Defend Truth


History is a great bully but we need to have guts and to keep on learning


Marianne Thamm has toiled as a journalist / writer / satirist / editor / columnist / author for over 30 years. She has published widely both locally and internationally. It was journalism that chose her and not the other way around. Marianne would have preferred plumbing or upholstering.

The wife of an assassinated liquidator says please don’t look the other way. These are criminal acts and we need to keep up the fight. Reflecting on Cloete and Thomas Murray’s murders, and the lessons South Africa can take from Europe’s violent history.

That Monet Murray, the wife of assassinated Thomas Murray (28), should refer to her Austrian heritage during her eulogy at his funeral on 23 March is significant.

His murder in a planned hit on 18 March leaves their infant son, William, without a father and Monet without her life partner.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police investigate double murder after Bosasa liquidator Cloete Murray and son gunned down in Midrand

It also deprives the country of the kind of guts it takes to fight endemic corruption, criminality and violence, readily exploited by rising populism.

The assassination of Thomas and his father, Cloete, came after they had been followed by a car and a motorcycle. The liquidators had been working on high-profile cases involving politically connected individuals in the governing party, the ANC.

Murray’s widow, at a service attended by about 300 mourners, urged South Africans not to “flee” a country that feels increasingly “lawless”.

“Please, don’t run, don’t hide. I know that a lot of people, after hearing this news and seeing that they [Thomas and Cloete] fought this injustice, and people will say, ‘Well, there you go,’ and just pack up. You can do that.

“We can stand around our braai fires and say, ‘Well, look at what this country is coming to.’ We can do that. But, please, don’t look the other way.

“I know that not every one of you is going to go chase these criminals, and not every one of you can do that. And that’s okay.

“In your own way, please be there for my son. Don’t flee. Don’t look away from this injustice, please don’t.

“Because it was a criminal act. We can say it was political; we can say it was a lot of things, but it was a criminal act. And I honestly hope that each and every one of you will keep on.”

Lessons of war

A comment by Monet that has escaped being quoted extensively is that of her Austrian heritage, of parents and ancestors who survived the genocide that swept through Europe during World War 2.

Monet mentioned her parents, Europe and the ­lessons learnt in her eulogy to her young dead husband and the father of her child, as well as his grandfather, both killed just off the New Road bridge in Johannesburg.

World War 2 is only 78 years away from this point in time and there are millions across the world who still remember the horror.

The current invasion by Vladimir Putin of Ukraine, once part of the USSR and where Jacob Zuma completed his training, bears all the scars of the undercurrent of World War 2. The ghosts walk among us, here and there.

The 56 million who died, including six million Jews, have left ample footage, photographs, piles of documents as well as written accounts preserving the apocalyptic devastation caused by Adolf Hitler’s vision of a racially pure, national socialist utopia.

Today, philosophers, religious leaders, historians, writers, fiction writers, economists, medical professionals, film and documentary makers and survivors of the horror – on both sides – are still picking through the bones of those mass graves.

It was the USSR and its feared Red Army, as part of the Allied Forces, that liberated Europe. A sore point with Putin is the lack of acknowledgement for this deed of liberation.

The sacred burial grounds are everywhere in Europe. The sad but well-tended “war graves” are a tourist attraction in some countries. The poppies each year to commemorate the dead of World War 1 keep the ghosts alive.

And here, too, in South Africa.

Standing ground

Some of us are children of those who survived the European mass murder and genocide, and who fled an utterly ruined continent for lives elsewhere.

Some chose South Africa, where they made a home and had children, like Monet, like me.

Those of us of Austrian or German heritage whose grandparents or parents, or great-grandparents, might have supported or participated in Hitler’s war, live with an epigenetic ancestral perpetrating class.

That’s why some of us can sniff a despot, a dictator, a populist warmonger from a mile off.

And that’s why Monet has called for South Africans to stand their ground.

Read more in Daily Maverick: People are still dying for freedoms enshrined in our Constitution – protect them now

Generations of South Africans who experienced first-hand the damage caused by imperialism and colonialism followed by apartheid know the score.

All of these systems rely on racial separation, divine authority (you can call him der Führer if you like), state violence, hatred, fear, bad language, insults, limited freedom of movement, impoverishment, imprisonment, displacement and death.

It is the lessons of World War 2 and the bloodthirsty war before that that are carried into the future, and it was this that Monet Murray was referring to.

In Germany and Austria, and in those countries Hitler occupied in Europe, many fled or could not fight back against the methamphetamine-fuelled might of the German army. Soldiers were given the drug Pervitin to dial up progress.

We know now that running and hiding results in madness in times of extreme lawlessness and will not stop the destruction that political leaders are capable of wreaking on citizens or “nations”.

“We can stand around our braai fires and say, ‘Well, look at what this country is coming to.’ We can do that. But, please, don’t look the other way,” to repeat what Monet said.

History is a great bully, this we know by now. But we must keep on learning.

We hopefully have enough guts to stand and face it all, as so many in this country already have, paying with their lives.

Babita Deokaran, the Cloetes, Marumo Phenya, Thabiso Zulu, Moses Phakwe, Xola Banisi, Moss Phakoe and many others documented in the Open Democracy Advice Centre’s Heroes Under Fire.

To say nothing of all those before them who died and really fought for freedom and justice. Those stalwarts now all departed.

War scatters its survivors and our ancestors have all, at some time or other, fled crass inhumanity, violence, threat and the conquest of others. We all have memory and many have courage. DM168

Marianne Thamm is the assistant editor of Daily Maverick.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    It takes courage to stand up to injustice. And so much more when its laced with violence. Thank you Marianne.

  • David Walker says:

    This is an important article as it hints at the state that we are in. The ANC are no longer just political opponents, they have become the national enemy. They have wrought more destruction than most invading armies. They are the enemy of all South Africans that are not feeding at their trough. Every possible non-violent means must be used to bring about their defeat.

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