Profound lecture on Anglo-Boer rape affidavits

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THANDI XABA

“All human beings has it in them to be a Verwoed or Hilter”.
This was expressed by Professor Antjie Krog, a highly acclaimed South African poet, writer and academic during her profound talk at the University of the Free State on Tuesday.

As part of the lecture series on trauma, memory and representations of the past, Krog’s topic, titled They Couldn’t Achieve their Goal with Me: Narrating Rape during the South African War, focused on acts of rape during the South African Anglo Boer war.
“As an academic writer, if one writes about something you have to prove that it’s new. These affidavits were known and people know about them, but I look at them in terms of narrative, voice and agency,” she says.

She further explains that, about two months before the South African war officially ended on May 31st in 1902, affidavits were taken from women about transgressions experienced at the hands of British soldiers.

“I think what I am trying to say, because these affidavits have not been used and because they had been embargoed for a long time until the ’80s, the debate on violence against women has never been on the table properly; between white men, black men and women it has never been talked about,” Krog exclaims.

Furthermore, the acts recorded included plunder, killing of stock, abduction, sexual assault and rape. Her lecture is the first scholarly focus in terms of narrative, power, vocabulary and content of 24 incidents of sexual assault and rape since the 25-year embargo on these documents was lifted in 1982.

Her lecture served as the third instalment of the vice chancellor’s lecture series. The lecture series is hosted by Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, senior research professor in trauma, forgiveness and reconciliation studies at the UFS, as part of a five-year research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

thandi@centralmediagroup.co.za