Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: Words of care, brutal actions

The government under President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize have been rightfully lauded for their sterling work in trying to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Their rapid and decisive action has stood in stark contrast to the rambling, contradictory messages from the orange buffoon across the Atlantic.

And the South African public must also be commended. For the most part, people have bought into the necessary deprivation of their liberties. But there are scars that run deep and that don’t easily recede, especially not in a time of crisis.

These come to mind when we reported on the case of Collin Khosa, a resident of Alexandra in Johannesburg who was allegedly killed by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Johannesburg metropolitan police department for drinking alcohol in his own yard. His family has gone to court to ask the president what he intends doing about the brutality being meted out by the people with guns authorised to keep “order”.

“They poured beer on top of his head and on his body; one member of the SANDF held his hand behind his back, while the other choked him; slammed him against the cement wall; hit him with the butt of the machine gun; kicked, slapped him, punched him on his face and on his stomach and ribs; and slammed him against the steel gate,” reads the account of Khosa’s death, pieced together by attorneys.

On Thursday afternoon, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula reiterated the government’s condolences to the Khosa family and the residents of Alexandra. She and other ministers offered the mantra of being a “caring government”.

The problem is the disconnect between that language and what else has been said. The kind of language that accommodates the violence meted out on Khosa is easy to find. It’s in the utterances of General Solly Shoke, who has previously said that his troops are not trained to fight crime and when they come in they “skop en donner”. That was ahead of the army’s deployment to the Cape Flats. It’s in Free State mayor Nkosinjani Speelman’s encouragement to soldiers to deal brutally with “boesmans” they find on the streets.

What is not lost on us is that these are exclusively black bodies enduring violence synonymous with the apartheid era, but now meted out under a democratic dispensation by black authorities.

This speaks to a sense of self-loathing, a hatred of self to the extent that the jackboots are unable to see the humanity in the person who is ridiculed through mock drills, kicks and punches, the terror recorded no doubt for the tormentor to entertain and impress similarly inclined friends with.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Pockets of instability in Kenya are underpinned by unequal development

Stability in Kenya hinges on a just, equitable distribution of resources, and a commitment to progress human development for the marginalised

Eastern Cape premier Mabuyane lives large amid province’s poverty

Oscar Mabuyane and MEC Babalo Madikizela allegedly used a portion of state funds for struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s commemoration for their own benefit

Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional

The law was challenged in response to raids in inner Johannesburg seemingly targeting illegal immigrants and the highest court has pronounced itself 10 days before an election in which then mayor Herman Mashaba has campaigned on an anti-foreigner ticket

A blunt Mantashe makes no promises during election campaigning

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe told people in Daveyton to stop expecting handouts from the government
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×