“Muti murder”, in which human body parts are removed to be used in traditional “medicine”, is increasing in South Africa — but victims’ families complain that the police too often ignore it. . . According to the South African Council of Churches (SACC), there have been 49 ritual killings in one district of Limpopo province alone since the mid-1980s, including that of a seven-year-old boy, Mulweli Nemadandila, whose mutilated body was found in a stream next to his house last month.
Yet, from all of these, there have been only four arrests, and no convictions. [Stephen Bevan, Telegraph, March 26, 2006]
Although there has been a lot of crime ever since the handover to black rule, things are getting worse. Over the past five months, a record 56 police officers have been killed. Even the government concedes that every day there are an average of 51 murders, 150 rapes and 345 armed robberies. Real figures are probably much higher. The two most recent high-profile murders were of prominent Cape Town journalist Megan Herselman, who was shot dead as she left Johannesburg International Airport, and Qatar Airlines manager Clay Pierre-Louis, who was killed for his cell phone, also near the airport. On his website, Mr. Watson says he wants foreign tourists to know “what is happening between the airport and the hotel.” [Basildon Peta, South Africans Seek Tourist Boycott as Crime Rates Soar, Independent (London), July 25, 2006.]
South Africa’s AIDS epidemic — five million of the country’s 45 million people are infected — has prompted a different health crisis: obesity. Nearly one third of the nation’s women are severely overweight. “Regretfully, there is a perception that if a black woman is thin, she might have HIV/AIDS,” says Tessa van der Merwe of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. She also says South Africans cannot exercise outdoors because there is so much violent crime: “It simply isn’t safe to walk around.” Finally, fatness is a traditional sign of prosperity. Miss van der Merwe says that if a South African woman is thin, it suggests “her husband can’t afford to feed her well.” [Siddika Khalique, Obesity Epidemic as South Africans ‘Prove’ They Do Not Have AIDS, Independent (London), Aug. 14, 2006.]
There’s a growing tendency among Mpumalanga school pupils to accuse their teachers of witchcraft and then start a riot or boycott class. Pupils at four schools have rioted in separate incidents since March, said provincial education spokesperson Hlahla Ngwenya on Wednesday. In the incidents, one pupil was killed, while three others were injured and a teacher, who accused a colleague of witchcraft, was dismissed . . . .
The department of local government and housing is drafting new legislation to crack down on witch hunts. Anyone involved in “sniffing out” or persecuting suspected witches will be prosecuted in terms of the proposed Mpumalanga Witchcraft Bill. They would face fines up to R5 000 or prison terms up to five years. The bill will not, however, outlaw witchcraft itself.
South Africa’s constitutional Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion and therefore legalises witchcraft, sorcery, Satanism, and various other controversial beliefs. [News24.com, August 16, 2006]
One million white South Africans — almost a fifth — have left the country in the past ten years. This figure was released last week in a report from the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). Frans Cronjé, who compiled the report, said it was especially crime and affirmative action which had driven a fifth of South Africa’s white population out of the country . . . . The figures for 2005 put the number of white South Africans in the country at 4.3 million, 841 000 fewer than the 5.2 million of 1995. Cronjé predicts that the white population will continue to shrink, and, he said, the situation would have a far-reaching impact on the economy. [Peet van Aardt, Fin24.co.za, September 24, 2006]
The Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer has been attacked and locked in a storeroom by thieves who took cash and jewellery from the 82-year-old novelist at her Johannesburg home. . .
She was fortunate that her refusal to hand over her ring — a present from her late husband — resulted only in her and her servant being locked in a storeroom.
There have been frequent cases where thieves have tortured or killed their victims with hot clothes irons, knives and boiling water in order to get what they wanted — even when their victims have not provoked them by refusing them anything.
There is a grim irony to the attack, for Gordimer’s novels are all focused on the inhumanities of apartheid — with blacks always the victims, not, as in this case, the perpetrators. [RW Johnson, Times, October 29, 2006]
Almost a fifth of South African men have raped a woman at least once in their lives, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) has disclosed in releasing its annual report.
