Johannesburg - If ever proof was needed that news is a nine-day wonder, then the people of the West Rand, must be thinking that now. There has been a flurry of activity ever since the appalling gang rape of eight women and the attack on their film crew on an abandoned Krugersdorp mine dump.
There has been great footage of the illegal miners, zama-zamas, in handcuffs and leg irons being loaded into police vans. There’s been the usual platitudes and chest beating by politicians and analysis by academics and other sundry talking heads.
None of the underlying causes are new: the old legacy gold mines were taken over years ago by the zama-zamas who literally live in an underworld where the law cannot reach them. Many of them are undocumented foreigners too. Women are raped every day in this country – and in greater numbers, by greater numbers with even more ferocity and cruelty at weekends.
The attack, apparently by 10 armed illegal miners, was a perfect storm; a toxic time bomb that had been primed to explode for months, if not years. The real consequences of the attack; a xenophobic crowd-pleasing swoop by the police on undocumented immigrants has led to the predictable episodes of mob justice on suspected illegal miners.
It won’t be long before someone suspected of being both a foreigner and an illegal miner is stripped, beaten, drenched in petrol and set alight. That’s what happened to Ernesto Nhamuave in Alexandra in 2007.
What has happened in the West Rand is as much a failure of our political leadership as it is of proper policing – and no amount of hand wringing will change that.
The rule of law has to be applied, impartially, consistently and continuously. But for that to happen, there has to be a political will.
Why isn’t there?