The Colour of Murder by Heidi Holland (Penguin) R110. ISBN: 0-143-02512-0 – Liesl Venter chats to author and journalist Heidi Holland about her book, The Colour of Murder.
LOUIS van Schoor was inherently a racist.
It was his hatred for people of colour which led to him shooting more than a hundred people, including children, killing at least 39 before he was finally brought to justice and jail.
Van Schoor, a former East London security guard, is in all probability SA’s outh Africa’s worst mass killer during the apartheid era.
His daughter, Sabrina, was and is his exact opposite – a white South African girl without racism, acutely aware of what her father had done. But Sabrina has one major flaw – she is a mother killer.
The Van Schoor legacy is brought to life in The Colour of Murder by journalist Heidi Holland. Holland, a Melville resident, has spent most of her adult life trying to deal with racism and found the Van Schoor stories the ideal way to address this complex issue.
Van Schoor, a former policeman, was a hero in East London – the society he was protecting from the black and coloured thieves lauded heralded him daily for the work he was doing. as a security guard.
The system protected him for years.
In 1992, when Sabrina was but 12, his reign of terror was finally brought to a halt.
Sabrina, had moved years earlier with her mother, Beverly, to Queenstown after her parents divorce. Despite being the daughter of a supreme white man, she found herself ostracised by the community and became friends with the coloured community despite her parents’ objections.
She went so far as to become pregnant and give birth to a coloured daughter, Tatum.
Sabrina, who did not understand the racism her mother displayed, in 2002 hired a hitman and had her mother assassinated. During her trial she said her mother had threatened to take Tatum away from her.
As white people had once supported Louis in East London during his trial, Sabrina found herself being supported by the coloured community during hers.
In her book, Holland asks the question if it is any coincidence that Sabrina is the daughter of Louis? And how does one family become embroiled in such racism-fuelled murders?
“I believe this story is a metaphor for the whole country,” says Holland. “Both Louis and Sabrina were created by their communities. East London loved Louis. They believed he was just doing his job. But who has a job killing people?
“Queenstown again created Sabrina, but for very different reasons. The white community scorned her.”
The book is essentially an exploration of violence and racism and proves how they are connected with the question: Can one overcome a terrible racist history?
The answer to this family’s woes lies in the hands of a little girl, presently living with a foster mother in the Eastern Cape.
Tatum, who visits Sabrina in jail, carries the legacy of both her racist grandfather and her non-racist mother.
The child is defined as coloured and will be the saviour of a family, whom for all intents and purposes, portray the violence of SA society.
“Racism is a virus of the mind – not just white people, but also black. It has been 12 years since the end of apartheid in South Africa, but it is still there broiling under the surface,” Holland says.
“Why are we so unsettled as a society?
“We need to go back and find out what our values are. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our society and unless we embrace it, we risk taking our past with us.”