Max du Preez

EFF's racism threatens the democratic state

2018-06-12 07:59
Floyd Shivambu during the party’s Human Rights Day rally on March 21, 2018 in Mpumalanga. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

Floyd Shivambu during the party’s Human Rights Day rally on March 21, 2018 in Mpumalanga. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

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The EFF's obsession with racial classification and ascribing values and roles to each racial category reminds me a lot of my childhood in rural Free State in the Sixties.

I was fed Swart Gevaar with my morning pap. It was crude and basic and the message I got from every dominee, teacher and politician was that we Afrikaners were the chosen people and we had to keep the barbarians out or they would overwhelm us.

It worked. For three decades afterwards most white South Africans still voted for an evil ideology that placed white people at the head of the pyramid at the expense of the majority.

It was cosy to be a white Afrikaner and easy to ingratiate yourself with fellow Afrikaners – all you had to do was to sing the praises of the noble volk and warn against the black hordes. If you were branded as "soft on blacks" or a "k-boetie" you were a bad Afrikaner not to be trusted and your social status took a serious knock.

I remember how we ignorant kids made Idi Amin jokes, especially after he kicked all Asians out of Uganda in 1972. The bitter irony of our jokes never dawned on us, not even us Free Staters, a province where Indian South Africans needed a permit to travel through.

What I have seen and heard from the EFF the last few months reminds me very much of that crude racial nationalism, that populist appeal to people's basest instincts.

Having lost Zuma, free tertiary education and land expropriation as electioneering slogans, the EFF leadership has clearly made race its main cause to attract voters in 2019.

Anti-white rhetoric was revved up to new levels of crudeness, but the party is going further by being explicitly anti-Indian and by glorifying black Africans above others.

Black Africans? Well, EFF national spokesperson and media darling Mbuyiseni Ndlozi actually used the b-word last week to clarify. In a Twitter exchange with columnist Ranjeni Munusamy regarding Floyd Shivambu's attack on National Treasury deputy director general Ismail Momoniat, Ndlozi wrote that the "focus is on Momo & his undermining of Bantu leadership".

Black Africans – I insist that there are also white, brown and Indian Africans in South Africa – represent 80% of our population. Apartheid took their citizenship away and told them they were citizens of Bantustans and had to carry passbooks to travel in "white South Africa". The ANC said it wanted to liberate "blacks in general and Africans in particular".

It is good and proper and natural that most of the positions of leadership in politics and public life come from their ranks. The fact that they are under-represented in the economy and business is one of South Africa's biggest challenges.

But our history makes us very different from all other states in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Europeans who came to South Africa from 1652 onwards didn't go back to Europe as their counterparts elsewhere did after Uhuru. The stayed and lost most, and in the case of Afrikaners, all physical and emotional ties to Europe. They came to view themselves as Africans and South Africans only, despite their oppression of fellow citizens.

Brown-skinned people, classified "coloured" during apartheid, now form almost 9% of the population compared to just over 8% who are white. They are mostly descendants of the Khoi and the San, of the 63 000 slaves from Africa, Madagascar and the East who were brought to the Cape between 1652 and 1808, and of a mix of all the other groups in the country.

Indian South Africans, only 2,5% of the population numbering just 1,4 million, are mostly descendants of indentured labourers who were brought to South Africa after 1860. To the overwhelming majority, if not all of them, India is a foreign country and South Africa is their only home.

This is who we are as a South African nation.

The recognition of all these realities was the very foundation of the democratic state that came into being in 1994.

To want to elevate the 80% to superior citizens with special status at the expense of the 20% would be to undermine this foundation, and if it continues long enough, the whole construct could come tumbling down.

I don't want to see the robustness of debate curtailed, nor would I want to deny that there could be legitimate reasons for people to stand up for the particular rights and dignity of black Africans. We should all join in doing that, because they are part of us. An injury to one is an injury to all, should be our view.

But the EFF leadership has gone way beyond robust debate and has entered the realm of dangerous racial chauvinism with its insults and threats to especially white and Indian South Africans.

Anyone who cautions against this tendency is attacked as a racist and an enemy of the people, and the vicious EFF social media army is let loose on him or her. This aggression has caused many journalists and commentators to fear the EFF brigade so much that they let the chauvinists and cheap populists get away with it.

If we want South Africa to be a safe place for us and our children to continue to live in, we should start standing up against this bigotry and at the same time fight harder for an equal, just society and the complete eradication of racism. And for tolerance.

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Read more on:    eff  |  floyd ­shivambu  |  south africa  |  racism  |  democracy

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