Best of 2017: A brutal tale of unbalanced, selective, racism-inciting media coverage – Herbst

20 March COMMENT: CAPE TOWN — Few would be so brave as to compare the SABC’s selective coverage of racist incidents and farm murders to Rwanda’s Radio Mille Collines where staffers got life sentences for inciting ethnic cleansing – but then few could so compellingly support such a tendency. Ed Herbst, a veteran TV and radio journalist who spent most of his career at the SABC and has turned his golden years into becoming the country’s most knowledgeable writer on that corporation, cherry picks a bunch of overtly racist farm murders and juxtaposes them with the hullaballoo the SABC made over overtly racist tweets by the likes of Penny Sparrow and others. His point is that none of the horrific and highly newsworthy farm murders were covered by the SABC, which can only point to an overtly political policy aimed at painting whites, particularly rural farmers (‘boere’), as right-wing racists who routinely only get coverage when they abuse blacks in incidents ranging from labour disputes to physical assaults or murders. Any media professor or academic will tell you that the undue weight lent to coverage of the Penny Sparrows’ of the world tips the SABC scales totally in favour of portraying whites as rampant racists and blacks as victims. This discourse serves the ruling party hugely, but as Herbst so eloquently portrays via this and frighteningly racist comments from sitting ANC MPs, is the thin edge of the Rwandan wedge and downright dangerous, let alone false and cynical. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

“On 13 January this year, 69 year old Mrs Kidson was killed while recovering from a hip operation and sitting in a wheelchair. Mrs Kidson was repeatedly stabbed with a sharp object and then her throat was slit. Her husband was also found with his throat slit.

“This past weekend the 62 year old Nicci Simpson was tied to a chair and tortured with an electrical drill, drilling holes in her feet, legs and knees. Her ribs were broken and she was stabbed multiple times. Luckily she survived this horrific attack.” – Anette Steyn MP, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the parliamentary debate on farm murders 14/3/2017

“He said that it is not ordinary crime when people are tortured until they die, where a woman is raped for hours on end while her husband is forced to watch, where people’s heads are crushed and they are set alight, or where an electrical drill is used to drill holes in a woman’s feet after she had already been tortured in other ways. “In one instance in Parys, a farmer’s testicles were cut off and eaten by the attackers after they had cooked it. This is the shocking and uncomfortable truth of farm murders which can no longer be ignored,” Dr. Groenewald said. – Dr. Pieter Groenewald, FF Plus Leader in the debate on farm murders in Parliament 14/3/2017

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

Dene Smuts, who completed her book Patriots and Parasites shortly before she died of a heart attack in April last year was known to possess a formidable intellect.

She was also known to be a formidable debater, so one did not cross verbal swords without being sure of one’s facts.

She once, however, made the remark that “The SABC is not Radio Mille Collines”.

I would argue that, while that might seem to be self-evident when one examines the subject and particularly the scale of the Rwandan genocide, a far more nuanced perspective (in my subjective opinion) seems to be called for with specific reference to intent.

The intent of the Hutus who abused the powerful medium of mass communication in Rwanda was to demonise the Tutsis and moderate Hutus as ‘the other’ often describing such people as ‘cockroaches’ – of which, more anon.

Chaotic infamy

As the Predator State, the ‘Despots Democracy’ of the Guptured ANC kleptocracy implodes in chaotic infamy after two decades of unceasing and endemic corruption and almost incomprehensible levels of incompetence, it lashes out at whites as ‘the other’, the ‘new Jews’ as Michael Cardo puts it.

In an attempt to distract attention from his own state-driven larceny, President Jacob Zuma uses not the Rwandan cockroach but the snake as a symbol with which to denounce and demonise the white minority. In the process he, like so many Luthuli House apparatchiks, spits on the Nelson Mandela dream – nation building through reconciliation.

