This week South Africa got the “rare opportunity to bemoan the supposed failings of another nation,” as William Saunderson-Meyer, a columnist for the Mail & Guardian put it. Indeed, South Africans, once the scourge of the world because of apartheid, have been up in arms after China executed a South African woman, Janice Linden, on Monday morning for drug trafficking.
The South African press decried the execution as a national tragedy. Typical headlines after her death were “Grief Overwhelms Linden’s Dad” and “Could SA Have Saved Linden?”
The South African government, which recently barred the Dalai Lama from visiting, has been criticized for appeasing China by not trying very hard to stop the execution. But columnist Saunderson-Meyer offers a brazenly contrarian view. He argues that the South African government did as much as it could have to stop the execution. And he points out that it’s well-known that China executes thousands of people a year, including drug dealers, and lays the blame squarely on Linden.
“One has to be intractably perverse — or in desperate straits and terminally naïve — to travel as Linden did to China with 3kg of crystal methamphetamine in one’s luggage — 60 times the threshold for a death sentence,” he writes.
Furthermore, Saunderson-Meyer argues that South Africans can’t honestly claim the moral highground on the issue. While the country does not allow the death penalty, Saunderson-Meyer points out that more than 1200 South Africans have died at the hands of the police. “This, the highest cop homicide rate in the world, doesn’t elicit much public disapproval locally,” he writes, “nor does it bestir much those ever-vigilant guardians of human rights . . . So spare us the crocodile tears about Linden.”