Six hate crimes that shocked South Africa

09 February 2018 - 06:00 By Naledi Shange
Mozambique national Emmanuel Sithole was attacked in Alexandra township in Johannesburg on April 18, 2015. He later died from his wounds.
Mozambique national Emmanuel Sithole was attacked in Alexandra township in Johannesburg on April 18, 2015. He later died from his wounds.
Image: JAMES OATWAY / Sunday Times.

The Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG) has called on government to fast track passing the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech bill into law. South Africans‚ it argued on Thursday‚ needed clear guidelines on how to identify and handle hate crimes.

With that in mind‚ TimesLIVE has compiled a list of six hate crimes which shook South Africa. They featured:

  • Emmanuel Sithole

Sithole was attacked during a flare-up of xenophobic violence in Johannesburg's Alexandra township in April 2015. The attack was captured in a series of photographs by Sunday Times photographer James Oatway.

The street vendor from Mozambique was attacked by a group of youngsters who stabbed him in the heart after he demanded payment for cigarettes they had taken from his stall.

The HCWG said its research revealed that foreign nationals were at times seen as “easy targets” of hate crime.

The group released a report after interviewing 945 victims of hate crime in the last five years.

“In 36% of cases‚ the place where the incident took place indicated that the attack was motivated by prejudice‚ as previous bias-based incidents have taken place there or because they are perceived to be ‘hot spots’ of prejudice. This is often seen in spates of attacks on foreign-owned shops clustered together geographically; attacks on groups of people of similar nationality or ethnic origin who reside in close proximity to each other‚” the group said.

  • Vicki Momberg

Momberg‚ an estate agent‚ was caught on camera verbally abusing a black police officer in a racist rant. She also hurled racist insults at staff manning the 10111 police hotline after she was the victim of a smash and grab incident. Momberg loosely hurled the k***** term over 40 times.

The Equality Court found her guilty of hate speech and ordered her to pay R100 000 in damages.

“In most cases (68%)‚ the words used by the perpetrators during the attack are unmistakable indicators of the reasons for the attack‚ leaving no uncertainty in the minds of the victims or witnesses about the underlying prejudice that motivated the incident‚” said the HCWG.

The South African Human Rights Commission dealt with 505 complaints of racism in the 2015/16 financial year, an 82% increase from the previous year.
The South African Human Rights Commission dealt with 505 complaints of racism in the 2015/16 financial year, an 82% increase from the previous year.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock
  • Nurul Islam Mosque

In January 2017‚ the iconic Cape Town mosque‚ Nurul Islam‚ was defaced with the blood and snout of a pig.

Caretaker Abdus Salaam Cader said he called the police who sent out a van but he was told they could not open a case‚ only record the incident.

The HCWG said that 66% of hate crimes went unreported. Reasons for this included the fact that some of the incidents were not classified as criminal cases. Others feared retribution or victimization‚ while some said they did not trust the police or the perpetrators included police. Some said they did not report the matter because they were told that “SAPS only serve South African citizens or that a case cannot be reported if the perpetrator is unknown”.

  • Lerato Moloi

Moloi was a lesbian from Naledi‚ Soweto‚ who was found raped‚ beaten and stoned to death in May 2017. Her rape was believed to have been an act of a "corrective rape". Her family and community members told the Sowetan that she was friends with the men who killed her.

Of the 945 cases investigated by the HCWG‚ 34% of offenders were either persons known to the victim or from the victim’s community.

“15% of the all victims were threatened on prior occasions. Threats were reported among persons targeted based on their nationality‚ ethnicity and religion. Previous threats were prominent among persons targeted because they were suspected of being sex workers or of practicing witchcraft‚" the group said.

  • The SARS office incident

A former South African Revenue Services employee was fired in 2007 by then SARS commissioner Pravin Gordhan for using racist and derogatory language. Jacobus Kruger tried to fight his dismissal in the Constitutional Court but failed.

Kruger‚ who was an anti-smuggling officer at Cape Town International Airport‚ had called his manager Abel Mboweni the k-word‚ saying‚ “I don’t understand how k*****s think. A k***** must not tell me what to do”.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said the use of the k-word had great historical significance in South Africa and was used previously to deligitimise and dehumanise black people.

“The use of this term captures the heartland of racism‚ its contemptuous disregard and calculated dignity-nullifying effects on others‚" said Mogoeng.

According to the HCWG‚ their study revealed that victims other than the primary reporting victims were most often colleagues of co-workers. This was however mostly in cases perpetrated against foreign nationals.

A video of what was called the “coffin assault” was played in the High Court sitting in court during the trial of Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuisen. The two-minute long video showed the victim‚ Victor Mlotshwa lying in the coffin while two men accuse him of stealing cable from their farm.
A video of what was called the “coffin assault” was played in the High Court sitting in court during the trial of Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuisen. The two-minute long video showed the victim‚ Victor Mlotshwa lying in the coffin while two men accuse him of stealing cable from their farm.
Image: Supplied
  • The coffin assault

The assault of Victor Mlotshwa sparked outrage after a video of him being forced into a coffin by two farm workers went viral. In the video‚ the two men‚ Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen‚ were heard threatening to put a snake inside the coffin and set it alight.

They were found guilty of a string of charges including attempted murder and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The HCWG found that 64% of victims of hate crimes were men. More than half (59%) of those interviewed were black while only 10% of the victims were white. Mlotshwa said he was deeply traumatised and humiliated by the incident.

“Hate crimes often affect surviving victims on multiple levels‚ impinging on their ability to function normally and contribute meaningfully to society‚” the HCWG said.


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