Hannah Cornelius murder: What if she were a black South African woman instead? How the rape and murder of a white privileged white woman set off a nation.
Disconcert has come to the fore with the savage raping and murder of 21 year old Stellenbosch college student, Hannah Cornelius, the victim of an apparent car-jacking at the hands of four black South African men.
Notes one Australian publication, news.com.au, responding to the vicious murder of a the virginal university student, the daughter of a celebrated judge: ‘HANNAH Cornelius was sitting in a car early last Friday when four “animals” struck without warning.’
At least the Rupert Murdoch owned media outlet was upfront about how it really felt about the ‘animals’ who had defiled one of their own, an elite, white South African woman on the verge of an aspiration career.
While we can all agree that the murder and defilement of any human being is debased, irrespective of the gender or race of the victim, what is rarely conveyed or explored is how such murders are perpetrated in parts of the world where overt racism has always played a part in the debasement of one wide collective at the expense of another.
Which is to wonder, had Hannah Cornelius been a black student, would the world’s best and brightest press agents been equally up in arms about her murder? Or would that story have been relegated to the back pages and explained away as the behavior of ‘savages tucked away in the margins of society’ ….?
Went on to note Murdoch’s press agent: ‘The brutal murder of a popular student has created widespread distress in Stellenbosch and South Africa, even in a country thought to be hardened to violent crime.’
Adding, ‘The stunned student community reacted with shock and held hastily convened demonstrations, as well as flooding social media with tributes.’
Yet what was lacking in the analysis of how such crime came to be was a regard of how the stratification of South African society, of those able to afford an elite education and passage versus those relegated to the margins of society and crime, aka the predominant black indigenous population are the forgotten people, who are assumed to have contributed solely to their ‘miserable lot’.
Went on to note South Africa’s news24: ‘She is the daughter Willem Cornelius, Simon’s Town chief magistrate. His wife, Anna, is a well-known lawyer in Cape circles.’
Andries Cornelius, Hannah’s uncle, said in a statement that the family didn’t have all the details about her death yet. The family thanked everyone for their support and said it was a testimonial to the ‘wonderful, loving and beautiful person Hannah was’.
And then there was Hannah’s school reaction where she had been a second year BA student.
Contemplated, University of Stellenbosch Rector Professor Wim de Villiers: ‘Our campus community is shocked by this senseless death and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the student who lost her life, as well as the student who was injured.’
Would the campus have been equally shocked had Hannah been the daughter of two struggling black parents? Or would her brutal murder at least have registered had she been the daughter of celebrated black citizens?
Or would Hannah’s death gained more passage as a black woman had she been hounded down by four white foul mouthed white savages? Or was that the crime perpetrated on Hannah only reserved for blacks who are innately believed to be the sole perps for such crimes (indeed where were the pictures of the arrested perps many commentators had demanded to know…).
Student activist Luke Waltham expressed students feeling very unsafe.
Told Waltham via iol.co.za: ‘Tomorrow we will be meeting with various student leaders and house leaders, to talk about the way forward and address the state of security of Stellenbosch,’
Adding, ‘We are questioning the municipality and the university on why they did not deploy more security at the university and at certain hot spots’.
Define hot spots? And more to the point how did such hot spots come to exist and how was the university seeking to address the existence of such hot spots, if at all, beyond building larger walls to keep the ‘dregs of society’ at bay? And why did it take the murder of a white beautiful daughter of privileged folk for activists to react to the ongoing lawlessness of society where rape and murder are rampant and the highest rate in the world? Did such issues only matter only when it happened to the wrong class of people?
Police minister Nathi Nhleko said the sharp increase was largely down to domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
Reiterated the police official at the time, ‘What it says about us South Africans is that we are violent, we have a prevalent culture of violence’.
Equally grim was the release of statistics relating to sexual offenses, with 142.2 sexual offenses per day over the last year. With researchers pointing out there was a slight drop on the previous year, the likely result of underreporting rather than an improvement in the situation.
Responding to Hannah Cornelius’ rape, strangulation and murder, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed during press corps meeting that two assailants, Vernon Witbooi, 32, and Geraldo Parsens, 26, had been arrested and that they were provisionally facing charges of murder, attempted murder and hijacking. Two more men have since been arrested.
A memorial service was planned at the New Dutch Reformed Church in Fishhoek for Hannah Cornelius come Friday, her death another grim statistic in South Africa’s degrading study of social malaise and violence and the rigors of historical colonialism.
And then there were these reactions on the web that caught my eye, see what you think?
‘The liberal legal system’s dismal failure is so grief stricken as this would not have happened had repeat criminals been executed and others tremble in fear, even think about committing the crimes that are in their heads.’
‘Jealousy was probably a significant motive in the murder of this beautiful young lady.’
‘Obliterate the sub-human scum. South Africans have grown tired of these predatory types.’
‘Where is the ANCWL, where are the riots??????? This was a disgusting crime committed on an innocent, but your hear nothing from the racist thieves. NO racism opportunity here, so they are not interested, a white life is not important to them.’
‘When blacks assault, rape, and murder whites, those incidents happen because an innocent person was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. When whites notice violent black criminality, it’s “hate”.’
‘Feminists will say she was killed by the “patriarchy” and I am sure if the two perps had not suffered from all the racism in Afrikaans books they were exposed to at school, they would not have committed the deed.’
‘The White genocide continues in S Africa. Of course, you won’t find many stories in the western media about it. As long as apartheid is over, the media don’t care.’
‘Still no word from the ANCWL – guess not !’