In the context of the SABC’s role in this regard and with specific reference to its suppression of the news of farm murders, I cited two case studies in my article, Place of Sorrow: Farm murders and the Public Broadcaster, which was published on the Media Online website two years ago.

farm murders

Place of Sorrow is the English translation of the Afrikaans word, Treurground, the name of the White Crosses Monument on a farm near Pietersburg which commemorates the hundreds of victims of farm murders in South Africa subsequent to the ANC taking political control of the country in the early 1990s.

My article was predicated on the SABC’s censorship-by-omission of all but one farm murder in the period when Jimi Matthews and Hlaudi Motsoeneng corruptly controlled its news content with an iron fist sans velvet glove.

I pointed out in my Place of Sorrow article, without any subsequent refutation or clarification by the state broadcaster, that the SABC deliberately does not broadcast details of farm murders or the resultant trials and never attends farm murder press conferences  – even though invited – organised by Solidarity, AfriForum and the provincial agricultural unions.

The reason for this pervasive censorship-by-omission by the ANC-controlled state broadcaster is obvious – it does not wish to broadcast anything that would create empathy for whites or detract from the ANC’s routine race card message that the DA is a white party and that whites are racist snakes.

Feral cruelty

I cited the examples of two farm murders, bestial in their level of feral cruelty, which the SABC deliberately did not cover because this would have created sympathy for whites:

The murder by Thalami Mkhentane in 2014 of Barkly East farmers David de Villiers and his wife Rachel – both aged 86. When he was disturbed by a neighbour, Mkhentane was attempting to gouge out the eyes of their son who had been immobilised by a car accident.

“Mkhentane, 23, smeared ‘666 devil’ in his victims’ blood on the walls        of their remote farm home after repeatedly stabbing the defenceless couple, both aged 86, and trying to kill their 53-year-old disabled son, David junior.”  Satanist jailed for brutal orgyDaily Dispatch 12/6/2014

In my ‘Place of Sorrow’ article I cited a second case study to make the point that the ANC-controlled state broadcaster deliberately does not cover farm murders because it would create empathy for those who so many ANC members now deride with the epithet, ‘1652s’:

“On 1 December 2010 the Potgieter family was killed on their farm in the Free State Province. Attie Potgieter (40) was stabbed 151 times, while his wife, Wilna (36), and daughter, Wilmien (2), witnessed the killing. Thereafter, little Wilmien was executed in front of her mother and thrown in a box. A note, written in Sotho on a piece of cardboard saying ‘We have killed them. We are coming back’, was found on the gate of the farm.”

The SABC television news bulletins quite rightly give constant coverage to the murder of children but, if you type the name Wilmien Potgieter into the search bar of the SABC news website, the response is ‘No result’. In contrast to this there are no less than 40 stories on the SABC news website about Taegrin Morris who died after being dragged behind a car in a botched hijacking. How does the SABC explain the difference in coverage?

Dying moments

One instinctively recoils as one thinks of the dying moments of two-year old Wilmien Potgieter who would probably have succumbed to a massive head wound but was saved from further pain when the coup-de-grace – a shot at point-blank  range into the back of her head – was administered. This occurred on the day that her parents were celebrating their wedding anniversary. Read the evidence of her final moments and weep. Let me not, however, tarry at this point lest I offend the refined and delicate sensitivities of Agang MP Andries Plouamma and be accused by him of “vomiting on the forgiveness of black people.”

In advanced democracies such ISIS-style atrocities would not be ignored as the SABC’s de facto news policy dictates, but would dominate news bulletins for weeks on end.

There are, however many more examples of such hate crimes – as Carte Blanche put it a fortnight ago:

Since the start of 2017, 26 farmers have been brutally murdered. Recent statistics indicate that as many as one farm attack a day occurs across the country. Farmers say they’re under siege, but that government is turning a blind eye.

