Stop Dehumanising Hatespeech Against Whites
Malema: Hacking at foundations of national reconciliation
FW de Klerk Foundation
FW de Klerk Foundation on ANCYL president's 'whites are criminals' comment
On 6 May, at an ANC rally in Galeshewe, near Kimberly, Julius Malema ratcheted up the ANC Youth League's anti-white rhetoric a few more notches. He said, among other things, that "we must take the (whites') land without paying. Once we agree that they stole our land, we can agree they are criminals and must be treated as such." "They" (white farmers - or perhaps whites in general?) are thieves.
Malema repeated the Youth League's threat to nationalize the mines, the banks and the commanding heights of the economy. "Political freedom without economic freedom means nothing. You can vote until you turn yellow, but without economic freedom it means nothing." The subtext is that key to economic freedom is to grab the wealth that whites ‘stole'.
He called Helen Zille, the Leader of the Opposition, a "dancing monkey" from "monkey town". He chided people for allowing "the madam to kiss your children, when you know that the madam does not care about your children.
They (presumably whites) kill our people (blacks) when they confuse them with baboons." (Guilt for the reprehensible action of a single farmer some years ago is ascribed by Malema to a whole community on the basis of their race.)
We all know the old adage that ‘sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words can never hurt you.' Unfortunately, it is not true - particularly in fragile multicultural societies like our own.
Racial aggression is often preceded by dehumanizing language - as it was in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and by lynch mobs in the southern states of the USA. Such messages are particularly dangerous when they are directed toward unsophisticated audiences who can be easily persuaded that all their problems are caused by the Jews, the Communists, the Tutsi - or whichever group the propagandist wants to target.
It is particularly easy for propagandists to target relatively advantaged, racially distinct groups (like the Jews in pre-World War II Europe, or the Chinese in Malaysia or Indonesia in the 60s, or the whites in Zimbabwe after 2000) and to charge that their wealth was accumulated by exploitation or theft - rather than by hard work, skill or successful entrepreneurship.
Land in South Africa is also an easy target - because it is true that many black South Africans (like aborigines and American Indians) were unfairly deprived of their land in the past. However, what is the position of whites who have bought land since 1994 at fair market prices? Should they also be stripped of their property - simply because they are white? Or should they be limited to owning a demographically representative 9% of the country - that we could, perhaps, call a whiteystan?
Since 5% of agricultural land comes onto the market every year, a high proportion of South Africa's farmland must already have changed hands since 1994. And what of the Malherdes and Du Toits whose families might have been farming in the Western Cape for 300 years? Should their land be taken from them without compensation and handed over to newcomers from the Eastern Cape?
The message that the 3 000 people in the Galishewe stadium heard was that their problems have been caused by white criminals who stole their land. They heard that Whites should be treated as thieves. They heard that Whites care nothing for them and kill black people because they see them as baboons.
Within this context, Malema's "kill the boer" song (which he apparently did not sing on this occasion) takes on a different meaning. The struggle is not over; the ‘boers/whites' are still the enemy; they should be dealt with as criminals and the property they stole from blacks should be repossessed without compensation. I wonder what the crowd was thinking a little later when President Zuma sang umshini wami - his signature "bring me my machine gun song"?
And therein lies the problem. Malema's performance took place on a platform that was shared by the President of all South Africans, black and white alike. President Zuma has sworn an oath to uphold our Constitution and "to protect and promote the rights of all South Africans."
The Constitution is founded on non-racialism and prohibits hate speech. And yet the President did not say a word. He did not jump to his feet and repudiate Malema. He did not even issue a statement after the meeting diplomatically distancing himself from Malema's views.
Instead, he sat smiling quietly while Malema did his act. Later, the ANC limply went to Malema's defence by explaining that he might have been referring to the Native Land Act of 1913 which had taken all but 7% of the land from black people by force. ANC spokesmen also implied that the Youth League's advocacy role gave it a free hand to advocate whatever policies it likes - including those that openly contradict official ANC policy.
According to its constitution the ANCYL "functions as an autonomous body within the overall structure of the ANC of which it shall be an integral part. It shall be based on the political and ideological objectives of the ANC." The question, then, is whether the views expressed by Malema are based on the political and ideological objectives of the ANC itself.
A reading of the ANC's Strategy & Tactics documents reveals, disturbingly, that Malema's views are not very far out of line with the core elements of the ANC's National Democratic Revolution ideology.
Other reasons why President Zuma is not calling Malema to order may include his demagogic mass appeal in the run-up to the municipal elections and the role that the Youth League might play next year at the ANC's National Conference - where the leadership of the country will be decided for the coming five years.
One thing, however, is certain: our country cannot afford Malema's racially divisive rhetoric. It is threatening to unravel the national unity and reconciliation for which President Mandela worked so hard and upon which the future success of all South Africans depends.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation, May 20 2011