The MRC’s Gender and Health Research Unit interviewed 1 370 men between the ages of 15 and 26 about sexual violence towards women.
About eight percent of respondents reported having been sexually violent towards their intimate partner, while 16.3 percent reported raping a non-partner or participating in some form of gang-rape.
Also noted was an overlap of 44 percent of men raping non-partners and intimate partners. The mean age at which respondents first raped a woman was 17. [Karen Breytenbach, Independent Online, Oct. 24, 2006]
When high school principal Velaphi Mthembu started to get death threats and found himself living in fear of violent skirmishes, he organized a fierce counterattack to protect his students and staff.
Under a zero tolerance policy for criminal behavior, pupils at E.D. Mashabane Secondary School in the poor black township of Evaton near Johannesburg were recruited to expose troublemaking peers.
Undercover police officers were invited to hide in toilet stalls and nab students who had skipped class to puff on marijuana joints, and to arrest pupils who brandished weapons like steel desk legs, broomsticks and knives.
Mthembu even ferried young offenders to the police station in the trunk of his car. . .
About 10 per cent of assaults against children in South Africa happen in schools, with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town reporting 441 incidents between 1991 and 2002 including rape, strangulation and assault with an iron bar.
Countless other cases are believed to go unreported. [Sarah McGregor, Yahoo News, Nov. 13, 2006]
Rapport newspaper writes: “South Africa’s 3-million Afrikaners—all multilingual people with a high standard Western education and a protestant work ethnic—are being forced back into the stone-age by the current ANC-regime’s laws which bars such ‘whites’ from the labour market.
South Africa has about 4,5-m “whites” of whom 3-million are Afrikaners.
Rapport newspaper published an extensive survey this week of the current living conditions of the country’s Afrikaner community—and has found that they have now returned to identical destitution as they had been plunged into shortly after the Anglo-Boer war in 1902 right up to the Great Depression of the 1930s. During those years, the ‘poor white’ problem in South Africa was even highlighted by an international Red Cross report at that time—and international aid funding was made available to try and alleviate the destitution of poor Afrikaners in those years.
Now, the housing crisis for the country’s 1-million destitute, unemployable Afrikaners in fact has again taken on criticial proportions which are worse than their situation during the Great Depression, warns Dr Dawie Theron of the Helping Hand Fund—which is sponsored by Solidarity Trade Union’s membership. [De Wet Potgieter, AfricanCrisis.co.za, September 13, 2007]
South Africa has expropriated its first farm in a land-reform drive aimed at returning land taken from the African majority under apartheid, officials said on Tuesday.
This marks a new phase in the contentious issue in the country, which has faced growing pressure to erase the racially skewed land ownership created by colonial and apartheid laws that denied property rights to most Africans.
At the end of apartheid, most of South Africa’s farmland was still in the hands of a tiny white elite. But until now, the government has been slow to correct that balance, careful not to rattle investor nerves given the chaos that accompanied a similar process in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
The expropriation took effect on January 26, the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights said in a statement.
“The farm was expropriated for the purposes of restoring the property to the claimants as restitution of their land rights in terms of section two of the Restitution Act,” it said.
The farm in the Northern Cape province had belonged to the South African Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has been ordered to sell it for R35,5-million, the commission said. The land was claimed by a local group, including workers on the farm. [Mail & Guardian, Feb. 13, 2007]
Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana announces that:
Land reform remains a constitutional mandate.
Once all the restitution claims have been settled and the redistribution target of 30% has been met, there will still be a need to improve on the ratio of 70% of agricultural land owned by whites and 30% by blacks, until land ownership in the country reflects its demographics in terms of race and gender. . .
If the 30% target is reached by 2014, thereby placing 25 million hectares of land in the hands of black owners, the correct total percentages will be that 43% of land will be owned by black people, while 57% will be in white hands.”
