Harmony is Malema’s kryptonite


Harmony is Malema’s kryptonite

How should white South Africans react to Julius Malema's latest provocative chant of ‘Kill the Boer'? MAX DU PREEZ gives his opinion.


THE most striking facet of the drama surrounding Julius Malema's singing of “Kill the Boer" last Sunday was how differently black and white South Africans reacted to it.

The anger (and fear?) of almost every white South African was white-hot and palpable.

Most black South Africans either defended his right to sing this old struggle song or criticised it as unwise and attention-seeking — which seemed like condonation through soft condemnation.

Almost a week later, we can say this about the episode: It was not good for our racial relations. It hardened attitudes.

I would say this is exactly what Malema wanted. Harmony in South Africa is his kryptonite; it steals the oxygen from his populist ethnic nationalism. Vindictiveness towards white citizens constitutes 99% of the EFF's raison d'être.

The sharp reaction to Malema's recklessness by white political leaders and the wave of vile racism on social media must have made Malema smile with satisfaction: I told you so; look how brave I am; I'm not afraid of the whiteys. And then a handful of simple right-wing white men even showed up at EFF headquarters to confront party leaders. Feeding Malema's fire.

As we approach next year's election and as South Africa falls further into poverty and decay, race relations will be tested even more.

Traumatised people, both white and black, will become more intolerant and seek scapegoats more easily.

The one black public figure who strongly spoke out against Malema's singing was the former vice-chancellor of Wits, Adam Habib. Here is his reaction on Twitter, but see how racist the comments were towards him (he is an Indian-South African):

We need to clear up two things before we contemplate this further.

First, the equality court ruled last year that it is not hate speech to sing “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer". This may have been a weak judgment and will be tested in the appeal court on September 4, but that's the current state of affairs.

Second, there is no white genocide happening, no planned extermination, and Malema's chant is not really a call for war against whites, despite Elon Musk's claim on Twitter (X), a tweet read by millions.

Malema himself later clarified that he is not advocating the slaughter of whites and that the song is about nostalgia and a history of struggle, explaining that “Boer" during the struggle years referred to the apartheid system and the police. (The EFF's primary funder at its founding, cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, is white, as are his attorneys.)

My immediate reaction when watching the EFF's 10th-anniversary rally on television, and when he started singing the song, was one of anger and irritation.

I won't blame any white South African if they also reacted this way (or worse), or even privately added a few adjectives to Malema.

It was deliberate and provocative in the extreme, at least to white eyes and ears.

My initial sense was that it dripped with hatred and intolerance, but perhaps it was more opportunistic than bloodthirsty.

Malema was nine years old when the ANC ceased its armed struggle 33 years ago. The ANC itself, even the veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe, haven't sung the song for many years.

White South Africans make up only about 7% of the population, and the curve is downward as more and more emigrate.

The murders of (especially white) farm owners are a terrible and dangerous phenomenon.

Malema did not, as he promised last year, sing “Kiss the Boer, kiss the farmer". He reverted to “kill", followed by mimicking machine gun shots and the military command: “Attention!"

Now people with white skin, like me, must consider how we will respond to this.

Can we agree that the ideal scenario would be if the white reaction to Malema led to defusing the situation, discouraging the EFF from repeating it, and generating more understanding of white fears?

So, should white political leaders and organisations have ignored him, kept quiet about him?

The counter-argument would be that it could have emboldened Malema in his malice, normalised the spread of racial hatred, and created the impression that the white community are pushovers, docile victims.

I do not have a greater fear today as a white person that black compatriots will attack me than before “Kill the Boer".

But in my opinion, the danger of such apparent bloodthirstiness is that it contributes to a gradual dehumanisation of white citizens. It could implant the idea in some unbalanced or traumatised black individuals that killing a white person is justified black assertiveness.

The DA's AfriForum tactic of seeking foreign intervention and referring the matter to the UN Human Rights Council, is, in my view, unwise, to put it mildly.

Let's say the UN council decides that singing the song is reprehensible. How will that help us here in South Africa? Will the EFF suddenly say, sorry, we will never do it again? I think it will be more like: you whites are tarnishing us abroad.

AfriForum leader Kallie Kriel also said the day before yesterday that if the appeal court upholds the equality court ruling, and also the Constitutional Court, AfriForum will turn to international bodies.

How much have AfriForum's many campaigns to internationalise the issue of farm murders helped? Not in the slightest.

There is no value for us in the fact that the far-right in the US and Hungary speak out against an alleged “white genocide". It has only sent the message to the international community that South Africa is a problem country to be avoided.

AfriForum's own case about “Kill the Boer" is, of course, weakened by its own fight to prevent political nostalgia from the pre-democracy era — the apartheid flag and Die Stem — from being declared hate speech.

It is true that the flag and the old national anthem do not advocate racial violence, but in the minds of still-traumatised black citizens, both symbols represent exactly that.

(The other question is this: how could the equality court declare the apartheid flag as hate speech but not “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer"? How much sense does that make?)

Could it perhaps have been a better option if the religious communities, organised agriculture, Afrikaans cultural organisations and other white community leaders had requested an urgent meeting with Malema and his fellow leaders? Judging by previous meetings with white leaders, I would think Malema would soften and adopt a more reconciliatory attitude, even if not for long.

Nothing can be more counterproductive for a minority group than responding to racism against them with racism.

I sincerely hope that John Steenhuisen of the DA, Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus and Kriel of AfriForum were not partly swayed by the consideration that a strong reaction to Malema would bring them greater white support.

If you look at the almost hysteria of the approximately 100,000 EFF followers at the party's mass meeting at FNB Stadium when Malema chanted “Kill the Boer", you must also realise that he had a receptive audience for his anger towards whites.

There is a sense of powerlessness, a desperation that we must deeply contemplate.

Malema is morally bankrupt and highly likely corrupt, but he is cunning enough to exploit this fertile ground properly.

Racial harmony is kryptonite for Malema and Co. That's what we should actively strive for.

(Also read colleague Ismail Lagardien's column in this edition. His parallels between Malema and Hitler are valid. And while you're at it, watch this video.

• The Washington Post wrote about this issue this week: “Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted multiple news segments in 2018 to a string of ‘farm murders’ of whites in South Africa, which were amplified by then-president Donald Trump, who directed then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo to examine the issue. Never mind that there’s no evidence of excess violence in South Africa directed toward white farmers — indeed, the data suggests the opposite, that they are far less likely to be the targets of violent crime than the general South African population.

“But the myth of ‘white genocide’ in South Africa has a powerful valence, nonetheless. It’s been invoked in the manifestos of white nationalist gunmen who carried out mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, El Paso, Texas and Buffalo, New York. And its seeming resurfacing by Musk thrilled various white nationalists and neofascists using the tech CEO’s platform, as Mother Jones documented.

“‘In 2016, South African white genocide was a fringe issue — now, the richest man in the world, who also owns Twitter, is drawing attention to it,’ tweeted Patrick Casey, former leader of Identity Evropa, a neo-Nazi organisation. ‘Things are moving in the right direction!’”

♦ VWB ♦

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