What if the people who killed Collins Khosa in Alexandra township on 10th April had been white? We all know what would have happened.
There would have been instant outrage across South Africa. The culprits would have been arrested and bail denied them. The National Prosecuting Authority would have been ordered to fast-track the case to trial. The Human Rights Commission would have launched an urgent investigation into white racism in the army and police. Cyril Ramaphosa would have gone on television to urge radical transformation to rid the army and police of colonialism and apartheid. The ANC, the SACP, Cosatu, and the EFF would have staged demonstrations.
Instead of which President Ramaphosa takes a couple of months to react, and then only in muted tones by saying he is “really saddened”. As for mass arrests and other behaviour by security forces who by then had killed Mr Khosa and ten other people, Mr Ramaphosa said they had let “their enthusiasm get the better of them”. His party and government have shown more and much speedier concern about the (single) killing of George Floyd in the US than nearly a dozen in their own backyard.
In fact, the ANC and its allies kicked up a far greater fuss about some crass remarks a few years ago by Penny Sparrow than they have about the current spate of deaths at the hands of the police and/or army. A court order for the suspension of the soldiers who allegedly killed Mr Khosa was brought by the victim’s family, not by our languid state, which is too busy arresting people for petty lockdown offences.
While Mr Ramaphosa’s colleagues have been busy with whitewashes and exculpations, it has been left to the Democratic Alliance (DA) to ask the awkward questions about the handling of the Khosa case, to demand accountability, and to highlight the ever-increasing allegations of police abuse in South Africa. Could it be that the DA cares more about black lives than do the ANC and its allies?
The reason for the ANC’s insouciant attitude to the Khosa killing is quite simple: It cannot easily be exploited to further that party’s racial agenda. Not to worry. The Floyd killing serves as an excellent proxy. Hence last week’s call by the ANC’s national working committee for mobilisation against racism in the US, South Africa, and elsewhere, while security services who “abuse their power” here at home are merely “condemned” and urged “to act in line with the Constitution”.