Geo Cronjé: Trial by Media

The Cape Argus charged him, tried him and found him guilty

Jaco Strauss
2 September 2003 E-Mail this page to a friend

"Race Row" screamed the Cape Argus headlines on Thursday when they broke their "exclusive story". A "story" it turned out to be and one that is blowing up in their faces. I sent this letter to their editor and am still awaiting their reply.
Dear Sir

When is the "Afrikaner" tag used when Afrikaners appear in a positive context?
Your handling of the Geo Cronjé saga refers.

The role of your paper in the whole debacle was exemplified by your editor in his "Opinion" piece last Thursday - the day your paper set off to find Cronjé guilty through trial by media.

The trend of that Opinion piece was set by his reference to Nigel Pierce's "thick Dutchmen" comment as a "clumsy remark". Would he have regarded "dumb kaffirs" or "stupid Hotnots" as equally "clumsy", or plain downright racist? Remarkably, he went even further claiming that "Pierce's claims were true, at least to a degree"!

The Cape Argus's racist antagonism towards Afrikaners was further illustrated in the "exclusive" front page "Race Row" story of that day. Cronjé was referred to as the "bearded Afrikaner giant" and the "giant Afrikaner lock" throughout all the baseless racist allegations leveled against him. When was the last time the "Afrikaner" tag was used when Afrikaners appeared in a positive context in your paper? Or is that something that just does not happen?

Your paper is still punting its own trial-by-media "guilty" verdict...
Yesterday one of your columnists, Karl Brophy, cast doubt on Cronjé's "vindication", carried on with racial stereotyping, patronizingly brought Paul Kruger into the debate and even resurrected Hansie Cronjé.

Dragging Hansie Cronjé into the equation is quite incredible. Other than a surname coincidence, I fail to see what the two stories have in common. Except of course that by dragging Hansie into a new scandal (more than a year after his death) the Argus could have another go at this "particular Afrikaner" as Brophy referred to him. Interesting how Cronjé (Hansie) made a metamorphosis from "South African" to "Afrikaner" in your paper around the same time he went from Hero to Zero. This is about the only thing the two Cronjés share.

"Afrikaner" seems to be the only group reference used as a pronoun when some sort of scandal breaks around somebody. Why don't I read in the same article how the big Zulu Zuma is "fighting for his political survival" or on how the graying Indian Mac Maharaj "would be enjoying his retirement"?

Why don't I read about the "big Zulu" Zuma or the "graying Indian" Mac Maharaj?
Still punting the Argus's guilty verdict Brophy claims:
"Geo's persecution and subsequent 'vindication', on the other hand, feeds beautifully into the discrimination complex of the disenfranchised descendants of the Boer people".
What happened to the principle of being innocent, until proven guilty? Granted, it is a concept rather alien to most newspapers, but your paper actually turned it around, still claiming he's guilty even after he was found innocent! Now you are questioning the credibility of the investigation. An investigation you never questioned while believing it would vindicate your verdict. This is really taking trial-by-media to new heights.

Brophy's view is that the "saddest part of 'Cronjégate' is the way SA Rugby handled it". Something must have changed since Thursday when your editor felt compelled to state:
"The prompt action today by SA Rugby managing director Rian Oberholzer, who took command, removed Cronjé from the squad and expressed zero tolerance for racism in rugby, are to be warmly applauded."

Your paper should also publish a front page apology
Brophy then lectures us that:
"English-speakers are no more or less racist than their Boer brothers. It's just that they're more subtle about their prejudice."
However, in your paper in general and his article in particular, nothing suggests any "subtleness" in your anti-Afrikaner sentiments. Maybe the Afrikaner trait of being "far more blunt and straight speaking", as Brophy further generalised, is rubbing off.

Your "exclusive" story was from the outset, prima facie, in any event clearly a lot of sensational rubbish. If Cronjé was such a blatant racist, it would have come to the fore at provincial and Super 12 levels a long time ago. Does it make any sense for a guy to share accommodation with black and coloured players throughout his career, just to blankly refuse, on racial grounds, to bunk with a person of colour on the eve of World Cup selection? Or do you really believe Afrikaners to be so bone-headedly idiotic?

Your paper should follow the example of your sister newspaper The Star and publish a front page apology. Not only to Cronjé, but to all the Afrikaners you have stereotyped and insulted throughout this sorry journalistic episode.

