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Alleged Racist Attack on Two Young Black South Africans Raises Specter of Nation’s Apartheid Past

Republic of South Africa
Republic of South Africa

One of three white South African men accused of racially attacking two young Black South Africans on Christmas Day has been charged with attempted murder and released on bail. A video of the men using force to prevent the two from using a resort swimming pool went viral and raised the specter of past racial segregation under apartheid.

The clash underscored South Africa's ongoing struggle with racism, almost three decades after white minority rule under apartheid ended.

Jacobus Klaasen was the last of the three suspects to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court and faces the more serious charge of attempted murder. His two co-accused, Johan Nel and Jan van der Westhuizen, appeared Wednesday to face a charge of assault and were released on a warning.

Klaasen, 48, who is seen in the video putting one victim’s head under water, was released on just over $1,100 bail.

His attorney Rochelle da Silva read his affidavit in court Thursday, stating that he had no pending cases or prior convictions and would plead not guilty.

Brian Nakedi, father of the 18-year-old victim and uncle of the 13-year-old, said he intervened after he heard people at the Free State Province resort telling the pair they couldn’t swim in the pool. People were yelling at the boys for ignoring the signs.

“We thought everything [was] fine, but then they stopped them,” Nakedi said. “By the time we turned our backs to check what was going on, there was a scuffle.”

The incident was captured on video by Nakedi’s daughter and posted on social media. The Maselspoort Resort and Conference Center, while refusing to comment, also has CCTV footage of the incident. It was posted online by New York Times Johannesburg Bureau Chief John Eligon.

Nakedi said it is clear from the footage the boys were not in the wrong, as some are alleging, and are receiving counseling.

“They fear for their lives because they are vilified,” Nakedi said. “For example, there was some people who went on social media platforms and Afrikaner print media where they alleged that one of the boys was actually dragging a 3-year-old white little kid into the pool, which was hogwash.”

Nakedi, a former African National Congress freedom fighter, said this was not his first brush with racism, but he maintains not all white people are racist.

“A minority of people who do not want to move with the nation must be exposed for who they are,” he said.

South African Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen said it was alarming that racism is still the top complaint they receive.

“So the questions is, has South African society done enough to erase racism or has racism increased and people think that they can get away with racism?”

Nissen cited another case in 2022 where a white Stellenbosch University student urinated on the belongings of a Black student.
And a few weeks ago, a video also went viral with allegations that a white Cape Town pub owner had instructed his bouncer not to let Black people in, unless they were accompanied by a white person.

The three suspects in this latest incident at the resort will appear in court again on January 25.