Posted on December 29, 2022

White Men Charged in Attack on Black Teenagers at Pool in South Africa

John Eligon, New York Times, December 28, 2022

A violent attack by a group of white men on two Black teenagers at a resort pool in South Africa on Christmas Day has sparked widespread outrage, reviving images from the ugly days of apartheid and serving as a stinging reminder of the country’s unresolved racial tensions.


A video clip shows one man delivering an open-hand slap to the face of one Black teenager, another graying white man casually holding a cigarette as he tugs the hair of the other Black youth, and one of the men wrapping the taller youth in a head lock and pulling him into the pool, seemingly trying to submerge the teenager’s head underwater.

Brian Nakedi, a former underground fighter against apartheid, said his 18-year-old son, Kgokong Nakedi, was one of the teenagers assaulted at the pool in Bloemfontein, a city about four hours south of Johannesburg. Both denied online claims that the youths had provoked the fight.


On Wednesday, the police announced they had arrested and charged three white men: Johan Nel, 33, and Jan Stephanus van der Westhuizen, 47, who appeared in court on assault charges; and a third suspect, 48, whose name was not released and who is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday on a charge of attempted murder. {snip}

Since the fall of apartheid nearly 30 years ago, South Africans have proudly declared their country a “rainbow nation.” But the encounter, at Maselspoort Resort and Conference Center, adds to a litany of racist episodes that have induced soul searching and hand wringing among South Africans.


Bloemfontein is the capital of Free State, a province that is a particularly hot kettle for racial violence. Once an independent Boer Republic for the white Afrikaans-speaking settlers who led South Africa’s apartheid regime, it remains a largely agrarian region. It also sits at the intersection of South Africa’s fiercely racialized debate over land.

Working-class white farmers frequently raise concerns about being killed or driven off their land. {snip}

After video of the violence at the pool surfaced, President Cyril Ramaphosa released a statement calling on Black and white South Africans to condemn racism.


Kgokong Nakedi said that in the early afternoon on Christmas Day, he and his cousin, Sipho Khumalo, 13, had set out to swim at the pool on the campground side. Almost as soon as they arrived, he said, white guests began asking them what they were doing there and saying that they were not allowed. Kgokong said he got into the pool anyway, but as tensions increased, he and his cousin left to tell his father.


But when they went back, Kgokong said, one of the men closed the gate and stopped them from entering. {snip}

Kgokong and Sipho hopped over the fence. When Kgokong jumped in the pool, almost all of the white occupants of the pool, a dozen or so adults and children, got out, video showed. {snip}

Then, security footage showed, some of the white visitors and Kgokong began yelling at each other. {snip} A white man leaned over and slapped him — and chaos ensued, with the teenagers fighting back.