It is furthermore worrying that government’s land reform attempts do not necessarily focus on enhancing the productive capacity of the land. [Citizen Reporter, July 5, 2007]
Two South African women have been burned to death after a group of students accused them of bewitching their high school with evil spirits.
Msaba Zungu and Thabitha Thusi, both 60, were seized from their homes near Manguzi in KwaZulu-Natal province.
Students and adults dragged them to a sports field where they were doused with petrol and set alight on Sunday.
Manhlenga High School pupils accused the women of being witches after they began to suffer strange crying fits. [BBC News, September 5, 2007]
The government has sacked more than 400 teachers in 20 months—and 90 of them were fired for rape and sexual abuse.
A further 418 teachers are on the verge of being fired and have received final written warnings.
Among the shocking statistics to emerge from disciplinary records are:
187 cases of assault and corporal punishment;
183 cases of theft, fraud and mismanagement of school funds;
403 cases of absenteeism, including 90 cases of absconding; and
28 cases of being under the influence of liquor or other drugs.
. . .
Among the dismissals were a Kwa-Zulu-Natal teacher facing a murder charge, and a teacher found guilty of molesting a child.
Two teachers, from special schools in the Western Cape and Mpumalanga, were fired for sexually molesting three mentally disabled pupils.
There were many cases of teachers charged with assaulting colleagues.
Among the attacks recorded were:
A Gauteng principal was assaulted by a teacher and lost several teeth; and
Twenty six Mpumalanga teachers were hauled before disciplinary hearings for assaulting their colleagues.
In one particularly violent incident, Gauteng teacher Gabisile Ngwenya allegedly attacked a head of department, Tsoane Ntema, with a cricket bat in the principal’s office. [Prega Govender, Times, December 2, 2007]
Two out of five male South African students say they have been raped, according to a study published on Tuesday suggesting sexual abuse of boys is endemic in the country’s schools.
The survey published in BioMed Central’s International Journal for Equity in Health showed that boys were most frequently assaulted by adult women, followed closely by other schoolchildren. . .
The survey carried out in 1,200 schools across the country asked 127,000 boys aged between 10 and 19 if they had ever been sexually abused and, if so, by whom. . .
About a third said they had been abused by males, 41 percent by females and 27 percent said they had been raped by both males and females. [Reuters, July 30, 2008]
The “nightmare” of all South Africa’s major gold and platinum mines shutting down, because of power cuts, became true on Friday.
“Tens of millions of rands [South Africa’s currency] a day are being lost. It’s a nightmare,” said T-sec chief economist Mike Schussler.
The JSE gold mining sub-sector closed almost 6% lower on Friday. . .
The Chamber of Mines earlier announced that several gold and platinum mines had to shut down operations because Eskom [South Africa’s government power company] could not guarantee power supplies on Friday.
Coal supplies that got wet due to the weather formed part of the problem, said senior executive Frans Baker.
Apparently some power stations had also gone down. [Fin24, January 25, 2008]
Human excrement and illegal electrical connections running beneath railway tracks in Metrorail’s Central Line, are causing major train delays and malfunctions, says Metrorail’s regional executive after visiting stations there.
Nyanga station, its surrounds and the stretch of railway between Nolungile and Nonkqubela stations in Khayelitsha came under the spotlight for encroachments on to the railway tracks by people living in informal settlements.
According to Metrorail’s Blits publication, residents are forced to dump their excrement on to the railway line, due to the lack of amenities in informal settlements.
“As a result of the waste seeping into the ballast stone supporting the tracks, insufficient power is generated to operate trains.
“Trains either have to slow down at the section, or worse, are prevented from travelling across these tracks in some instances.
“The acid waste, over time, corrodes the track metal and causes further service interruptions as electrical components malfunction,” it read. [Babalo Ndenze, Cape Times, March 11, 2008]
Nearly 80 children have died in an Eastern Cape district over three months, while the authorities sat on an explosive report that largely blamed deadly tap water for the spate of deaths.
Despite clear evidence of a lethal epidemic in the Ukhahlamba District Municipality, which includes Barkly East, Maclear, Sterkspruit and Elliot, municipal authorities have yet to issue a public warning.
