Howard Feldman

Vicki Momberg and Julius Malema are not the same

2018-03-29 14:05
Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, addresses the media ahead of the State of the Nation Adress (Picture: Gallo Images)

Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, addresses the media ahead of the State of the Nation Adress (Picture: Gallo Images)

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No, it is not the same thing. Vicki Momberg, the racist who was sentenced to two years in prison, and Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, are not the same at all.

The fact that Malema taunts whites and practices race politics to attain notoriety is awful and unimpressive. But it's not the same. Not by a long shot.

This is why: history and context.

As much as white South Africans might claim to be offended by Malema, the truth is that we are most likely angrier and more frustrated than we are hurt. Whites have never been the focus of racial oppression in South Africa. We have never been demonised, told we are less than and precluded from public places because of our race. We have never been told that we are not people who you should be sharing classrooms with, or movies, or park benches, or toilets.

We have never been emasculated in front of our children. We have never seen our grandfather being called "Boy".

The concept is not unique to South Africa. In August 2017 two Chinese citizens were arrested in Germany for performing the so called "Hitler salute". The gesture, along with all other Nazi party actions and symbols are banned in the country and is considered to be a criminal offense should one display such.

Denial of the holocaust also falls within the law as the country's steadfast commitment to ensuring that it never returns to its dangerous past.

Jews too are incredibly sensitive to this painful part of their history and, in fact, to all other moments in history where the threat of annihilation was real. Over the next few days, Jews around the world will be celebrating Passover – the festival of freedom that recounts the story of how the Israelites went from being slaves in Egypt to becoming a nation. Although this might have occurred many thousands of years prior, it is customary to still eat "bitter herbs" in order to recount the painful nature of the experience. The observant also dip eggs into salted water that is symbolic of the tears shed during the period of slavery.  

Each year Jews gather at an evening called "The Seder," which literally means "Order" so as to speak of the experience, to recount the details and to bring history to life. And each year the next generation of children are educated about the past.

Painful memories last. They last both for individuals and in the collective memory of a specific society. And although these need to be spoken about, discussed and remembered, it needs to be done in a safe and controlled setting. It needs to be done where there is order and structure.

South Africa is just a blink away from liberation. The memories don't only reside with the generations past, but with many who lived in the country prior to 1994. What makes matters worse is that the ANC has not effectively addressed the vital and urgent issues that are part and parcel of that history, making the relevance of the apartheid era just as relevant today as it was then.

Vicki Momberg may or may not have considered all this. But she clearly knew what she was doing when she hurled abuse at the policemen trying to help her. She was unrepentant and arrogant and failed to even rethink her behaviour. She deserves the punishment that has been awarded and the case should serve as a reminder to others.

Julius Malema too may or may not have considered how divisive and dangerous his behaviour is. People will get hurt following his racial antagonism. And when they do, he will need to own it. Words are powerful. And if anyone knows that it is Malema. The good thing is that now Momberg knows it too.

- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    julius malema  |  vicki momberg  |  discrimination  |  racism
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