Presenting author: Nadira Omarjee Title: An analysis of a newspaper report on the brutal rape and murder of Alexus Arendse – Cape Argus - Late Final, 1 July 1998 The Cape Argus reported on, July 1st 1998, a very sensational and brutal rape and murder of a woman – Alexus Arendse. The story was riddled with overtones of racial subtleties. The story is horrific and five years later, it still haunts me. I have analysed the story as a case study for my Master‟s thesis and I have offered it to students on courses on sexual violence. Each reading of the article highlights more inconsistencies in a post- Apartheid South Africa. What are the lessons to be learnt? As a South African woman belonging to the politically Black class, the story resonates personal fears and dramas encouraged through an Apartheid-ridden consciousness. Alexus Arendse was a so-called coloured woman from Bonteheuwel in Cape Town. She moved to Milnerton to live with her so-called white “boyfriend”. I specifically state „so-called‟ because the article does not name her racial or ethnic background explicitly but implicitly relies on local knowledge and the context of geographical location. Alexus was raped and murdered in her own home and nobody helped her: But her neighbours in Albow Gardens, including adults and children walking about the courtyard ignored her pleas for help. What puzzles most audiences when reading the story is WHY did her neighbours not help her? Through various readings of the article, many suggestions abounded: silence towards victims of domestic violence, silence against racially based violence and censure. Most audiences felt that communities turned a deaf-ear and a blind-eye away from domestic violence. Some audiences felt that her racial difference might have made her unpopular in her new community whereas, I felt as a Black woman in South Africa who related to Alexus‟ story more personally that she was being punished for deviating against the norm by moving racially upward into a white area. The censure of Alexus‟ behaviour which lead to her demise is troubling and begs for further analysis. I felt that the manner in which the report was written indicated that censure existed and that it should be a cautionary warning not to attempt such delinquent behaviour. On a first reading of the report, I empathised with the journalist as I, too, once worked as journalist. I felt that it was a difficult position for South African journalists to report racial and gender based violence without getting into the trap of politically correct discourse. However, after countless readings of the article, I felt that it was necessary to propose a solution out of the trap of politically correct language by dealing with racial and gender based violence in newspaper reports. Johan Schronen reported Alexus‟ story but he avoided and failed to deal with the tensions surrounding Alexus‟ death by sensationalising and graphically detailing the events leading up to her murder. Schronen‟s sensational and horrific manner of reporting dehumanised Alexus and banished her death to the realm of imagination and fantasy. The conclusion of the report shared no understanding of why such an atrocity was committed and Alexus‟ story remains just another story amongst the many.
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