 39 percent of people polled believed that race relations were improving in the country.

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“This means that the majority of South Africans still believe that racism is a problem and that our country is not going forward. South Africans face a host of different challenges, which often spark racist fears,” she said.

She said the best way to overcome race issues was through education and changing of policies.

Police ministry spokesman Musa Zondi also condemned the attack, saying there were still serious racial tensions around the world, even in South Africa. He also said that sometimes these incidents were beyond the control of authorities.

“When something like this happens, SAPS relies on the work of our intelligence services to prevent such incidents. In this case, the attack was carried out by one man, which must have been hard to detect. At this point nobody can say what the perpetrator’s intentions were and just because he was seen with an SA flag on his clothing doesn’t mean anything,” said Zondi.

Zondi said that if an incident similar to this were to occur in South Africa, we would have some degree of preparedness with the help of our “sharp” intelligence services.

Sunday Tribune

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