Jaco Strauss

Previous Visitor Comments

Name Email Subject Location
something that continues to imperss me. There is no Olympics of suffering. So much of the conflict is driven by one side feeling they have suffered the most at the hands of the other, and therefore their side is the right side. Mandela’s greatest power may have been his ability to leave all his suffering in the past, and bring only his vision of the future to his relationship with his opponents.

I could read a book about this without finding such real-world aprpoacehs!

ALBERTUS VENTERdabtric_at_iafrica.comRACISM & MEDIA
The media should sometimes look further than the obvious. They should have done so in the Geo Cronje saga and discovered that Geo did a lot to cover for the specific party he was supposed to have insulted. His action saved a whole team from embarrasment on an issue to which all knowlegdeable people tend to lend a blind eye namely the sexual diversions during such travels. Politicians are normally crucified when their sexual escapades become known (unless your name is Zuma.) However, such incidents in the sporting arena are accepted as normal except when somebody refuses to accommodate such behaviour and is then branded "Racist" Responsible media coverage is however not a strength in any journalist - only sensation is.

BoorAnonymouswe can take it 'Argus'
Our forefathers 'trekked' over the mountains to get away from being opressed , they fought wars to attain land even bought land from the natives legally, when their new home gave diamonds and gold they were faced with an english invasion and the only way to defeat these outnumbered and outgunned people was to murder their wives and children in concentration camps. They were so feared and respected that the english their enemy named one of their most elite fighting units after them. Their biggest downfall was their peace loving nature and mercy, as they were not killers .When mugabe's forefathers came to murder and raid the local black tribes it was the Boors who chased them back to where they still are today.Now we stand before trying times once more , we have been made scapegoats for the wrongdoings of other people against our own, but do not forget who we are ... we are still the Boors.

Sarel Cronjé: Trial by Media
I have been out of the country for a while. Throughout may exploration I have met a lot of people from all over the world and getting to know there cultures which opens one's eyes and allows you to view your own culture in a different emotion. Culture is what identifies us in the world, it is who we are, it produces a mind-set within us that will enable us to view the world in certain perspectives. According to Jared Diamond who wrote "Guns, Germs, and Steel" culture is the single factor responsible for the development of the world we know as it is, even before the time Europeans set foot in Africa. Comming back to the article debate. It is sad, even a disgrace to see newspapers trying to feed-off or down-grading certain cultures in South Africa and this is supposed to help make South Africa unite. How is this possible if we read articles that downgrade cultures? This is a question that tests our immunity against racism and should be priotirized. Media is powerful, but I consider them as bottom feeders, lowest of low, parasites in our society. Where South Africa should unite, they spread the word of separatism. Is this what you want?

Hannes Deetlefsdeetlefs_at_compuserve.comTrial by media
Why do you react? Simply ignore the Argus, be proud! An unruly student in an otherwise good class uses the same method of provocation and succeeds the moment the teacher reacts...

Nina in UKwac_rockNational Pride
Jennifer Johnson - forgive me for sounding very stupid, but I have some difficulty understanding your sentence "I am all for affirmative action, but we need to treat all people equal.". To me those two statements are conflicting. You see, that presents some sort of a problem because now you haven't really made a point at all.

Jennifer Johnsonmadamjj_at_sbcglobal.netNational Pride
As a proud South African living abroad I log in to the Cape Argus to keep up to date with the news in my homeland. It hurts to see the scenarios and mistakes of the past being repeated. Apartheid reversed, the players, just a different skin colour. I am all for affirmative action, but we need to treat all people equal. The people who were responsible for the suffering have all passed on. We who are still living need to forgive and move on so that the nation can heal. In short, there are good and bad people in every race; why persecute only one group. Long live the RAINBOW NATION as a unit. Our old motto "Unity is strength." Come on South Africa, you can do better.

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
Dankie vir die kompliment Nina. Ongelooflik genoeg is my antwoord aan die hand van verskeie artikels in die Argus geskryf - so ongelooflik soos wat dit mag klink. Ek het dit nie uit my duim gesuig ten einde aandag te trek nie...

Jaco Comment
Yes Nina, my aricle was the response to a number of articles and not merely "throwing some words at the Argus to be heard". Unbelievably, they actually published all this nonsense!