Rhoda Kadalie

There is nothing new in this – here’s what Rhoda Kadalie wrote in a Business Day column a decade ago:

‘A Bloemfontein farming couple aged more than 80 and 70 years respectively was assaulted by five armed men. The old man was dumped in a scolding hot bath until the soles of his feet fell off and the guys jumped on the chest of the woman, breaking her ribs and damaging her lungs and heart. I read and re-read this story simply because my brain could not absorb such evil.’

Her article was headlined ‘Evil depth of SA’s crimes calls for drastic measures’

Here are two quotes from a recent Rebecca Davis article on Politicsweb:

In the early hours of February 19, 64-year-old Sue Howarth and her 66 year-old partner Robin Lynn were woken by three intruders on their farm in Dullstroom. When money was demanded, Lynn emptied his wallet and gave the attackers his bank card and PIN number. Reportedly unsatisfied with these spoils, the men tied up Howarth and Lynn, stabbed them, and burned the two with a blow torch. A plastic bag was then tied tightly around Lynn’s head, while another bag was stuffed down Howarth’s throat.

Having loaded the two into the couple’s bakkie, the attackers drove down the R33 before shooting their victims in the head and dumping them near the side of the road. Lynn survived. Howarth died of her injuries in hospital.

What is less easy to explain, however, is the level of brutality meted out in some of the attacks. The ordeal experienced by Howarth and Lynn is not an isolated incident. Also in February, Trevor Rees, a farmer in the southern Drakensberg, hid from intruders in a cupboard. When found, he was tortured with pliers, made to drink Jik, shot twice, and beaten over the course of two days. Rees subsequently died in hospital.

And what of 9-year-old Kayla Mayer, murdered along with three adults in March last year in what became known as the ‘Rodora Farm Massacre’?

Poignant account

Here is a poignant account of the death of one such farmer and it comes from Glenda Vervey, the widow of Anton (67) who was stabbed while sleeping on his Ixopo farm in March last year:

“I heard Anton, his voice filled with terror, saying ‘Glenda, phone the police, I’ve been stabbed’…I grabbed my phone and my reading glasses to carry out his request. In that time he had managed to walk halfway down the passage towards me, but had now collapsed on the floor. I knelt beside him, almost afraid to touch him in case he was in severe pain. I did not know where the stab wounds might be. When I rested my head on his back, I realised I could feel no breathing or heartbeat. Anton had been taken away from this life in the most horrific manner. I shook uncontrollably in a complete state of shock.”

Former acting SABC CEO Jimi Matthews

But there was one particular farm murder case, as I pointed in my Treurgrond article to which the state broadcaster of the soon-to-be Member of Parliament  Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimi (The Door or the Window) Matthews gave – with absolute relish – repeated, non-stop, saturation, round-the-clock coverage.

Here’s what I wrote in the Treurgrond article and what I wrote has never been denied, repudiated, defended or explained by the state broadcaster:

There was no SABC coverage of the Grahamstown trial of Mkhentane despite the fact that the murder itself and his subsequent appearances in court  had received wide publicity in Eastern Cape newspapers, which are read by reporters and news editors in its Port Elizabeth and Bhisho news offices, each equidistant from Grahamstown – a two hour drive. What the SABC deliberately censored by omission has been covered as far afield as China. There is also no mention of the murders or the trial on the SABC news website. Type the name ‘Thalami Mkhentane’ into the search bar on the site and the response is ‘No result’.

What is significant in this context was the constant SABC television news coverage of the trial of teenager, Don Steenkamp, who murdered his parents and his sister on their farm, Naauwhoek, near Griquatown on 6 April 2012. Can news chief Matthews explain why the trial of Steenkamp was relentlessly covered on SABC television news but not once was coverage given to the trial of Mkhentane, who was also found guilty of murdering people on a farm? Can he explain why there are no less than 28 stories spread over four pages about the Steenkamp murder posted on the SABC news website but not a single reference to Mkhentane? Could the difference be because Steenkamp was white and Mkhentane black?

The trial judge found that the 17-year-old Steenkamp had killed his sister after raping her and then killed his parents lest they bear witness to his crime.

