These Are Not Gentle People

These Are Not Gentle People

I can’t remember how I heard about These Are Not Gentle People by Andrew Harding but having long been interested in the history of South Africa and apartheid I put it on my reading list.

This non-fiction book is about what happened when two black men were killed on a white-owned farm in a town called Parys, south of Johannesburg, set upon by a mob of forty suspects. It follows the stories of all those involved, the families of the murdered men and the families of the accused, as well as police and court officials. It is told as narrative non-fiction, so that you spend time with the thoughts and inner voices of the key characters, a style that makes it compelling from the start.

It feels important to say that the two men were called Samuel Tijixa and Simon Jubeba, given their names were so rarely mentioned in the trial, and as, shockingly, when they were, they were frequently mixed-up, by expert witnesses, the prosecution, the defence and even the judge.

The case is long and drawn out, ripping apart the communities in the town, as white farmers turn on one another and the black families of the two murdered men are left on the sidelines waiting for justice. This is all about racism in post-apartheid South Africa and is a shocking reminder of how little has changed for many black people. I waited on tenterhooks for the outcome in the case, just hoping I would be wrong about what it would be.