White South Africans must outgrow the politics of fear

2011-04-23 17:19

The great philosopher leader of our struggle (note I did not say philosopher king), Steve Biko, once suggested fear is the most important determinant in South African politics.

It’s interesting to see how the politics of fear has reared its ugly head in the AfriForum case against ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

Malema laughs at every squirm of the white faces in the audience.

How adults can allow themselves to be played quite like this tells you something about the adolescence of white politics in this country.

There is a sense among white politicians in particular that their constituency are custodians to be protected from the restless natives at the gate.

Is it not ironic indeed that white political activists are using the instruments of modern-day democracy, such as the courts and the media, to express age-old fears about the “swart gevaar”?

It’s freedom of expression alright, but with a mix of duplicity.

Why, for example, is it freedom of expression for The Citizen to call Robert McBride a murderer, and not freedom of expression for Julius Malema to call former members of the South African Defence Force (SADF) murderers?

After all, the SADF killed black people on a far larger scale than the Robert McBrides of this world.

What is happening here is something some of us predicted about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

By equating killing in the name of a just war with killing in the name of a truly murderous regime, the TRC sent the message that there were no good or bad guys any more.

By allowing The Citizen to call McBride a murderer, the Constitutional Court has simply etched that moral equivalence into law.

And that means everyone who fought against the apartheid regime and killed was a murderer.

If this is not an institutionalised rewriting of the moral foundations of our struggle, then I don’t know what is.

The duplicity does not end with the criminalisation of one set of actors (Robert McBride) and the absolution of others (the SADF).

While AfriForum is complaining about Dubul’ibhunu, black people stand still, hand on heart, to sing Die Stem as part of our national anthem.

And yet Die Stem was invoked to justify the murder of far more people than the Dubul’ ibhunu song that Malema sings among his whisky-sipping and cigar-smoking friends.

I can ­assure you, no harm can be ­expected from those quarters.

A black group could have justifiably gone to court to outlaw the incorporation of Die Stem into our anthem on the grounds that it was a white war cry against black people.

Instead, we were persuaded to go beyond our own anger and fears to build a new society.

Is it really a stretch to ask white people to outgrow their anger and their fears just as we have done so many times over?

How long will white people allow their leaders to hold them ransom to the fear of a non-existent threat?

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