WARNING: not for sensitive readers
On Sunday, 11/02/2018, News24 reported that SA 5000m national athletic title holder, Thabang Mosiako, had been ambushed by 10 men ‘ just outside one of the North West University campuses’ in Potchefstroom. The attack reportedly happened after an altercation where Thabang’s friend, Rantso Mokopane, had ‘intervened after three of the men had sworn at a cashier.’ Rantso told the Potchefstroom Herald that ‘When I went outside, the group had multiplied and there were about ten rugby-bodied men who started attacking us”.
Police arrived to break up the fight and were asked to accompany Mosiako and his friends but their request was ignored. The men then ambushed them and Mosiako suffered sever head trauma.
‘4th time being attacked in and around the NWU Campus’
The fact that the police failed to assist Mosiako’s and his friends, is the first problem in this incident. Not only is Thabang a South African athletic representative who was set to compete next month in Algeria for the African Champs, but the extent of brutality is enough to cause a deeply upsetting feeling in the pit of your stomach- especially when Rantso elaborates that these sort of attacks are not rare. “4th time being attacked in and around the NWU Campus and this time around my training partner severely injured and resulting in a head trauma which may lead to lifelong seizures.”
And what of the nature of the attack? It’s reminiscent of days that are seared into the memories of many living South Africans.
“I always refrain from racial issues”, Rantso said in an Instagram post, “but on all those 4 attacks it has always been white men engulfing and injuring non-whites without cause,…..it saddens me that even police and protection services fail to protect where needed…#Cry_Our_ Beloved_Country (sic).”
Racism may still be debatable to some as the catalyst of the altercation, but it was undoubtedly a driving factor that pushed the incident to a point where a young man is left with the very real possibility of his athletic career being ended. Racism needs to be addressed when speaking about this incident, and our response has to address it, too, with an inclusive backlash against Thabang and his friends’ attackers, and condemnation of these sort of incidents.
‘This does not belong in the South Africa that all South Africans, deserve’
When things like this happen, it can feel like progress takes two steps back for every step forward. When I first shared my outrage on this story, one user replied along the lines of: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’. This statement signifies the helplessness South Africans feel when faced with such devastating news headlines. If I felt helpless and heartbroken upon hearing the news I cannot imagine what the average black student, or person, must feel when seeing these headlines.
We accept that farm murders are racially motivated, why is it so hard to believe that a group of white men ambushing a group of black students could very likely be just that- racist. I said it. We don’t get to choose when we validate racism, when it suits us to label something as racist or not. We cannot pretend race is not a factor, when repeated incidences tell us that it is. Can we stop pretending that this is not happening? It is, and we need to speak up, together to make sure the message is heard.
Do not be silent, share it and share the hell out of it:
It needs to be known that these things are happening STILL. It needs to be acknowledged, or it will continue. This is 2018, this sort of thing has no place in this day and age, let alone in the South Africa many are fighting daily to better. This does not belong in the South Africa that all South Africans, deserve. These men do not deserve to speak for all white South Africans, and Thabang does not deserve to be an example or statistic for other black youth to learn from.
How to Help:
I found Lindiwe’s tweet asking for Thabang’s family info to help for funding, when I was looking to help in some way, and by the end of the day she had started a Back a Buddy fund. And so I put my money where my mouth is and I donated.
Will it help? I’m not sure in the greater scheme of things, I’m not sure if South Africa will simply move on. We are a resilient nation, but sometimes it can be our downfall. We let others fight fights that we think are not ours, and we move on when we see horrible headlines, because it’s not us, it’s not ours- but we will all be the victims of our ignorance. Something that affects your neighbour will sooner or later become your problem, too.
And so I donated, though I will likely never be ambushed by a group of white men, or know what it feels like to have policemen ignore my request to be escorted home. Or be a SA athletic champ and have my dreams shattered.
But I am a South African , and this hurts me, this hurts fellow South Africans, and so it hurts South Africa.
Incidences like this are not only insulting to black South Africans, it is an insult and injury to all of us, as it insults and injures our progress as a country.
I hope that we can give Thabang the best possible legal representation so that we can make an example of the men who did this and say as a country that this is NOT okay and we will not move onto the next story, the next headline- we will not let these injustices fly under the radar any longer.
You can donate to help fund Thabang’s medical bills and legal representation here.
Feature image: [via]