It’s not whites who should fear Malema’s rhetoric


It’s not whites who should fear Malema’s rhetoric

The EFF leader's romanticising of violence will have a chilling effect on defenceless black communities, especially on women and children, writes PIET CROUCAMP.


IT is strange that no one notices the unforeseen consequences for black South Africans of Julius Malema's controversial statements and the militarisation of his political rhetoric.

The fixation with the consequences of “Dubul' ibhunu" (“Kill the farmer") for white South Africans diverts our attention from the violence that the militarisation of populism entails for already tense black communities.

Obviously, Malema and his colleagues chose the militaristic nomenclature of the EFF with a specific political agenda in mind. Political interest groups such as taxi bosses, trade unions and organised crime already make ample use of intimidation, violence and murder to be and remain competitive.

The EFF is well aware of the role of social and structural violence in the social survival of the majority of South Africans. Social crime has an extremely violent trajectory with between 70 and 80 murders a day, very often in communities where the victim knew the killer. At least four children and 11 women are killed every day.

Rapes and gender violence are a raw scar on the South African psyche. The violent architecture of sociological defence is already present in communities; political elites only provide the fuel for the prevailing narrative.

War talk serves as justification

In most narratives describing the transition to South Africa's liberal order, the story of social violence is presented theatrically in gruesome data analyses.

Njabulo Ndebele, chair of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, cynically refers to it as the veneration of sensation. But the binding material in which violence ferments rarely gets the media attention that can hold political leaders like Malema to account for the way in which imagery feeds the root system of the prevailing culture of violence.

Malema's rhetoric that romanticises violence has an obvious and justified historical trajectory in the liberation struggle. But it also creates a context for the urban decay of the environment in which children and young people live.

Language has the ability to change thought patterns — and therefore behaviour — but it also has the ability to justify behaviour. Dismissing life as unimportant is part of the psycho-semantics of communities that have to survive under immense social pressure.

The fault lines of logic lie in the apparent contradictions of semantics. It can be overlooked as mere word play, but it is important to understand that language plays an enormous role in the communication of beliefs, thoughts and ideologies.

Language is the vehicle of influence, and the conversion of thoughts and language provides structure by giving a voice to a thought. War talk that preys on insiders and outsiders creates a grammatical, linguistic and semantic justification for the pursuit of power by political elites.

Influence on children and young men

The militarisation of public politics not only affects the target market — white South Africans, in Malema's case — it is also internalised by the communities within which it is proclaimed.

While “Kill the boer, kill the farmer" is unacceptable rhetoric for most white South Africans, violent narratives are ever-present for children in informal settlements and townships.

It is a well-known fact that approximately 63% of children do not have a father figure at home. In at least 70% of cases, the single-parent mother works for an insufficient income in an environment far removed from her home and family.

The breakdown of family structures in poor communities has a significant statistical relationship with early pregnancies, drug abuse, the endemic nature of crime and the intensity of violence.

The social and structural violence that forms part of children's lives in poor communities is terrifying. These children are born into an unstable, unsafe and uncertain world without the protection of a healthy family structure. The demographic architecture for a violent existence is in place, and the rhetoric of politicians provides the justification for violence as a way of life.

Young black men are the biggest victims of social violence by far. Malema's rhetoric maps the dire reality of poor South Africans in general, but more specifically in the case of young black men.

In an ironic way, Malema's words do not actually encourage the killing of farmers, but instead create the context for rampant community violence.


Militarisation of political competition

Most murders in South Africa take place in a paramilitary context. The militarisation of the political sphere and the accompanying increased homicide rates in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Cape Flats can certainly be attributed to opportunistic competition by warlords and gang leaders.

International research confirms that democracies in which political competition is militarised have higher homicide rates than other democracies. Transitional democracies or weak democracies such as South Africa — which lie in the middle of the political spectrum of autocracy/democracy — are particularly susceptible to high homicide rates.

In KZN, the distinction between political elimination and social murders is sometimes indistinguishable. Even in murder cases where there is no direct political motive, the lack of accountability provides a context within which local politics are manipulated. Violence is the bonding material between competing political elites.

Scars of labour migration, urbanisation

Violence almost always has a history.

Apartheid's fabricated urbanisation had dark implications for black family structures. With the withdrawal of cheap labour from the so-called homelands, the mining and industrial economy of segregation destroyed the black family. In order to provide for the comfort of the “homemakers", black women were eventually allowed to migrate to white South Africa.

Systemically, with the emancipation of white women who entered the labour market, women who migrated from the homelands to a better life fulfilled a matriarchal function in white households. Black women, who were not able to care for their own children economically in the absence of their husbands, filled the social void that modernisation created in white families.

The scars of labour migration and urbanisation are still evident decades later in data that confirms the destruction of black families.

The current economic structures have actually changed little, with the black working class having to eke out a living on the periphery of economic activity, often commuting long distances in the ungodly hours of the day to put bread on the table. In communities mired in endemic crime, defenceless children must survive in the absence of their parents.

Imagery normalises violence

Malema's militarism aligns with the lived experience of young black men. This confirms the link between violence and survival for women. His imagery maps the semantics that normalise violence in the life of children.

The fact that Malema refers to farmers or white people as a political target is of little importance, because it is black South Africans who bite the bullet when elected leaders try to gain political capital from their violent, yet lived experiences.

The semantics, language and grammar in which we package our stories are decisive in our everyday lives. They create the context and map the frame of reference within which we raise our children — who not only watch, but also listen and learn.

We think our words are, well, just harmless words. But actions are supported by words that crystallise over generations into accepted social values ​​and behavioural patterns.

It is therefore not white farmers who have to defend themselves against Malema's reckless rhetoric, but black community leaders who should take note of the effect that the militarisation of political rhetoric has on defenceless communities.

Its deadly consequences emerge in the murder statistics and are confirmed by the violence against women and children.

♦ VWB ♦

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