Business Day column: Why rape and expropriation should not pit us against each other

WHAT do rape and expropriation have in common? No, not that expropriation is "economic" rape. Physical rape is infinitely worse.

My recent column on my date rape drug experience generated such interest that I was reminded of it in an unlikely setting, a meeting of predominantly white men anguishing about draconian expropriation proposals. The false dichotomies are the view that rape juxtaposes the sexes and expropriation juxtaposes the races. In truth many more men are raped or traumatised by rape than is generally appreciated, and black people will be the primary victims of expropriation amounting to confiscation.

My first encounter was being called as a 1970s police reservist to a gruesome rape scene. My most recent encounter was rescuing a semiconscious, bloodied and soiled victim of anal rape from his car on a dark, isolated road near Kruger National Park. When my car broke down hours before, he and his railway worker colleague towed my car to a secure railway site, then drove me to a distant country inn where I invited them for a drink.

The married rescuer was concerned about his wife so left before the bachelor. The two of us noticed four men abandon their drinks and leave minutes later. My second rescuer returned screaming for help soon after he left some time later. His colleague had been forced off the road, beaten senseless, propped up on his seat and gang raped. We brought the sobbing man to my room where we comforted and washed him. When police arrived, they said male rapes were common. They thought these perpetrators were soldiers from a nearby air force base.

The victim never recovered. His colleague, with whom I stayed in touch, told me that he became so dysfunctional that his wife left him and he lost his job. He became a vagrant before disappearing completely.

There are many claims and counterclaims about the number and severity of unreported female rapes. The lesser-known debate is about the number of unreported male rapes. Not having researched the matter, I have no idea to what extent claims understate or exaggerate. In The Myth of Male Power (1993) Warren Farrell suggests that male rape might be more common, under-reported and devastating than female rape. His views are predictably contentious and, it seems, implausible.

What interests me is not data accuracy, but the meme that rape is part of "the battle of the sexes". That both genders are raped and traumatised when spouses, children, siblings, friends and colleagues are raped should outrage everyone equally, regardless of relative variables. That weak people are more commonly assaulted, ugly people unemployed, and stupid people impoverished does not cause divisions along those lines.

Although the false dichotomy of expropriation is more easily explained, it is as racially charged as rape is sexually charged. Gatherings of people lamenting the demise of property rights are predominantly white. Why, when black people have been and will overwhelmingly be the victims? Political rhetoric fuels an illusion of white victims and black beneficiaries. The suite of proposals envisages multiple state entities being empowered to seize all property (not just land) arbitrarily and to pay little or no compensation.

The worst aspect of apartheid was denial of black people’s property rights. Instead of assurances that their property rights will never be violated again, it is now proposed that black people will never enjoy the rights for which many fought and died. Most white investors, suburban residents and farmers have resources with which to protect themselves. Most victims, especially over time, will be poor blacks. Racial transformation has the effect that predominantly black people’s property will be misappropriated for dams, roads, airports, projects, mines and the like. Newly victimised black people will be as defenceless as they were under apartheid.

• Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation.

This article was first published in Business Day on 10 August 2016

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