American Renaissance

Crime in South Africa More Vexing and Vicious

Brutal attacks on farms, robberies and rapes of children keep the nation on edge.

Robyn Dixon, L. A. Times, May 4

MIDRAND, South Africa — Every tree, every rock and blade of grass on the farm of Cornelius and Olive Lourens is saturated with sad memories. They died terribly. The 78-year-old Cornelius, apparently ambushed first, was savagely beaten to death. His wife, 79, was tied to a chair and strangled with an electrical cord.

Their son, Ian, described his father as “an atypical farmer” and “a soft touch.” His mother was a gentle soul and a champion of the underdog. They loved the slice of the Hekpoort Valley in central South Africa that had been in the family since the 19th century.

But the elder Lourens had a complex relationship with his farmhand, Daniel Ncube. He had dismissed Ncube many times for pilfering or not showing up for days on end. But he’d forgiven the worker and re-employed him. Over the years he had lent Ncube nearly 100,000 rand (close to $15,000), not expecting its return.

But after a security door key was taken and later returned, and after money started disappearing from the house, Lourens dismissed Ncube again in January. Two months later, Lourens and his wife were dead. Ncube’s son, Ben, 18, confessed to the killings.

“I don’t know if it was revenge for his dad or to get money for drugs, or whether it was just pure evil intent,” said the couple’s daughter, Denise Rogers.

Like many killings in South Africa, the level of violence and the motive are difficult to fathom. The debate on violent crime in South Africa, so often colored by race, statistical manipulation, excessive secrecy and political rhetoric, is a part of how a still-divided country sees itself, a decade after the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

Murders, farm attacks, child rape and violent robberies are the most disturbing crimes, but even after many inquiries and reports, there is no consensus on why violence in South Africa is so high.

Alarm about crime is almost universal, according to the 2002 Global Attitudes survey, which found that 96% of South Africans see crime as a “very big problem.” Three-quarters of people feel unsafe walking near their houses in the daytime, according to a survey of nearly 5,000 people across the country in 2003 by the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.

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