Black Monday: We are going backwards

2017-11-05 06:13
Members of the community join the #BlackMonday demonstration in the town of Darling in the Western Cape. Picture: Romantha Botha

Members of the community join the #BlackMonday demonstration in the town of Darling in the Western Cape. Picture: Romantha Botha

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'We cannot be harassed by a nonsense Afrikaner community' - Malema on #BlackMonday

2017-11-02 15:32

"We are going to liberate our highways and freeways from racist whites." So said Julius Malema in response to Black Monday protests against farm murders.WATCH

Is the edifice of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “rainbow nation” a farce predicated on an elusive, stillborn dream by the founding fathers of South Africa’s democratic dispensation?

Or has the dream been temporarily deferred by the complexities of the sociopolitical realities that confront us?

Thanks to some racist compatriots in our midst, any hopes we still harboured that South Africans would soon resolve the nation’s deep-rooted race and crime conundrum were rudely punctuated and shaken this week.

The psychology of South Africa’s violent murder rates, coupled with myriad challenges faced by our criminal justice system, demands a sober analysis of the underlying sociopolitical factors, as well as an understanding of the complex interplay between race and class if we are to endure.

Let me explain.

To say South Africa is a country in perpetual political and social turmoil would be an understatement.

South Africa is also in the throes of a systemic crime wave that threatens to tear apart the patchy rainbow-nation fabric our new order was woven with.

The country’s critical cog in the administration of justice, the police service, has not enjoyed stable and credible stewardship since the departure of democratic South Africa’s first national commissioner, General George Fivaz.

None of the successive police commissioners has completed a single term in office as all of them have been implicated in and charged with one form of misconduct or another.

Our evidently compromised, stretched and demoralised police and intelligence services, invitingly porous borders coupled with high unemployment, unremitting poverty and socioeconomic inequality make for a combustible criminal hotbed that is South Africa today.

It is regrettable that, despite any shred of evidence to back the claim, some white compatriots peddle an unfounded narrative that blacks have conspired to exact revenge on them for reasons even well-resourced Afrikaner organisations struggle to proffer.

Right-wing supremacists led by race-based AfriForum recently embarked on the infamous #BlackMonday campaign, which was ostensibly meant to highlight the plight of farming communities as they battle “targeted” murders of white farmers by blacks.

Attacks on farmers

There are many reasons cited for attacks on farmers.

The Institute for Security Studies, for instance, claims that farm attacks are not motivated by race but by greed.

Other sections of white society conveniently blame the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The truth is that violent crime in South Africa is an equal-opportunity national scourge.

The last government analysis of farm attack victims by race was conducted in 2001.

In its report, the police’s Crime Information Analysis Centre revealed that, of the 1 398 people attacked on farms during the period under review, 61.6% were white and 33.3% were black.

Such race-based statistics are no longer made public.

In a country where more than 80% of the population is black and an even higher percentage is unemployed, poor and disaffected, it stands to reason that most of the crime will be perpetrated by blacks.

As more than 95% of commercial farms are owned by whites, it is reasonable to assume that white farmers would constitute a higher ratio of farm murders per capita. That in itself should not justify farm murders.

If anything, it is a sad indictment on government’s failure to help eradicate poverty, unemployment and disaffection by those who feel hopeless in the face of wanton greed and corruption by the political elite and the exclusionary economic system.

To fully locate and therefore seek a solution to South Africa’s crime problem, perhaps one needs to revisit the statement of then deputy president Thabo Mbeki at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly on reconciliation and nation-building, delivered in Parliament on May 29 1998.

A liberal but apposite excerpt of Mbeki’s speech reads thus: “We are interested that together, as South Africans, we [must] adopt the necessary steps that will eradicate poverty in our country as quickly as possible and in all its manifestations, to end the dehumanisation of millions of our people, which inevitably results from the terrible deprivation to which so many, both black and white, are victim.

... A major component of the issue of reconciliation and nation-building is defined by and derives from the material conditions in our society which have divided our country into two nations ... One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.

The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.

“This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.

"It has virtually no possibility to exercise what in reality amounts to a theoretical right to equal opportunity, with that right being equal within this black nation only to the extent that it is equally incapable of realisation.”

Primary drivers of crime

Whether pinned on politics or other factors cited in Mbeki’s statement, it is generally agreed that want and greed are the primary drivers of crime.

It is apparent that organisers of the #BlackMonday campaign paid scant regard to Mbeki’s call for, inter alia, nation-building, patriotism and economic inclusion as some within their midst openly displayed racism and nostalgia for the apartheid era.

It would be imprudent to even suggest that the scourge of crime afflicting all of us can be resolved by adopting sectarian and self-serving campaigns that polarise our society.

To appropriate legitimate demands for an end to crime in such a blatantly bigoted manner is despicable and shameful.

So is the call to arms by the red berets in response to AfriForum’s unprovoked racial voyeurism.

South Africans of all hues must not allow space for bigots to drive racial fissures and fear at the expense of farmers’ legitimate fears or the aspirations of the landless and poor.

It is time we recalibrate our ideals for and commitment to a common nationhood underpinned by economic prosperity for all.

- Khaas is a businessman and political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas

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