Four pit bulls burned by two mobs, 800 miles apart, after the pits killed one child and nearly killed another
CAPE TOWN, South Africa––Inter-racial friction, a legacy of the continuing use of fierce dogs to defend white privilege, decades after apartheid ended, smoldered just beneath the remains of four pit bulls lynched and burned by mobs after the pit bulls killed one black child and nearly killed another.
Three-year-old Keketso Innocent Saule was fatally mauled by two pit bulls at about 8:15 in the morning on November 20, 2022 in Hennenman, Free State, just east of Welkom, about 100 miles northeast of Bloemfontein, where eight-year-old Olebogeng Mosime was killed by two pit bulls in a similar attack on November 12, 2022.
Later on November 20, 2022 a victim thus far identified only as “a young girl” was severely injured by three pit bulls at Gatesville, a shantytown at Athlone, a Cape Town suburb.
Both pit bull attacks incited mob responses reminiscent of the latter part of the anti-apartheid struggle, 1985-1990, when suspected police informers were often lynched by “necklacing,” the practice of forcing a discarded car tire over a victim’s head and setting it alight.
Though the pit bulls inflicting the most recent attacks may have belonged to black South Africans, pit bulls and other breeds are often used to guard the property of the affluent white minority, only about 7.5% of the population, and remain potent symbols of socio-economic inequality in a nation still struggling to achieve racial justice.
Keketso Innocent Saule
Keketso Innocent Saule never had a chance.
“The dogs bit him until he died in the yard,” Free State police captain Stephen Thakeng told Nicole McCain of News24 in Cape Town.
“The angry residents wanted to kill both dogs and attack the owner of these two pit bulls,” Thakeng continued. “Members of Welkom Public Order Policing were summoned to the scene and removed the owner to a safe place.
“We can confirm that the staff of the Virginia [district] SPCA was attacked by angry residents,” Thakeng added, “but nobody got injured. Members of Welkom Public Order Policing and Hennenman SAPS [South African Police Service] managed to rescue them.”
Elaborated Virginia district SPCA officer Ernest Khakhau, “We had to vacate the place because we were attacked. We left one dog there. The other dog had managed to escape, and we removed that dog, who has been euthanized.”
Reported McCain, “Khakau added that locals attacked the dog who was left behind, hitting it with garden spades and stones before setting the animal alight.”
“Girl bitten all over her body”
Eight hundred miles southwest, detailed Robin-Lee Francke of the Cape Town-based Independent Online broadcast news service [IOL], “A Cape Town community took matters into their own hands as they killed and set alight three pit bulls that attacked a young girl,” later identified by various sources as anywhere from ten to 13 years old.
“The girl was bitten all over her body,” Francke said, “and angry residents chased down two of the dogs and immediately stoned them to death. The third dog was caught within minutes and also killed.
“In video footage and photos seen by IOL, a large crowd, including young children, could be seen standing at the scene as the pit bulls were burning.
“Residents shouted in agreement as the dogs burnt.”
SPCA inspector rushed to the scene
Explained one of the onlookers to Francke, “We are tired of these people wanting to parade with their pit bulls, knowing they are a danger to society. It’s not enough our children are being slaughtered by vicious criminals, and brazen gangsters. Now we need to add pit bulls to the list. No. Just no.”
Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief inspector Jaco Pieterse told Francke that “SPCA Inspector Jeffrey Mfini rushed to the scene, found the dogs still burning, and extinguished the fire, but all the animals succumbed to their injuries.”
Pieterse urged the public “To contact the SPCA if a dog behaves aggressively or tries to bite someone. We will take the dog immediately. People must not take matters into their own hands. No animal deserves to endure brutality and suffering,” said Pieterse.
SPCA has lost public confidence
Pieterse also reminded listeners that the Cape of Good Hope SPCA has an open admission policy.
“An animal will never be turned away, regardless of breed,” Pieterse said.
But the National SPCA network, which continues to oppose breed-specific legislation, long ago lost the confidence of much of the public that it can and will effectively respond to dangerous dog complaints before victims are injured or killed.
Jeffrey Mfini, meanwhile, is the same evidently fearless SPCA inspector who on July 26, 2021 rescued an adult male pit bull named Bingo from a mob in the Bonteheuwel shantytown “after the pit bull terrorized and attacked people for weeks,” reported Kristin Engel for IOL.
Brave but belated response
“SPCA spokesperson Shane Everts said inspector Mfini was dispatched after receiving a call for help involving a dog in distress,” Engel recounted.
“Upon arrival, Mfini faced several members of the community armed with pangas [machetes] and stones closing in on Bingo, alleging the dog had attacked more than three people in the area. The inspector found the dog hiding between an informal structure and a fence.”
Recalled Mfini, “The community was very angry towards the dog, claiming he was evil. If we did not intervene they would have killed the dog in our presence.”
Bingo, who was euthanized, turned out to have injured six people in three weeks, among them three children and two adults who tried to help the children.
Of note is that the Cape of Good Hope SPCA apparently did not send Mfini to the Bonteheuwel shantytown until it was Bingo who was in danger.
