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The BBC's Greg Barrow:
"Sifiso says the farmer set his dogs on him and invited his children to watch."
 real 56k

Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Apartheid 'still alive' in SA
14-year-old Sifiso Nyembe having his wounds tended
14 year old Sifiso Nyembe was set on by dogs
By Greg Barrow in KwaZulu-Natal

During this week's conference on racism, delegates are expected to present shocking evidence that racist attitudes have outlived the end of apartheid.

Much of the evidence was gathered at public hearings earlier this year, where many black South Africans from rural areas recounted their experiences of physical and verbal racist abuse.


People should face up to the realities in our country. We cannot fool the world and say there is no racism.

Zanele Xaba, rural aid worker
In a township clinic on the edge of Ladysmith, Sifiso Nyembe, aged 14, is having festering wounds on his feet and legs cleaned and dressed by a nurse.

He is too young to remember the dark days of apartheid. However, last month, a white farmer gave him a taste of how things used to be.

"I was with some friends on the white man's farm," he says.

"And he stopped us. He wanted to ask me about some guns that had been stolen from his house."

What happened next, has shocked even hardened observers of South African society.

Savage attack

Sifiso says the farmer set his dogs on him and invited his children to watch.

He says that he was then handcuffed and locked in a cold storage room for several hours while a discussion took place about whether to torture him with an electric cattle prod.

The question is: Was there a racial dimension to this attack?

Pansy Tlakula: White people are attacking black people for no reason other than that they are black
Pansy Tlakula: White people are attacking black people for no reason other than that they are black
According to Pansy Tlakula of the South African Human Rights Commission, the answer is clear.

"It is racism because white people are attacking black people for no reason other than that they are black," she says.

Earlier this year, Pansy, attended some of the public hearings into racism in the countryside.

She was shocked by what she heard.

"People reported assaults, and in some cases dogs were let loose on them," she says.

"In one instance, a man was beaten by the roadside and was left blind for no apparent reason."

"He was assaulted by passers-by, white people who were in a van, who just stopped and assaulted him."

If more evidence is needed, it can be found in the remote KwaZulu-Natal village of Ingogo.

For the past 70 years, Gideon Mthembu has lived and worked on a farm outside Ingogo.

Gideon Mthembu, aged 78, was severely beaten after asking his employer if he could retire
Gideon Mthembu, aged 78, was severely beaten after asking his employer if he could retire
Last year, at the age of 78, he asked if he could retire.

An argument developed between Gideon and the farmer, and Gideon was severely beaten.

"I wasn't told why I was beaten up," he says.

"There was no reason, so I can't explain it."

Waiting for justice

The white farmer who carried out the attack has now moved away from the area and escaped justice.

Gideon cannot work anymore as his eyesight has been permanently damaged.


Racism, even if I can say apartheid, is still alive

Shadrack Gupega, friend of victim of racism
He walks with a limp and is entirely dependent on local people like Shadrack Gupega for charity.

"There is nothing that has changed. Apartheid is still alive," he says.

South Africa's dream of a "rainbow nation" has been shattered by these revelations.

Wake-up call

However, it is nothing new to people like Zanele Xaba who works for one of the many rural aid agencies that are confronted with evidence of deep-rooted racism all the time.

"People should face up to the realities in our country," he says.

"We cannot fool the world and say there is no racism."

"If there is racism we must try to understand how it happens, why it is still happening after all that has happened."

"So I think it is an issue that needs to be discussed, and we must try to understand what are the underlying issues."

The national conference on racism hopes to expose the full extent to which racism has survived the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Then decisions will have to be made to address the problem once and for all.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | Africa
SA worker dragged to death
28 Aug 00 | Africa
South Africa's new racism
24 Aug 00 | Africa
Racism 'pervasive' in SA media
26 Jan 00 | Africa
South Africa bans discrimination
26 Dec 99 | Africa
The birth and death of apartheid
30 Oct 98 | Truth and Reconciliation
Seeking the truth: Timeline
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