Who is responsible for violence towards women? This question runs like a thread through some of the public discourses swirling around the trial of athlete Oscar Pistorius. In some ways he represents an inconvenient truth – that not all violence against white women in South Africa is carried out by black men.
Days after the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013, Lulu Xingwana, South Africa’s minister of women, children and people with disabilitiesstated on Australian television:
“Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it.”
Her comments outraged a number of groupings and, following threats by civil rights group AfriForum to bring a case of discrimination on the basis of race, faith and gender in the Equality Courts, the minister apologised unreservedly.
Just how contested white men’s violence towards white women is in South Africa became apparent again in 2013 when the Afrikaans singer and activist Sunette Bridges claimed in a Facebook post that Pistorius was the only white man to kill a white woman during the 15 months or so that she and others had been collecting news clippings. For the rest, white women met violent ends at the hands of black men.