- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

JOHANNESBURG A Belgian diplomat and his son are at the center of a South African police investigation into an attack on a black farm worker that has stirred painful memories of apartheid brutality.
Anthony Mashaba says he was beaten with a hose and a heavy whip called a sjambok before being tied to a pickup truck, dragged and left for dead by Jean-Louis Croughs, a trade attache; his son; and four other men.
Mr. Croughs' diplomatic-immunity status is under scrutiny by South African officials. His son, Julian, 29, and another white man have been charged with the attempted murder of Mr. Mashaba, a former worker on a farm owned by the diplomat.
Mr. Croughs, who has lived in South Africa for more than five years, told the Sunday Telegraph that he was "very sorry for the family" of Mr. Mashaba, who spent a week in the hospital after his ordeal, but denied ever meeting him.
The Belgian Embassy said the ambassador was deeply concerned and embarrassed by the charges.
"This form of attack, the sjambok and the dragging behind a truck, has been a characteristic of racist whites in South Africa for decades," an official said. "We're appalled at even a suggestion that one of our number could be involved in something like this."
Julian Croughs and his codefendant, a local businessman, appeared in court last week, originally on charges of assault and grievous bodily harm. When the magistrate heard details of the case, the charges were changed to attempted murder. The defendants were released on bail and are due in court again April 17.
Mr. Mashaba, who still bears scars, says he went to the farm, 40 miles from Johannesburg, on March 7, to ask for the equivalent of about $100 he was owed for two months' work.
The laborer had been employed by the previous owner of the land, which was bought by Mr. Croughs three months ago.
Mr. Croughs "told me I was trying to be clever by asking him for money," Mr. Mashaba said. "He told me to go inside the house and shouted at two other workers to bring hose pipes and a sjambok.
"They wrapped me in a black dustbin bag, like I was rubbish, and were arguing about what they were going to do with me. Then they tied me to the back of the [truck] and drove off. After a time, they stopped and untied me from the truck. They thought I was dead."

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