Written by: Daniel du Plessis
This week, the ever-beleaguered South African public has been confronted by the reemergence of an old dilemma.
In-between reports of water shortages, state capture and super moons — Economic Freedom Fighters leader, alleged speedster and relationship expert, Julius Malema has thoughtfully taken a moment from his busy court schedule to make a few remarks on the proper role of whites in South Africa.
This is, in itself, not particularly surprising.
Mr Malema seems to be of a generally helpful disposition — and so has often taken an interest in the proper place of minority ethnic groups in South Africa. He has, for instance, remarked upon what he termed the “Indian question” in Kwa-Zulu Natal. All South Africans are already familiar with Mr Malema’s menagerie of unfortunate opinions in this respect. And so, naturally, this is not the dilemma I have in mind for discussion in this piece. The question, rather, is a novel application of that ever-popular question – what is racist? More particularly, are we in a position to declare that the EFF itself (as an organisation) is a racist one?
I believe this to be the case. And the remarkable thing is that the EFF might not be particularly inclined to dispute my assessment. Oh, doubtless we will disagree on whether the EFF’s particular brand of prejudice is properly termed as being “racism”. But the actual existence of this prejudice is something which the EFF not only acknowledges, but positively prides itself on. Still, even if it is only to vent my own frustrations: The EFF is just another racist political party in that long and hallowed South African tradition.
Let me count the ways.
Now, to start with, it is outside the realm of dispute that many EFF supporters and lesser functionaries are almost comically racist.
Grass-roots EFF supporters have been spotted carrying banners reading “we need to kill them like they killed us”, “a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate” and “honeymoon is over for white people in South Africa”. Labelling the EFF as racist only on those grounds would not be fair – as it would be entirely too easy. Nevertheless, these attitudes seem to be present throughout the EFF’s structures. In August of this year, for instance, an EFF-affiliated member of the University of Pretoria Student Representative Council, a Mr Luvuyo Menziwa, wrote: “F*** white people.” To this, he added that he wanted someone to “get [him] a bazooka or AK-47 so [he] can do the right thing and kill [those] demon possessed humans.”
Now, in the University of Pretoria’s defence, Mr Menziwa was suspended immediately after publishing the aforementioned. It is notable, however, that it would seem he remains an EFF member in good standing. There have been no signs of the mother body denouncing him (or even his statements). Similarly, an EFF electoral candidate, Thabo Mabotja, was disqualified from participating in the 2016 municipal elections due to a racist Facebook post. Mr Mabotja wrote (with almost Hemingway-esque understatement) that “all white people must be hacked and killed”.
Now, of course, the EFF itself declined to get involved in Mabotja’s defence. (This is despite having happily associated with him up until this point.) This incident (and many similar) does show, however, what kind of political thinking the EFF attracts, and which sort of person is likely to be vetted for political office in its ranks. And – entirely unsurprisingly – we find that this pattern persists even into the organisation’s top decision making bodies.
The infamous Commander-in-Chief himself exercised uncharacteristic restraint last week when he managed to assure a throng of his supporters that he was not, in fact, calling for the “slaughter of white people”. The general effect of this very laudable statement was, however, tragically undermined by his apparent inability to keep from adding “for now” immediately afterwards. Of course, this is not terribly surprising. Mr Malema’s rise to fame is in no small part due to his erstwhile penchant for singing “Shoot the Boer”, the actual content of which bears a remarkable similarity to these aforementioned statements.
Admittedly — as the African National Congress and others were keen to point out — the song is only about the very symbolic “shooting” of exceedingly metaphorical “Boers”. Which is all fair and good, of course. Very comforting, in fact.
I am, however, inclined to say that if — for instance — my favourite ditty was something along the lines of “Stab the Polynesian”, you would perhaps be justified in questioning the underlying psychology.
Nonetheless, it is not entirely fair to hold politicians accountable for what they sing. No doubt it is difficult to juggle rhyme, melody and sensible political discourse simultaneously. And so it bears mentioning that, earlier this week, Mr Malema denied actively calling for violence against white South Africans. This is all well and good. But — of course — he followed this up by lamenting that he cannot predict what might happen in the future. These statements, to his mind, constituted nothing more than a “polite” request to white people in South Africa.
Despite his remarkable gift for hogging the spotlight, Mr Malema is not the only member of his party’s senior leadership to take this position. National spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has repeated this familiar pattern by fiercely denying that he would ever actually call for a genocide of white people, and following up on this by expressing the wish that (in an ideal world) “black people won’t have to slaughter white people to restore land” (my emphasis).
In Mr Ndlozi’s mind, then, genocide may well happen, but only because white people made black people do it. This is all very neat and tidy. If whites are responsible for their own genocide, no blame rests on any perpetrator (or instigator). It puts one in mind of an abusive husband fervently, earnestly hoping that his darling wife should not happen to burn the toast again — for her own sake, of course.
This analogy might warrant further exploration. The plain fact of the matter is that, if any private citizen were making these (at best) thinly-veiled threats to another private citizen, it may well have constituted grounds for criminal prosecution. It is very difficult to see how this situation is at all improved by the fact that these are statements made by a large political party in respect of a very small ethnic minority. The EFF seems to be (halfheartedly) distancing itself from actual calls to genocide. This allows it to pretend — somewhat childishly — that rising racial tensions have nothing to do with its unfortunate and irresponsible utterances.
Add to this the fact that the EFF consistently denies all whites any actual right to be residents in South Africa (referring to them as mere visitors, at best); and its fall-back electoral strategy of blaming “white minority capital” for basically anything that goes wrong, and it becomes clear that the EFF is, in fact, entirely, totally, positively endearingly racist.
And if you are willing to associate with a party that absolutely relishes making these sorts of threats to your fellow citizens? Well, you might be too.
Author: Daniel du Plessis is LLM student and lectures Roman law at the University of Pretoria. He writes in his personal capacity.