Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Ugly Truth!

South Africa had a very eventful Easter weekend. The brutal murder of a white supremacist and the blame for the murder justly or unjustly squarely put on the shoulders of a radical youth leader who have been singing a song ruled by a South African High Court to be hate speech. Did the song “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer” and the careless attitude of one radical person lead to the murder of the country’s most infamous farmer? Will this senseless act of violence tear the fabric of tolerance and is South Africa on a precipice of erupting into chaos of racial tension and retaliatory murders?
Sixteen years after the abolishment of apartheid South Africans wanted to believe we live in a country that has moved beyond institutionalized racism. We declared ourselves the Rainbow Nation where blacks and whites live together in peace and harmony. Was this only an illusion and optimistic idealism? Hopeful ideals slowly started to wane with the emergence of an extremist 29 year old youth leader called Julius Malema. This young man who covets publicity and power first started making reckless utterances attacking and insulting politicians in his own political party and then he focused on opposition parties. In the last year his blatant racist slurs and perpetuation of intolerance slowly escalated. Some interpret his calls to “Kill for President Zuma” and now “Kill the Farmer” to be inciting the masses to murder, creating an environment of festering hatred and racial tensions polarizing our nation along very definite racial lines.
This weekend South Africa’s most infamous farmer was murdered. Eugene Terre’Blanche was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in his farmhouse. The attack was so violent his face was unrecognizable and blood spatter was even found outside the bedroom he was murdered in. It’s alleged he was murder by a 15 and 28 year old respectively over a wage dispute. Eugene Terre’Blanch was not a nice man. Once the leader of the Afrikaaner Resistance Movement (AWB) he violently tried to derail South Africa’s first democratic elections by a terror campaign of planting and setting off bombs that killed many. He was found guilty of attempted murder and spent three years in jail for attacking a black man who is now brain dead. He made no secret that he believed the white race was the superior race and his neo-Nazi doctrine and style of leadership made him very unpopular amongst liberals in the country. Personally I condemn Terre’Blanche’s murder but he was by no means an angel. He was just a human being with radical political beliefs, beliefs that I do strongly condemn. His death is almost poetic justice as the “Swart Gevaar” (Black Danger) that he and his right wing group feared would destroy South Africa finally led to his untimely demise. But murder, no matter the victim is a vile act of inhumanity!
Many South Africans are reeling with shock over the murder. Some right wing groups are calling for retaliation. White people are enraged and some even scared. Black people are also angry and political leaders are calling for national calm. All the while Julius Malema appears oblivious and deviant. The day after the murder he once again sang the banned song “Kill the Farmer” in Zimbabwe and in a television interview when asked about the murder he apathetically responded by saying he had no comment to give about “such people”. Many people have drawn a direct connection between Malema’s song and the murder of Terre’Blanche and rumours of the pending assassination of Malema has also been reported in the media. To top it all conspiracy theories are rife and people are starting to draw connections between what has happened and a third force operating in South Africa wanting to destabilize the country before the 2010 Soccer World Cup that South Africa is hosting in June this year.

So is this the beginning of a major calamity in South Africa? Should people be scared?

Let’s consider the facts. Racism is still alive and well in South Africa. In some parts of the country it’s more overt than in others. Farmers are killed in South Africa every week and for some reason the killing of one farmer (Terre’Blanche) has made the international media. What is not reported is that on many farms the labourers are treated badly by their employers; some are exploited and treated with no dignity. In some parts of South Africa apartheid never ended and it’s causing anger – an anger that leads to murder. Julius Malema with his song “Kill the Farmer” certainly is not helping to resolve boiling tensions and since he started singing this song at political rallies farm murders increased. The true problem lies with the relationships between white farmers and their black employees. If this is not remedied blood will continue to be shed and our prisons will be filled.
It’s also not just white people that are racists and Julius Malema is a prime example of this. The large scale xenophobic attacks during 2008 also spring to mind where 62 people were killed and over 150 000 people were displaced. The ugly truth is South Africa still has black and white racists, discrimination even in ethnic groupings and hatred towards foreign labourers stealing South African jobs and their women.

South Africa is in a crisis – a public relations crisis. The ranting of an attention seeking young man and the country’s leaders’ inability to rain him in is causing tension that may just finally boil over. A career racist’s murder caught the world’s attention even though it may be only for a brief moment. Our ability to hide from the world that South Africa is still racially divided have been exposed. Our persistent denial that we as a country still have some serious problems and still have a long road to reconciliation ahead has been obliterated.
It took great effort to dismantle apartheid, why now 16 years on is the same effort not being put into building a united nation free from discrimination, racism and fear.

Till next time.
Tempers Flare!

Julius Malema kicks BBC Journalist out of Press Conference

AWB man causes chaos at e-TV studio



L Avery Brown said...

What a stirring post. To be honest...I had no idea the tension was still so high in South Africa. It must be something about the 'South' as I am from the southern United States...an area long known for it's racial separation BUT an area which has, in the past twenty or so years moved leaps and bounds beyond where it once was (though it is far from idyllic)

This was truly a powerful and poignant piece.

Thank you.

Pierre said...

Avery, what happened has truly stirred a heated debate in South Africa. Not only has this reminded South Africans of our horrid past but now it's picking away painful scabs.

I may also lose some very good friends for having written this post. However, I will not be quiet about what I see happening. If I can't voice my opinion freely it means I no longer live in a democratic country.

It truly pains me to see how this incident and chain of events both preceding this event and that which is following are dividing our nation/country.

Eugene Hon said...

I do believe one can read too much into these events, much more than we should. It depends on one's political affiliation and or cultural and religious representation and or affiliation. We do not as yet know the truth surrounding their motivation for the killing. Were their true intentions to commit his murder and or robbery; the trial will hopefully reveal the truth. It is how we interpret and often respond to these violent acts and or events that concern me. When Chris Hani was killed, similar emotions and political aspirations were inflamed on both sides of the political spectrum. The perpetrators were called to justice and served there sentences. His murder was politically motivated and yet it did not spark a revolution; the shedding of more blood as one would have expected way back then. Why should it now. We need to see these acts in the right context and perspective; often a sign of anger, born out of frustration by radicals (extremists and fundamentalists) who seek to derail our ambition as a democratic nation. They are trying to capitalise on such events to further their own political aspirations; be they right and or left wing. Lets not put more wood on the fire; rekindle hatred and fear. It only make matters worse. We should learn greater tolerance if we wish to move forward towards a free and democratic South Africa.

Pierre said...

Eugene Hon, I couldn't agree more. We know too little to draw any conclusions other than the ones people believe to be the obvious ones.

It's interesting that you mention the assassination of Chris Hani which also happened during an Easter Weekend. The rage was similar and like you said nothing major occurred after that. I am by no means comparing the two events placing them in the same context, but what will be interesting is how this matter is dealt with.

The funeral is this coming Friday and from what I saw on the news of the alleged murders' court appearance there may still be some drama ahead.

Also read today that a white farmer assaulted 7 of his black employees. Let's hope people refrain from such despicable behavior.

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