In the Cape’s Weekend Argus, columnist William Saunderson-Meyer pertinently points out the contrast between the overwhelming – and appropriately outraged – media response to the UFS racist video debacle with the story of student in Limpopo who was killed for refusing to sing a “struggle” song on the way back from a protest at the Union Buildings – a murder that went virtually unreported both locally and abroad.
To their credit, the Sowetan broke the story on 27 February:
Immediate suspension awaits three students accused of beating another student to death.
The University of Limpopo’s Turfloop campus said yesterday that George Tsoai, 24, Raymond Mabelebele, 23 and Tibane Serumula, 22, would be suspended from the institution – if and when they were released from jail.
The students were denied bail yesterday by the Mankweng magistrate’s court in connection with the killing.
The three allegedly beat Nkosinathi Mhlongo during a minibus trip from Pretoria on Friday.
Mhlongo apparently refused to sing a protest song on a minibus ferrying the students to Turfloop.
According to the university the accused, affiliated to Sasco, asked for a lift to Polokwane in a mini- bus that ferried only members of the Students Christian Organisation (SCO).
“An argument ensued when they forcefully tried to stop the SCO members from singing Christian songs. Mhlongo allegedly refused to sing their protest songs and was allegedly beaten all the way from Mokgophong to Mankweng Hospital.”
Police spokesman Malan Nchabeleng said his body was thrown out of the rear window of the minibus near the hospital.
On the 3 March, the imminent appearance of the alleged murderers in court was then reported in a minuscule article on SABCnews.com. In the report neither the victim’s nor the perpetrators political affiliations were mentioned. The motivation – political intolerance – wasn’t either.
On the 10 March, the suspension of the alleged murderers (incidentally described as “student leaders”) from the university was reported only by News24.com but this report seems to be at variance with the version of events described by the Sowetan and a regional paper called the Northern Review which both mention the insistence of the SASCO youths that the Christian students in the taxi sing “struggle” songs and not Christian ones. Christian organisations have subsequently called for SASCO to be suspended at the University of Limpopo.
Ultimately, though, media coverage of this tragedy has been pitiful. That the story has not received widespread coverage almost implies that such a crime is perceived by media gatekeepers as insignificant – simply not worth column inches or airtime. Where is the anger, the outrage, the debate that was catalysed by the UFS video? There is just deafening, hypocritical silence.
It is incumbent upon all South Africans to speak out against this senseless, sick violence. But we can only speak out against it if we are aware of it. And the responsibility for that, in many ways, lies with the media in reporting it.