Gatesville pit bull lynching witness Rushana Sage Frantz probably did not know a child had been badly injured when she posted her account of the lynching to Facebook.
“We were traveling down Pooke road in Gatesville.” Frantz began, “just past the cemetery at the informal settlement. There were groups of people (adults and children) standing with bricks and poles. We saw a white VW Golf MK1 driving towards us that nearly swerved into our car. There was a pit bull tied to the back of the car dragging this poor animal.
“The gang of people behind the car was throwing bricks at the dog and hitting the dog with poles. We were so terrified and scared for our own lives we couldn’t stop.
SPCA was closed
“We drove to the SPCA in Bridgetown,” Frantz said, “but they were closed and we drove back to the informal settlement to take pics so that we could go and report it at the police station.
“On our return there was a police van,” Frantz continued, “but they did nothing and drove off. We drove further and saw that there were two dogs lying dead on the ground.
“Still being traumatized and terrified of those people, we managed to take not such good pics.
“Why would people do that?” Frantz asked the Facebook audience, instead of having asked anyone at the scene.
“Animals are God creatures too,” Frantz went on. “What are those adults teaching children, that what they did is right? If those dogs did something there are ways and means to deal with it, not that way. You don’t see them dragging rapists and murderers down the streets like that and stoning them, so why do it to these two dogs?”
“He loves his animals”
What Frantz missed, as a well-meaning Afrikaner, is that law enforcement in the “informal settlements,” as she termed the vicinity, is often more a theory than a reality, and that rapists and murderers are in truth lynched in such communities relatively often, reflecting residents’ frustration with the lack of effective policing where, to be sure, the often transient nature of the population makes policing exceptionally difficult.
Finished Frantz, “When I saw this happening, and it happened so quickly, my son and I became hysterical because we have dogs, and he loves his animals, and when I looked in these people’s faces, they were excited about what they were doing. They were rejoicing.”
But what would Frantz feel if pit bulls tore her son apart, while the authorities responsible for preventing dog attacks had a decades-long history of defending dangerous dogs, instead of human victims?
“We are busy tracing the culprits”
Responded the Cape of Good Hope SPCA to her complaint, “We are busy tracing the culprits. We have to work through several videos to try and identify them and hope the community assists with identifying them. Then only can we arrest them and lay charges. We are busy with the case.”
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA so far has issued no apparent acknowledgement that the surest, most certain way to prevent mobs from stoning and burning pit bulls alive is to keep pit bulls from wreaking unanswered havoc in the shantytowns, including the alleys where children play and through which their parents walk to work every day, through gantlets of aggressive dogs about whom little or nothing has ever been done.
Making every effort to work peacefully within the South African political system, and to restore public confidence in the institutions supposed to protect residents from dog attacks, the Sizwe Kupelo Foundation has gathered more than 87,570 signatures on a petition seeking a national ban on pit bulls.
The foundation, begun by firefighter Sizwe Kupelo of Umtata, a city in the Eastern Cape region, initiated the petition after the September 26, 2022 pit bull mauling death of 10-year-old Storm Nuku in the Gelvandale suburb of Gqerberha, South Africa, the city formerly called Port Elizabeth.
The petition has now been endorsed by the left-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters pan-Africanist political party, founded by former African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malem.
Congress of South African Trade Unions endorses pit bull ban
An even more influential endorsement came on November 21, 2022 from the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU], the largest labor federation in the nation.
Said COSATU national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla, “This issue is becoming problematic, especially because domestic workers and other workers are the ones who are most exposed to these dogs.”
Domestic worker Selina Kokolosi, 47, of Potchefstroom, near Durban, for example, on January 27, 2022 lost her nose, lips, ears, and chunks of flesh from her thighs when attacked by three pit bulls in the home where she had worked for three years.
Kokolosi subsequently developed COVID-19 while hospitalized.
Owner posted pit bull pix while maid fought for her life
Reported Thabo Makwakwa for IOL, “According to Kokolosi’s nephew Tebogo Kokolosi, his aunt’s boss Chandre Moster and her partner Marno Moster,” both while Afrikaners, “were not present when the loose dogs charged at his aunt. Her employer is not even showing remorse. Chandre posted pictures on her WhatsApp status with a caption indicating she was missing her dogs after they were removed from her care when they attacked my aunt.
“She is busy posting pictures of her pit bulls,” Tebogo Kokolosi repeated, “and not even a single picture about my aunt who had been working for them and was paid peanuts as a salary. They are not even calling the family to check up on her progress in the hospital.”
Previous mob response to pit bull attack
Narrated Makwakwa, “He said when he tried reaching out to the Mosters to establish what had happened, he was told to speak to their lawyer. Contacted for comment, Moster’s lawyer George Herbst said he was working on a statement with his client and would send it to the publication when it was ready.
Said Herbst, “I advised my clients not to speak to the media because this is an extremely sensitive and traumatizing matter.”
Durban is the same city where a mob from the Khulani shantytown on February 10, 2019 burned 20 cars, trucks, a forklift, and a building housing a car-customizing business in response to an apparent fatal pit bull attack on a passer-by.