In giving wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage to this specific farm murder trial on all its television and radio channels, Motsoeneng and Matthews clearly hoped to stereotype the hated male white farmer as the sort of person who rapes his sister, murders her and then murders his parents to cover up the crime. The state broadcaster absolutely wallowed in this case while ruthlessly suppressing the news of the murder of the elderly de Villiers couple, the Potgieter family and more than a thousand similarly brutal murders in the past two decades.

Unequivocal accusation

Tens of millions of people rely exclusively on the SABC for news content. Deliberately using this immense influence and reach to ratchet up hatred against the white minority was the absolutely specific and unequivocal accusation against the ethnic bias of the ANC-controlled SABC that I articulated – on the record, for the record – in my Place of Sorrow article.

The Media Online website stood ready to post the SABC response to the Treurgrond article – it never came. There was just a guilty silence. Their broadcasting villainy which complied with every facet of the concept of evil and was motivated by ethnic hatred, was exposed and they had no defence.

That is why I draw the analogy between the SABC and Radio Mille Collines – the consequences could not be compared but the intent was the same – to use mass communication media to demonise as ‘the other’ the South African white minority.

In media terms this is unspeakably evil conduct because it negates one of the most basic tenets of ethical journalism – DO LEAST HARM.

As Dr Johan Burger points out on the Africa Check website:

‘Simply put, it is more than twice as dangerous to be a farmer than a policeman in South Africa, and a farmer or someone working on a farm is almost four times more likely to be murdered than the average South African’.

What should be noted here is that the ANC was incensed when, in November 2014, the Freedom Front Plus, took such concerns to the UN Human Rights Commission Forum in Geneva and even more incensed when the Forum gave them a sympathetic hearing.

This is ironic coming from a party which sees 90% of its land claim farms now lying fallow and whose leading farmers let their stock die of starvation and thirst or pay their staff slave wages.

It is also ironic coming from a party which did nothing effective to stop the looting of the Land Bank of more than R2 billion so that soccer teams and gated golfing complexes could be bought by routinely-corrupt ANC insiders. The money for these purchases was the money accumulated during the apartheid era that Joe Slovo’s widow, Helena Dolny had been hoping to use to uplift aspirant black farmers. The background to this characteristic snouting – all part of the ANC‘s ‘Good story to tell’ – is detailed in Dolny’s book, Banking on Change.

Sordid snouting saga

Rhoda Kadalie added detail to this typically-sordid ANC snouting saga in a Business Day column on 27 March 2008 which was headlined Mbeki’s silence rotten as Land Bank dirt piles up’.

‘The Land Bank that should be helping farmers, gave a loan of R800 million (33% of the bank’s total R2.4 billion capital base) to Pamodzi Investment Holdings – a non-agricultural investment – whose shareholders include Kgalema Motlanthe, Manne Dipico and others, yet it cannot help farmers and subsidise those who have been adversely affected by drought, global competition, a weak export market and other factors.’

Unsurprisingly, because that’s how the Hyena State operates, nobody has gone to jail for this epic chapter in the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze.

As a consequence of ANC’s overt antipathy to white farmers they are leaving the country in their hundreds leading to concerns about ‘food shedding’.

President Jacob Zuma has called for the properties owned by whites to be seized without compensation – something that is doing this country’s reputation as a viable investment destination immense damage abroad.

South African President Jacob Zuma. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

In response, Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota posed a question in parliament:

“If you want to take our land from us, to whom are you going to give it?”

Does our own Southern African history, with specific reference to farms, not provide us with the answer he seeks?

On page 186 of Render Unto Kaiser – A Transkei Dossier by Richard Wicksteed and the late Barry Streek we read:

In February 1980 the Van der Walt commission released its recommendations and the South African parliament was later to pass the Borders of Particular States Extension Act on the basis of these recommendations.

The Act finally ceded to the Transkei more than a hundred farms in the Mount Currie, Maclear, Elliot, Indwe and Queenstown districts in Mantanzima’s western and north-western borders.

