I urge you mama Baleka Mbete to retract immediately (as a leader) your use of the genocidal word cockroach in reference to Julius Malema, our fellow South African.

2015-02-15 11:33

By Vusi Kweyama

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I urge you mama Baleka Mbete to retract immediately (as a leader) your use of the word cockroach in reference to Julius Malema, our fellow South African.

I write when it matters the most, and today I am writing because I am troubled by the use of language that creates genocidal social conditions for the extermination of ‘them’ by ‘us’. Such linguistic practice of otherising is not only derogatory in nature, but also seek to dehumanize the other and give permission to eradicate that, which is animalistic, and not one of us.

The chairperson of African National Congress (ANC) in her address to the party in the North West's eighth provincial congress in her capacity as one of the African National Congress's top six officials, employed very worrying derogatory terms to refer to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF):

"Those thugs there are going to come to provinces to run a similar campaign, not only in legislatures but also in municipalities

"You must teach our children not to be misled by those wearing red overalls”. Those people (EFF) are not working with people of this country alone, they are pawns in a bigger scheme of things where some western governments are involved.”

“If we don’t work, we will continue to have cockroaches like Malema roaming all over the place.”

History suggests that the use of language that seeks to portray the other as less human is dangerous and carries the capacity to generate malicious hatred for the other. As you may agree with me, it is much easier to kill an animal than a person, one of our own. It is also much easier to kill a disgusting cockroach than to kill a lovely pet dog, and it is much easier to kill a thug than a law-abiding citizen. Such dehumanising linguistic use initiates discourse amongst ordinary citizens that is pregnant with genocidal tendencies of the minority groups.

For example, the Rwandan genocide of 1994 that saw the slaughtering of over 800,000 people started with derogatory speeches that prepared everyday people for the slaughtering of their fellow human beings portrayed as less humans. “The most commonly used derogatory terms include ‘inyenzi ’(Kinyarwanda for cockroach) and ‘inzoka’ (Kinyarwanda for ‘snake’)”.

Though we might all have problems with tendencies that seek to disrupt our democratic processes, I urge the leadership of the ANC to refrain from using derogatory terms or anything that seeks to incite violence amongst fellow South Africans. I urge you mama Baleka Mbete to retract immediately (as a leader) your use of the word cockroach in reference to Julius Malema, our fellow South African.

To the EFF, at the moment what we have as a nation is this thing called democracy, and it is founded upon the notion of ‘majority rule’, which demands that one must have the numbers that are representative of what the majority of everyday people want on the ground. Any attempt to influence things outside of the acceptable democratic script is bound to backfire, and render our democracy obsolete or country ungovernable, but also anger the majority on the ground, and the lives of those who appear to be part of the disrupting group might be threaten. Therefore, if you want to exert influence in the context of this democracy thing get the numbers behind you, and save the lives of your followers get people to vote for your political party.

To echo my parochial view, I recently posted on my Facebook in the eve of the disruption of the State of the Nation Address:

“The apolitical are celebrating the EFF chaos failing to understand that the very nature of democracy is underpinned by the notion of majority rule. The EFF is found to be wanting in this regard and resorting to undemocratic means to achieve their desired ends. This, in my uneducated view, is an erosion of the very institution of democracy, but what do I know because I'm not an MP.”

Fellow South Africans, we have come a long way to be where we are. We have climbed the mountain of colonialism that relegated us to a place of subjects. We overcame the apartheid project that positioned us as less humans, and we are now at a place where we must right the wrongs of the past, not only for everyday people who are still tortured by poverty and her friends, but also for all South Africans regardless of the colour of their skin.

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