Max du Preez asks: Is it Time to Declare Racism a Crime in the Rainbow Nation?

There have been a range of responses from South Africans following the heartbreaking news of a young student who was allegedly raped with a broomstick by a group of fellow students – who videoed the incident – at a Northern Cape high school on Sunday.

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The victim was new to the school. And he was black…while his attackers were white. The 4-minute video apparently shows other pupils – black and white – witnessing the attack, which took place in the hostel of the agricultural high school.

Although there has been a resounding reaction of shock to the brutality of the incident (the young boy was allegedly tied to a bed and screaming and crying before the rape), opinions on the cause have varied from those who say that race only had a small part to play, to those who blame South Africa’s racial tensions entirely.

Some say it was ‘just’ another school initiation gone wrong (which has been happening in South African high schools for decades). A similar incident with a broomstick occurred at a high school in Western Massachusetts, USA, in August 2013.

Some black South Africans took to social media to express their impatience with “the acceptance of ongoing white arrogance” whilst some white South Africans pointed out that horrific black on white farm murders are brushed under the carpet. Most agreed that “this brutality is so common. And knows no limit on race-on-race violence. If we are to survive, our President and our Government – who speak for us all – must speak out against all violence. No violence against any human being is acceptable.”

Acclaimed writer and opinion-maker Max du Preez asked “isn’t it time to consider legislation declaring racist acts (attacks and serious insults) hate crimes with harsh punishment?”

In a message on his Facebook timeline, du Preez said: “We simply cannot go on like this, we’re allowing our nation to be ripped apart.

“And when under-age people commit these acts, can’t we find a mechanism to also hold their parents somehow accountable?

“Yes, I hear you before you say it, sometimes it is hard to determine whether an act was motivated by racism or not. Well, courts are equipped to determine that.

“The best punishment in my view would be financial compensation plus long community service.

“It would help, of course, if we stop shouting wolf – accusing people of racism when it’s not apparent, just to insult or win an argument doesn’t help the cause. And no, there’s no ‘freedom of speech’ argument here, that’s just a ruse.”

Our hearts and prayers go out to the young boy who was attacked. His life will never be the same again. Surely it is time now for South Africa to heal from its old wounds and stop making new ones…