Max du Preez

Malema back on a pedestal

2011-04-13 08:25

I hope the Equality Court is going to tell the ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema to stop singing Shoot the Boer in public. It is just too racially charged and the fact that so many South Africans find it deeply offensive is already enough reason.

The argument that it would amount to “erasing our history” is just silly. There are many other struggle songs that can still be sung, and not singing something in public doesn’t make it disappear.

But I’m not convinced it was a good strategy for AfriForum to force the issue and create a huge and very public confrontation.

I’m not convinced that AfriForum had exhausted all efforts to persuade the ANC’s senior leadership to put a ban on the song in public. They could have had the Vryheidsfront Plus leader and deputy minister, Pieter Mulder, the Afrikanerbond and the leaders of Afrikaans churches, cultural organisations and agricultural unions in a powerful delegation to lobby with President Jacob Zuma and his colleagues.

What the court case has achieved in the eyes of the majority so far, is to put Malema back on a pedestal as the brave young black man who is prepared to take on the reactionary whites. There is a real possibility that his tarnished reputation of the last few months will be restored through this process and that he will emerge more powerful afterwards. Much of the nation saw him as a buffoon and a joke until now. Shouldn’t we have left it at that?

Now he has been given a new hero status where he can stand on the court steps and declare: “It is not me who is on trial. The revolution is on trial.”

The polarisation is already clear by the reaction outside the court: chanting and ululating and screaming of “My President!” and awudubhule ibhunu”.

Malema is playing the court case like a master. He arrived at court on the first day with six bodyguards armed with automatic assault rifles. The message was clear: these nasty Boers want me dead. I’m a martyr already.

I thought this macabre procession was an act of intimidation and a threat to public safety. What would happen if a white man made a sudden move in the crowd and one of these goons thought he was a potential attacker? A blood bath. Who gave these men licences to carry such lethal guns anyway?

We could have avoided this polarising show trial if AfriForum had gone the way of negotiation and compromise. We should have as few occasions as possible where whites and blacks are forced to publicly take opposing positions.

But there is a strong counter argument. It goes something like this: activist bodies lobbying on behalf of minorities such as AfriForum and Solidarity should make it clear that their constituency is going to assert their rights and draw a line in the sand, warning that anyone who is threatening their safety or well-being will be fought with all legal means and in line with the constitution.

I think this argument has merit, especially now that the ruling clique in the ANC has embraced a narrow, chauvinist black nationalism.

I don’t subscribe to the view that white South Africans should be “humble” and “apologetic” and “know their place” because of apartheid and colonialism. That would simply reinforce the case of those who want to paint whites as settlers or “colonialists of a special kind” – in other words, not proper first class citizens, not Africans.

I am an indigenous South African and African with the same rights to be here and be happy here than Malema or anyone else.

I do think, though, that whites should be sensitive and not be in denial about the past, and I think whites have a special responsibility to help make this country a better place, even when they sometimes feel such help isn’t wanted.

But no-one respects what we call in Afrikaans a gatkruiper.

I think the best strategy for minority groups would be a delicate balance between being assertive and being diplomatic , assessing their strategies on a case to case basis.

Perhaps AfriForum should have followed the diplomatic route with Malema this time round.

PS. Isn’t it about time black people stopped calling white South Africans ibhunu and Afrikaans isiBhunu? The root of the words is Boer, which has always had a pejorative connotation.

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