An official health report pointed to a breakdown in a water purification works in October last year and called for urgent action—but no action has been taken.
Now the health emergency is spreading. Bhisho health officials confirmed yesterday that another 62 children, ranging from infants to primary school children, had died in similar circumstances in neighbouring Sterkspruit. This is over and above the official figure of 15 deaths of children under the age of two in Barkly East.
The Sterkspruit deaths were also related to the water supply, the provincial health department confirmed last night. [Ntando Makhubu and Lubabalo Ngcukana, Johannesburg Times, April 23, 2008]
A trade union representing South Africa’s soldiers is taking the defence ministry to court, accusing it of discriminating against people with HIV.
The South African Security Forces Union (Sasfu) says people with the Aids virus are not recruited, or if they become soldiers, are refused promotion.
The defence minister has been quoted as saying that people with HIV could not “withstand difficult missions”.
An estimated 11% of the population and 35% of the army is HIV-positive. [BBC News, May 15, 2008]
Rampant theft by Post Office workers has infuriated internet retailing giant Amazon so much that it will no longer send goods to South Africa by post, Business Day has reported.
Anyone wanting to order directly from the US-based website must now pay for a private courier service adding about R420 to the price of a DVD.
No one from the Post Office would comment.
No other African country’s postal service had been blacklisted by Amazon, Business Day said. [IOL, June 18, 2008]
A surprise visit to the overburdened maternity section of East London’s Frere Hospital has led to Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the deputy health minister, describing the situation as a “national emergency”.
The minister found acute shortages of staff and equipment, and situations in which nurses had to “play God”—deciding who would live and who would die.
The hospital was simply not equipped to save the lives of the increasing number of underweight newborn babies, the victims of Aids, poverty and drug abuse. Very small babies were sometimes regarded as stillborn, nurses admitted to the deputy health minister. . .
The deputy minister’s unannounced two-hour visit to the hospital followed a report in East London’s Daily Dispatch this week, which suggested the problems at Frere had led to the deaths of hundreds of babies every year.
A total of 2 000 babies have been stillborn at Frere in the past 14 years and last year’s figures appeared to be the highest—a record 199. Maternal death rates are also increasing.
Hospital staff conceded in documents that “most” maternal deaths and stillbirths could have been avoided. [Jan, African Crisis, July 8, 2008]
The rate of violence among young men in the country is nine times higher than the global average.
The global homicide death rate among men is 13.6 per 100000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Report on Violence and Health. In South Africa, it is 87 men per 100000, according to the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System. [Lauren Cohen, Times (Johannesburg), October 5, 2008]
Machete-wielding gangs in South Africa are mutilating young people to provide body parts for the traditional medicine market, an investigation has found.
The practice has brought terror to parts of South Africa, where it is estimated that at least 300 people are killed each year for the medicine, known as muti.
One victim was Fortune Khumalo, a boy of nine, who was attacked as he relieved himself in bushes.
His attacker sliced off his penis and testicles to sell to a traditional healer in Johannesburg, where body parts can fetch £250 and a human head up to £500, according to the research for Channel 4’s Unreported World. . .
Human genitals are the most prized parts and can be used to attract wealth and increase fertility. They are cooked and ground down for use with herbs and other ingredients.
Children’s body parts are thought to be the most potent and victims are often tortured first as the pain is believed to add to the power.
In the town of Bizana in Eastern Cape 18 people were murdered by a muti gang in nine months. [Graham Tibbetts, Telegraph (London), October 17, 2008]
“It’s time you whites packed your bags and fucked off.”
With these words a black police inspector from Tembisa on the East Rand allegedly scolded the victims of an armed robbery and hijacking attempt in Kempton Park on Monday night.
This officer . . . apparently refused to arrest a black suspect on the scene.