Nina du Preezninadupreez@ameniatha.dkGeneral Comment.
Very good letter Jaco, but I have one question: Is your letter in response to the actual article, or are you just throwing some words at the Argus to be heard?? I can't see what good calling them racist is going to prove?? Unfortunately the newspapers base a lot of their stories on what will sell, this is called sensationalism, and believe me, they do it deliberately just to bait the reader into buying the paper. The journalists have extended their freedom of speech to the ridiculous, and sadly they will continue doing so. The only difference is that as much as you care about what is being written, I can assure you they they do not. And then a comment to Louise: Weet jy, ek is een van die Engelsspreekendes wat jy noem met jou kommentaartjie. Ek is eintlik deens gebore, maar het in SA groot geword. Ek het in 'n Engelsmedium skool gegaan, waar Afrikaans my tweede taal was. Ek is nou getroud met 'n Afrikaner, en ons het een kind, wat drie tale kan praat (deens, engels en afrikaans) Ek is glad nie skaam oor my eie taalgebruik nie, en praat met my skoonfamilie afrikaans. Nie omdat ek moet nie, maar omdat ek voel dat dit reg is. In anycase, most people know that the Argus is an English newspaper, just like the Burger is an Afrikaans paper. At the end of the day they are both South African papers, with their own seperate interestgroups.

Louise Van der Banklouise.vanderbank@cox.netrassisme
Ag hou tog op met rassisme! Die storie is al holrug gery. Die Argus is al die jare teen Afrikaners, dit weet ons almal. Hou tog op om Afrikaanssprekendes "Boere" te noem. 'n Boer is iemand wat op 'n plaas woon. Soek die woord op in 'n woordeboek. Meeste Engelssprekendes kan nie eers die woord "boer" reg uitspreek nie. Dan trou Engels en Afrikaanssprekendes met mekaar en wat is die kinders dan? Sal graag wil weet!

Wynand de Beerwdebeer_at_yahoo.comGeneral Comment
Well done Jaco, you reflect my sentiments exactly. And let us not forget the role played by Afrikaans media such as Die Burger, who used to specialise in smearing all opposition to the apartheid regime, but who nowadays enthusiastically participate in the persecution by media of anyone suspected (no proof required, of course) of harbouring the terrible thought-crime of racial awareness. Keep up the good work!

Of course Hansie Cronje sold out his country and everything. I thought he was an over-rated captain, I loathed him throwing away the test agaist England (only later it transpired that he was already on the take at the time) and I lost all respect for him after his wicked ways came to the fore.

But I think you are missing the point somewhat. I didn't bring Hansie into the Geo story. The Argus did. And I still fail to see what the two scandels have in common, except a common surname.

My other problem with their Hansie comparison is that Hansie became an "Afrikaner" in their paper only after his fall from grace. Have you ever read about the "Afrikaner Els" winning tournaments? You can bet your bottom dollar he'll turn into "the Afrikaner Els" as soon as he is involved in any sort of scandal, especially if if they can find some sort of racial undertone...

Look man, I am an Afrikaner, but see that as the least imporant part of my identity. I am a South African first. And I do have a problem around braais with Afrikaners who hold that other Cronje, Hansie, as a national hero. For goodness sake, man, he sold out his country - literally speaking. Substitute in the above "Cronje" with "Zuma" and "Argus" with "Die Burger" and you can make the same point. Not that 2 wrongs make a right, but we must first look in our own hearts when we make judgements about prejudice. Do not defend yourself from an ethnic viewpoint, but from one using sound democratic principles: which we have in this country, and of which you shoud be proud. And yeah, the Poms suck.

Jakes de Klerkjakes@impressware.comCape Argus
What else did you expect from the Cape Argus? They have always been prejudiced against Afrikaners and have always delighted in provoking us. I’m sure that the journalists of the Cape Argus and The Star have to complete a course in belittling and baiting Afrikaners before being appointed. See, it’s the right thing to do old chum. Did you know that The Star even defended the concentration camps during the second Anglo-Boer war? I quote from “The Afrikaners” by Hermann Giliomee. “…describing a lecture by the Rev. H.P. Schoon on ‘The Suffering of Women and Children in the Anglo-Boer War’ as ‘a disgraceful performance.’ ‘If a history of humanity in warfare were to be written’, The Star said, ‘the way the British took care of the women and children of the enemy would deserve a marked place of honour.’ It seems that the current batch of journalists are no better that their predecessors.

P L E A S E   P A R T I C I P A T E

No active contact accepted
E-mail Address

Previous Article The white youth pay for Africa's embarrassment
Next Article Racism

HOME Top Back Print E-Mail Page E-Mail us Guestbook