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A 32-second video posted to Twitter on Christmas Day has sparked outrage around the country. The clip shows several white men assaulting black teenagers at the Maselspoort Resort outside Bloemfontein.
“What happened at Maselspoort Resort on Christmas Day, exactly a year after Archbishop Tutu left us, is a challenge to us as a nation to change course,” said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana in a statement released by the South African Council of Churches on Wednesday.
“The grotesque images of adult white men throwing their all at black teenagers, with a man throttling a boy, and two others appearing to attempt to drown another boy, are sickening and must be condemned by all South Africans, with a crescendo especially from white people and white organisations of influence,” says Mpumlwana.
“As black people continue to endure these episodes of humiliation, it becomes that much more difficult to hope for national reconciliation and social cohesion.”
“Get out!” screams a white man standing on the edge of a swimming pool, reaching down in an apparent attempt to slap a black teenager in the water. The 18-year-old tries to exit the pool but is shoved back by the white man and the confrontation quickly escalates.
Next, a young black boy is seen being throttled by another white man who has both hands around the 13-years-old boy’s neck. The 18-year-old is quick to exit the pool and tries to break the white man’s grip by putting his arm around his neck.
Amid pleas from onlookers for the men to stop the violence, the 18-year-old is able to push the white man off the younger teen and into the pool. A third white man, standing outside the pool area, grabs the young boy’s hair and pulls his head towards the spiked fence.
The 18-year-old notices an onlooker filming and tells them to “call the cops”.
It is at this point that the man who had been shoved into the pool returns to the scene, grabs the 18-year-old around the neck and drags him into the pool. He can be seen holding the teenager’s head underwater.
The video cuts off as a fourth white man is seen jumping into the pool to help the assailant. The 18-year-old’s arms flail as his head remains underwater.
These were the images captured on video of what has been described as a racist attack at the Maselspoort Resort outside Bloemfontein on Christmas Day.
The altercation took place after the white men attempted to prevent the teens from using the swimming pool, despite all parties involved being guests of the resort at the time.
“At about 15:03, Glen SAPS members were called to a fighting incident taking place at a holiday resort in Bloemfontein,” Brigadier Motantsi Makhele, Free State police spokesperson, said in a statement on Monday.
“On arrival, members found the groups already dispersed and were approached by a parent to one of the victims who alleged that his two teenage boys, aged 18 and 13, were assaulted by a group of white males over the usage of a swimming pool,” said Makhele.
A case of common assault was subsequently opened by the Glen police. However, that charge was upgraded to one of attempted murder ahead of arrests being made.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Johan Nel (33) and Jan Stephanus van der Westhuizen (47) and an unnamed third suspect were arrested in relation to the incident.
Nel and Van der Westhuizen have appeared in court on charges of assault. They were released on a warning to return to court on 25 January 2023.
The third unnamed suspect has yet to appear in court and remains in custody.
“He is expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 29 December 2022, on the main charge, being attempted murder,” says Makhele.
The incident has also been reported to the South African Human Rights Commission.
Despite efforts over two days, Daily Maverick has been unable to make contact with the parties involved in the incident. The resort has declined to comment.
Following the incident, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the acts of violence and said that “racism has no place in South Africa and racists must expect harsh consequences in terms of the law”.
On Monday, the Free State division of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) visited the resort in an act of solidarity with the teens. A video shows members of the EFF swimming and playing on the swings at the resort’s pool.
“The EFF condemns in the strongest terms the despicable racist act,” said Mapheule Liphoko, EFF chairperson in the Free State.
ActionSA’s Patricia Kopane echoed this sentiment, saying the party condemned all forms of exclusionary segregation and racism.
*On Thursday, security camera footage from the pool area was made available on social media providing further details in the lead-up to the incident.
Bishop Mpumlwana said: “Condemning this is not enough if we do not stand up to change our national direction on race and ethnicity.
“We are challenged to recognise that racism and ethnicism are alive and well in our society.
“Where are we breeding these attitudes?” asked Mpumlwana. “Are these not perhaps a boil-over of what are more widespread attitudes that do not always surface in ‘polite’ environments?”
In a Daily Maverick piece written earlier this year about a racist incident involving urination at Stellenbosch University, Professor Pierre de Vos said these incidents do not only humiliate the targeted black victim, but act as a reminder of the racism that is widely embedded in society but not always caught on camera.
“Because not many people are stupid enough to get caught on video performing acts of ‘spectacular racism’, it becomes easier for individuals and institutions to mischaracterise the problem as merely a case of a uniquely bad (or troubled) person doing something shocking and completely unexpected,” wrote De Vos.
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