He also refused to open a case after Nic Lubbe, 51, from Kempton Park West, his daughter, Antoenet Cronjé, and her two sons, Morné, 11, and Kyle, 3, were assailed by robbers on Monday night. [Gloria Edwards, News 24 (Cape Town), November 6, 2008]
Anti-retroviral drugs used to treat HIV/Aids are being bought and smoked by teenagers in South Africa to get high.
Reports suggest that the drugs are being sold by patients and even healthcare staff for money.
Schoolchildren have been spotted smoking the drugs, which are ground into powder and sometimes mixed with painkillers or marijuana.
Aids patients themselves have been found smoking the drugs instead of taking them as prescribed. [Alka Marwaha, BBC News, December 8, 2008]
Only countries at war suffer as much sexual violence as South Africa, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday in a global report highlighting the problem of rape.
“The figures we have are alarming, but they are just a tip of the iceberg as most cases go unreported,” said Meinie Nicolai, operational director for the group, known by its French initials MSF. . .
“We have noticed that rape in societies has become normal, it has become normal to be raped,” said Janine Josias, an MSF doctor working in Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town.
Khayelitsha has one of the highest rape incidences in a country where it is estimated that a woman is violated every 26 seconds.
But Josias said a growing number of men were also being raped.
“We have seen a growing number of males who are victims of rape. Generally boys and men go unrecognised and untreated,” she said. [S. Africa Ranks Among War Torn Countries in Rape, AFP, March 5, 2009]
Lesbians living in South Africa are being raped by men who believe it will ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation, a report has revealed.
Women are reporting a rising tide of brutal homophobic attacks and murders and the widespread use of ‘corrective’ rape as a form of punishment.
The report, commissioned by international NGO ActionAid, called for South Africa’s criminal justice system to recognise the rapes as hate crimes as police are reportedly failing to take action over the spiralling violence. [South African Men Are ‘Raping Women to Cure Them of Being Lesbians’, Daily Mail, March 13, 2009]
One in four men in South Africa have admitted to rape and many confess to attacking more than one victim, according to a study that exposes the country’s endemic culture of sexual violence.
Three out of four rapists first attacked while still in their teens, the study found. One in 20 men said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year . . .
Of those surveyed, 28% said they had raped a woman or girl, and 3% said they had raped a man or boy. Almost half who said they had carried out a rape admitted they had done so more than once, with 73% saying they had carried out their first assault before the age of 20.
The study, which had British funding, also found that men who are physically violent towards women are twice as likely to be HIV-positive. They are also more likely to pay for sex and to not use condoms.
Any woman raped by a man over the age of 25 has a one in four chance of her attacker being HIV-positive. [Quarter of Men in South Africa Admit Rape, Survey Finds, David Smith, Guardian, June 17, 2009]
There are about 10 000 child prostitutes in Johannesburg alone, a group concerned with child abuse said on Wednesday.
Bloemfontein, meanwhile, is one of the biggest focal points of syndicates as far as trafficking in children for sex and drug trading are concerned. . .
Countrywide networks of syndicates who are involved in child abuse include “prominent and wealthy” people, even some from the medical field.
Children as young as 10 “are recruited and sexually abused by adults who pay the syndicates”.
Children who work in Port Elizabeth as prostitutes and/or drug dealers, earn between R1 500 and R5 000 per day for the coffers of their “handlers”. . .
Meanwhile the CEO of Solidarity’s Helping Hand, Danie Langner, said that thousands of South African children were victims of rape, abuse, countrywide child prostitution networks and even murder.
Every day about 530 children are raped in South Africa, and of these, only about 60 are reported.
Children are the victims in 45% of all rape cases in the country.
The report said 1 410 cases of child murder were reported between 2007 and 2008 in the country–22.4% up from the previous year. [Alet Rademeyer and Philip de Bruin, News24, June 3, 2009]
Despite sharp increases in education spending since apartheid ended, South African children consistently score at or near rock bottom on international achievement tests, even measured against far poorer African countries. . .
. . . in the Western Cape, only 2 out of 1,000 sixth graders in predominantly black schools passed a mathematics test at grade level in 2005 . . .