The farms had been bought from white farmers by the National Party government in order to consolidate the patchwork quilt which the Transkei then was. The purchased farms were placed under the control of, effectively, the Matanzima brothers, Kaiser and George because the National Party, in its naivety, presumed that they would be utilised to the benefit of the Transkei nation.

Lekota should inquire how many of those farms ended up under the control of anyone other than the Matanzima family and their political allies.

And, should he seek further edification on such matters, he should ask himself how many of the farms taken by force from white farmers – some of whom were butchered – by Robert Mugabe (the man the ANC reveres and constantly protects) ended up in the hands of anyone other than Zanu-PF’s murderous and insatiably mercenary Big Vegetables.

In the meantime, the ANC-allied media will continue to suppress news of farm murders while the party itself ratchets up hatred against whites through its incessant torment of Penny Sparrow who never murdered anyone or tortured anyone with a blowtorch or a drill.

Barbaric torture

And, talking about drills, I attach a scan of a photograph which appeared in Rapport on 12 March. It shows the drill which was used in the barbaric six-hour torture of 64-year-old Nicci Simpson on the farm Kalbasfontein on the West Rand. It also shows her dog which was stabbed to death by her sadistic assailants.

The drill with which Nicci Simpson was tortured for hours on end – so much so that she prayed for a merciful death. 

Here’s a translated account of her torture which started at ten in the morning of 12 March and ended at four o’clock that afternoon:

The robbers smothered her with a black plastic bag, cut her wrists, broke her ribs, smashed her knee and then bored holes in her feet with a drill.

She told Rapport that during this torture – which would have earned applause from Spanish Inquisition torturers – she prayed to God for release from her pain and fear. “Here, laat ek maklik gaan” to use her own words.

The Democratic Alliance immediately condemned the unspeakable brutishness of Simpson’s terror-filled, pain-wracked, six-hour ordeal. Google ANC + Nicci Simpson, however, and even the world’s iconic search engine can find no similar or equivalent condemnation by the ANC. My subjective sense, as a consequence, is that the ANC is left as unmoved by such barbarous savagery as Jimmy Kruger was by the death of Steve Biko – who died after prolonged assault. Little changes, it seems as Enoch (Canyon Springs) Godongwana calls for a return to Verwoerdian Quotas and the ANC echoes the ‘Adapt or Die’ credo of PW Botha.

Simpson’s story has been replicated hundreds of times (dozens of times every year) since former President Thabo Mbeki did away with the commando farm protection system in 2003.  Despite the usual glib and insincere ANC promises, it was never replaced by any equivalent form of protection – and the row upon row of white crosses at Treurgrond bear mute testimony to what some perceive as the inevitable consequences of a deliberate policy decision.

Does Luthuli House have any current and contemporary record of similar torture being inflicted on black victims by whites, a record which might justify such depraved retribution? Is there any record, for instance, of a white person deliberately shooting a two-year-old black girl in the head in a way that mirrored the coldblooded execution of Wilmien Potgieter?

I find it tragic that Derek Hanekom, a farmer himself, raises the spectre of Penny Sparrow while remaining silent about farm murders and that, in so doing, he seeks to trash the annual surveys of the Institute for Race Relations which  routinely find that only one in five South Africans believes that race relations have worsened and that the majority of black people polled do not experience racism in their daily lives.

Bereft of dignity, like a gaunt, emaciated  and tatterdemalion beggar on a windswept, litter-strewn city square, he desperately beseeches increasingly indifferent passers-by to look into his broken alms bowl which once contained a few stolen coppers but now displays only two cards – Penny Sparrow on top but below it’s the joker in the ANC race card pack, the Zuptoids.

Perhaps in the spirit of openness and accountability that the ANC promised us in 1994 – a promise it clearly never intended to keep, Derek Hanekom can tell us whether Penny Sparrow has ever…



  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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