The family of the pregnant Linda Steenkamp, who made headlines last week when a picture of her inside a cage on the back of a farmer’s bakkie caused a social media storm, says they have been hurt by what happened and just want the matter to pass.
She does not want to talk about it any more, and seeing her picture all over the media makes her sad.
“I just want this thing to be over. I climbed into that cage myself because no one sits in the front seat with umlungu [white person],” she said.
Her boyfriend Bonga Kondile, 35, who lives with Steenkamp, 27, at Zuurfontein Farm, located 65km from Cradock – told the Daily Dispatch that “the humiliation” suffered by his four-months pregnant partner was unfathomable.
Kondile learnt of the incident through the media.
“Anything could have happened to my girlfriend because it was a health hazard, especially for someone who is pregnant…to be seated at the back inside a cage while there was space in front,” he said.
He said such an incident was not unexpected, especially in an area where farm workers still referred to their employers as “baas” – as Steenkamp did in the video shot by farmer Johan Erasmus’s wife, Leta, last week in an attempt to quell the storm.
“That incident was so wrong and it is understandable that those who are not accustomed to the culture here on the farms would call for steps to be taken against the vehicle’s owner,” said Kondile.
“Claiming that a pregnant woman chose to lock herself inside a cage in the back of a car is not good enough.
“How do you allow that to happen when it makes sense not to give someone a lift if the front seat is off-limits?”
Such were the sentiments among other workers on the farm and in the small town of Cradock, where the incident took place, that the Daily Dispatch managed to speak to.
But for others, while the picture of Steenkamp sitting in a cage sent shockwaves across the country, it was business as usual.
Linda’s father Jaan Steenkamp – who who asked Johan Erasmus to give his daughter a lift to a clinic, where she was to have a check-up – said: “I even went as far as making sure she was sitting comfortably at the back in that cage.”
He told the Dispatch the matter was shining an unwelcome spotlight on his family.
“We are just simple people living a simple life; I want this to blow over so that we can go back to our lives.”
Asked why he did not ask Erasmus to put his daughter in the passenger seat of the bakkie, Steenkamp, 55, said it was “taboo” for farm labourers and their families to sit in the front with their employers.
Most of Cradock’s population of 35000 are employed on farms.
Along with Middelburg, the two towns form Inxuba Yethemba Municipality.
Unemployment is rife, as is alcoholism. Official statistics place the unemployment rate at 33.3%, and indicate that 10.7% of the population have had no formal schooling. About 3342 households work and live on farms.
Four generations of Steenkamp’s family have known no other life than working and living on farms.
When a Dispatch team visited Erasmus at his home in Cradock, they were met by a uniformed security guard and a locked burglar gate.
Speaking from behind the gate, Erasmus said he was now afraid for his life after receiving about 40 death threats on his cellphone.
“I don’t even go out to work anymore; I’ve got 24-hour security guards doing patrols, especially at night.”
He refused to open the gate for the Dispatch and sit down for an interview, saying he was not allowing anyone in the house.
Erasmus was in the company of another man while he spoke to the Dispatch.