Teachers are not tested on subject knowledge, but one study of third-grade teachers’ literacy, for example, found that the majority of them scored less than 50 percent on a test for sixth graders. [Celia W. Duggar, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2009]
It is a fact that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped, than learning how to read.
One in four girls faces the prospect of being raped before the age of 16 according to the child support group, Childline. . .
The official crime statistics tell only part of the story.
In 1994, the year South Africa became a democracy, 18,801 cases of rape were reported. By 2001 that figure had risen to 24,892. . .
The majority of the victims are 12 years old or younger. Many of the perpetrators are themselves children.
“Baby Tshepang” was just 9 months old when she was brutally raped in the Northern Cape town of Louisvale in the early hours of 27 October, 2001.
Baby rape is not a new phenomenon in South African society, but it is becoming more common.
One possible reason, say Aids activists, is the myth, widespread in southern Africa, that sex with a child or baby will rid a man of HIV or Aids.
South Africa already has more than 4.5 million people living with HIV, more than any other country in the world.
As the HIV pandemic becomes an Aids pandemic, rape can also be a death sentence. . .
Many private hospitals now offer specialized rape care and counselling, and insurance companies have introduced policies for rape survivors to enable them to afford expensive anti-retroviral drug treatment to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and Aids. [Carolyn Dempster, BBC News, December 29, 2009]
Death has stalked South Africa’s white farmers for years. The number murdered since the end of apartheid in 1994 has passed 3,000. . .
The vulnerability felt by South Africa’s 40,000 remaining white farmers intensified earlier this month when Julius Malema, head of the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) youth league, opened a public rally by singing Dubula Ibhunu, or Shoot the Boer, an apartheid-era anthem, that was banned by the high court last week.
Malema’s timing could hardly have been worse. Last weekend in the remote farming community of Colenso, in KwaZulu-Natal, Nigel Ralfe, 71, a dairy farmer, and his wife Lynette, 64, were gunned down as they milked their cows. He was critically injured; she died.
That same day a 46-year-old Afrikaner was shot through his bedroom window as he slept at his farm near Potchefstroom. A few days later a 61-year-old was stabbed to death in his bed at a farm in Limpopo. [Dan McDougall, Times of London, March 28, 2010]
Two of the three men who raped a pregnant woman due to their “ghetto life” received life sentences in the Eastern Cape High Court on Monday. . .
“The youngest of the trio apologised for what they had done to her, attributing their actions to the ‘ghetto life’ they led. He also mentioned to her that this was the only way that they could have gotten a ‘white bitch’.” [News24 (Cape Town), March 2, 2010]
After the South African government spent around four billion dollars buying land from whites to give it to blacks, it was discovered:
. . . that most of the farms have failed, raising the specter of the kind of catastrophic agricultural collapse that Zimbabwe suffered after large white-owned farms were seized and handed to political cronies.
South Africa’s target, to give 30% of commercial farmland to blacks by 2014, has been put back a decade, and will cost an additional $10 billion.
The policy was marred by corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. But the main problem was that, like Zimbabwe’s program, land was handed out to people who did not know how to farm. . .
About 90% of the redistributed farms have failed, leaving idle nearly 15 million acres of once productive farmland, about 6% of South Africa’s arable land. [Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2010]
A 2010 study led by the government-funded Medical Research Foundation says that in Gauteng province, home to South Africa’s most populous city of Johannesburg, more than 37 percent of men said they had raped a woman. Nearly 7 percent of the 487 men surveyed said they had participated in a gang rape.
More than 51 percent of the 511 women interviewed said they’d experienced violence from men, and 78 percent of men said they’d committed violence against women.
A quarter of the women interviewed said they’d been raped, but the study says only one in 25 rapes are reported to police. . .
Two-thirds of the men surveyed in that study said they raped because of a sense of sexual entitlement. Other popular motivating factors included a desire to punish women who rejected or angered them, and raping out of boredom. [Nastasya Tay, Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2010]
Please be on the lookout for updates to this timeline as we follow South Africa into the present.