Murder in South Africa
Dozens of South Africans were murdered this weekend. But one of them, David Rattray was no ordinary South African, and his murder at his home in KwaZulu-Natal province on Friday night has shaken a shaky country. Rattray was one of the country’s legendary historians, a master storyteller, and (it is said) the only historian to ...
Dozens of South Africans were murdered this weekend. But one of them, David Rattray was no ordinary South African, and his murder at his home in KwaZulu-Natal province on Friday night has shaken a shaky country. Rattray was one of the country's legendary historians, a master storyteller, and (it is said) the only historian to ever receive a standing ovation at the Royal Geographical Society in London. He was South Africa's most renowned expert on the war between the British and the Zulu, particularly the battle of Isandlwana, where tens of thousands of Zulu warriors overran their heavily-armed British counterparts to deliver Britain's most devastating colonial defeat. During the past decade, tourists have flocked to Rattray's home on the edge of the battlefield just to hear him spin tales of the carnage that happened there more than a century ago.
Rattray’s murder is certainly a tragedy, but so are his country’s crime statistics. More than 18,000 people are killed each year in South Africa (the world’s second-highest rate), and violent robberies and rape are even more prevalent. What’s worse, President Thabo Mbeki, it appears, would rather look the other way. Fear of crime in the country is exaggerated, he said in a recent interview. The African Union begs to differ, delivering a blistering report just days after Rattray’s murder condemning the rampant crime and corruption that threaten to undermine the continent’s largest economy. So far, not even the untimely death of a giant like David Rattray has changed the climate in South Africa. Mbeki’s government has responded to the African Union not by getting serious about crime, but instead by trying to water down its report.
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