It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
Marlene Conradie, widow of murdered Joubert Conradie, at the #BlackMonday protest in Cape Town.
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What must one make of the fact that the ANC, South Africa's ruling party that fought a brave and honourable struggle for human rights and equality, did not once mention the name of Joubert Conradie in its strongly-worded statement condemning the #BlackMonday protests?
Conradie is the 47-year-old farmer whose cold-blooded murder in Stellenbosch last week led to his friends and family informally organising a march in his honour. Conradie was shot eight to ten times by house robbers.
His last words to his wife Marlene, before he drew his last breath, were, "I love you."
Conradie's friend, Chris Loubser, recorded a video in his bakkie, calling on his friends and family to join him in a small gathering on Monday wearing black.
Because of its amateurish authenticity and his raw emotion about his friend's death, the video spread like a veld fire over social media and soon caught the attention of organised labour movements, lobby groups, right-wing organisations and thousands of decent, law-abiding South Africans.
Small, informal protests were organised all over the country in solidarity with farmers like Conradie who have lost their lives at the hands of murderers.
The ensuing debate in the mainstream press and on social media has been one of the most polarising I have seen in our short, democratic history.
A digital shouting-match between two distinct camps erupted: (mostly white) people shouting generalised, racist things about black people, and (mostly black) people shouting generalised, racist things about whites who dared to participate in, or sympathise with the march.
Pictures of protestors with old South African flags, some of them photographed in 2010, were circulated en masse as proof of the "unrelenting yearning for apartheid fascism and white supremacy" as the ANC’s hysterical statement termed it.
The middle-ground seemed to have completely vanished. You were either a white fascist or a black murderer.
In his excellent article on News24, the Institute of Race Relations' Frans Cronjé debunked some of the myths about attacks on farms thrown around like cheap confetti since Monday.
Read it and educate yourself. No debate or discussion about farm murders should take place outside of a factual grounding. There are no easy answers, suffice to say that there is absolutely no proof of a genocide against white farmers.
At the same time, there is absolutely no evidence to support the ANC's attempts to characterise Monday's protest as an illegal gathering of right-wing lunatics who yearn back to the apartheid years.
I have closely followed the coverage of Monday's protests and spoke to colleagues who were on the ground. It is simply untrue that the majority of white people who participated in #BlackMonday to grieve Conradie's death were rabid racists.
At the Cape Town march, in which Conradie's widow, children and friends participated, only one old South African flag was spotted on a woman's biker jacket. The woman lives in Kraaifontein – a lower middle-class neighbourhood outside Cape Town – and not on a farm.
Of course she and others who carried or wore the old flag at marches elsewhere should be exposed and condemned. But to make them the centre of #BlackMonday, as the ANC and EFF have done, is simply disingenuous and, I would argue, dangerous.
Many farmers I know would not be seen dead next to or close to an old South African flag. Thousands of farmers are decent, law-abiding citizens who try to make ends meet and run a productive business.
Of course there are those left who yearn back to apartheid days, mistreat and assault their black workers and do nothing to uplift a new generation of black farmers. In my experience they are in the minority.
Like Joubert Conradie's murderers, they should be exposed, prosecuted and jailed when they commit these crimes.
I don't want to speculate why the ANC chose to dedicate their entire statement following #BlackMonday on the (literally) handful of racists who brought old flags to a protest to grieve the death of a father and husband. It is not hard to figure out.
All I know is that South Africa must be an extremely lonely place for Marlene Conradie and her kids at the moment. Not only did they lose their father and husband; their mourning was also stolen from them by a small group of racist lunatics and a large group of reckless politicians.
- Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. Follow him on Twitter.
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