The owner denied that his pit bull, whom he called “a bedroom dog,” had done more than sniff the dead man’s body. What became of the pit bull was not reported.
Eight members of the mob were charged with arson.
“How are these dogs being contained?”
Responded Pit Bull Federation of South Africa spokesperson Lins Rautenbach to the rising public demands for a breed ban, “Banning the breed of dog isn’t going to work in South Africa.
“Licensing needs to come back,” Rauntenbach argued. “If a problem dog is passed on to a neighbor or a friend, when it attacks, you as the owner – you are the one who caused this. Then we need to look at how properties are, how are these dogs being contained.”
Rautenbach of course knows very well, or should, that licensing has historically been no more successful in South Africa than anywhere else; that licensing also was used during the apartheid era to keep dogs out of the hands and homes of low-income black South Africans; that holding pit bull owners responsible after an attack occurs does not prevent the attack from occurring; and that while most white South Africans live in dwellings with fenced yards, most black South Africans would if they could, but cannot afford homes where they can put up fences.
The Rautenback argument is essentially an argument that affluent white South Africans should have pit bulls, while poor black South Africans should not.
The pit bull story in South Africa really began in 1652 with Boerboels.
The proto-Boerboel was a “bullenbitjer,” or “bull-biter,” a bullmastiff-type baiting and fighting dog imported by Jan van Riebeeck, one of the first Dutch settlers to land at Cape Horn, the future site of the city of Cape Town.
Current breed histories identify Boerboels as a dog developed to hunt lions, keep caracals and jackals away from sheep, and roust baboons from field crops.
Reality is that Boerboels, much larger and more aggressive than the native mutts kept by indigenous South Africans, were used chiefly to help Afrikaaners maintain political and cultural dominance.
The Boerboel era
Until the recent explosion of pit bull mayhem, explained Lance van Sittert and Sandra Swart in “Canis Familiaris: A Dog History of South Africa” (2003), published by the South African Historical Journal, Boerboels were for centuries considered the scariest dogs in the region.
Boerboels were also were living symbols of the era of racial segregation, called apartheid, enforced by the South African government from 1948 to 1991.
Wrote van Sittert and Swarth, “The canine defense of white privilege and property was miniaturized to the private farm and home where breeds renowned for their fierceness were kept or created – such as the Boerboel and colossus – as deterrent to the real and imagined threat of black revolt and redistribution.
“Dogs, as much as people, patrolled and maintained the white cities and countryside of post-colonial South Africa and time and again were catalysts and actors along its social frontiers.”
Cousins to Rhodesian ridgebacks
Older breed histories acknowledge that Boerboels share ancestry and history with Rhodesian ridgebacks, likewise used to maintain apartheid in the nation which in 1980 became Zimbabwe.
Boerboels received a genetic infusion as well from European bull mastiffs imported as guard dogs by the De Beers diamond mining empire.
Pit bulls reached South Africa with the end of apartheid, as faster, more aggressive dogs who could usually kill their bigger Boerboel and ridgeback cousins.
Pit bulls have proliferated in South Africa ever since.
Apartheid in pit bull ownership
So-called “purebred” pit bull strains imported from the U.S. and the U.K. have been favored in replacing Boerboels and ridgebacks as the “protection” dogs of white South Africans, while “mutt” lines bred in South Africa, being cheaper, predominate among criminal elements in the shantytowns.
Until the recent explosion of pit bull violence and mob retaliation, the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa and other pro-pit bull organizations consisting chiefly of white owners have averted threats of breed bans and have maintained de facto apartheid in pit bull ownership by pretending their “Staffordshires” and “American pit bull terriers” are superior to the allegedly badly bred pit bulls who are killing people in majority black South African neighborhoods.
Scrambling to recruit black mercenaries
Now that majority black South African neighborhoods are up in arms about pit bull attacks, though, the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa and other white-dominated pit bull advocacy groups are visibly scrambling to recruit black mercenaries to stand between them and breed-specific legislation on the one hand, and raging mobs on the other.
Thus posted Pit Bull Federation of South Africa spokesperson Lins Rautenbach, even as the Sizwe Kupelo Foundation petition gained momentum, just before the mob attacks on pit bulls started, “On a regular basis we are sent screenshots of Facebook posts where a member of the public has taken photos of a person of colour walking a pit bull and allegations are made against the person walking the dog.
“Folks,” Rautenbach said, “pit bulls are not only for white people, there are fantastic pit bull owners of all races. Just because a person is not white does not mean they stole the dog or are dogfighters.”
Reading between the lines
Even a quick critical reading of the Rautenbach statement reveals the underlying attitude among white South African pit bull owners that pit bulls are their dogs, not the dogs of black South Africans––until now, when Rautenbach and perhaps a few other white pit bull owners hope to convince fellow white pit bull owners to accept indigenous African faces among their ranks before the momentum toward a breed ban becomes actual legislation.
Undoubtedly not coincidentally, trying to hide behind African-Americans is also the latest defensive ploy of pit bull advocacy in the U.S.
The claims made by pit bull advocates in this effort are, however, grossly at odds with the historical use of pit bulls by the most racist elements in white society.