MY TURN WITH TICHAONA ZINDOGA
Racial tensions in South Africa are always high, and occasionally shoot through the roof. It is something that was not cured by the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that was part of measures, processes and conditions that brought about South African independence in 1994. A system of racial discrimination against blacks should have ended in 1994.
South Africans of all colours must have become equal from 1994. Political, social and equality must have characterised new life in the “Rainbow Nation”. The beautiful, utopian story of a new “multi-racial” country has not been achieved. In fact, the situation has been more characteristic of a festering sore as South Africa marked by inequality, poverty, crime and racialism. These differences, this festering sore, will not heal any time soon.
The sore will get worse, wider, deeper and stinking. Black people are angry and impatient. White people feel insecure. White farmers want war. On Monday, white farmers and mainly Afrikaner nationalists, staged protests countrywide over “farm murders” which they say are part of “white genocide” in South Africa. There have been a number of killings on farms and Afrikaner groups claim that these incidents are racially motivated. (Ironically, last week two farmers were sentenced to 20 years in jail for torturing a black man, whom they forced into a coffin and threatened to kill him.)
The lobby group AfriForum has released statistics meant to show that commercial farmers are 4,5 times more likely to be killed than the South African population as a whole. According to AfriForum‚ 156 commercial farmers are killed per 100 000 and, according to reports, national police’s annual crime statistics indicate that 34,1 South Africans are murdered per 100 000 of the population. The figure by AfriForum is heavily disputed. Africa Check, which verifies facts and figures made public, says the so-called farm murder rate is 0,4 murders per 100 000.
“SA’s farm murder rate remains unknown,” says Africa Check.
“While questions remain about the accuracy of farm murder statistics and an accurate estimate of the affected population is unavailable, any farm murder rate should be viewed with caution.”
It has become evident that figures are political. Afrikaners are trying to project a view that white farmers are under siege. Unexpectedly, whites belonging to the Afrikaner community have even reached out to rightwing figures and sentiments in Europe and America to find sympathy and even support. They have reached out to US President Donald Trump and expressed fear of being wiped out by blacks, and that says a lot about race relations in South Africa. An article, “Donald Trump, white victimhood and the South African far-right” (The Conversation, February 23, 2017) illustrated this clearly.
“The fear of black violence, the so-called ‘Swart Gevaar’ (Afrikaans for black danger) propagated by the apartheid state, still persists. The most extreme version of this victimhood is ‘white genocide’. This idea has been popularised by the Afrikaans pop singers (Steve) Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges through their Red October campaign. They advocate that farm murders in South Africa come down to ‘white genocide’ – farm murders most certainly are problematic, even without it being hijacked for political mileage. But they don’t amount to ‘white genocide’ and affect more than white people.
“The right-wing political party Freedom Front Plus has called on the UN to investigate white genocide. The numbers show that this idea is sheer hyperbole.” A petition that was supposed to be handed to President Trump also shows how deeply the matter is racial and political. The petition contained the following statement: “We (Afrikaners) and the Koisan [sic] are the original natives of South Africa and were here since 1652. No other people were here since Jan van Riebeeck arrived except the Koisan living from the sea in the Western Cape.” (President Trump, SA’s white right’s white knight? Daily Maverick, January 17, 2017).
Of course, President Trump has not heeded the call, but the existence of people like a young white man Dylan Roof, who in 2015 killed black people in a church in the US while wearing flags of apartheid South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, shows that racists in South Africa have global links and sympathisers. And for their own part, there are reports of white farmers arming themselves to the teeth, conducting military-style training camps, propagating nationalist hate and ready for war. In March, an outfit calling itself the “Boer Afrikaner Volksraad” warned government that it would “not recognise any law that makes nationalisation of land without compensation legal, even if it comes from parliament” (Boer-Afrikaner ‘nation’ warns ANC of war over land, The Citizen, March 1, 2017).
“Deprivation, dispossession and occupation of our country in terms of any law shall be considered formal acts of war against the Boer Afrikaner people, which we have to defend against and retaliate with internationally accepted means and methods in order to ensure our ownership and recovery,” said the organisation.
Enough is enough – and an insult
Things are not getting any cooler. Events of Monday, when white people blockaded roads and busy highways against “farm murders” and proceeded for rallies, is the latest sign of a festering situation. A group called “Genoeg is Genoeg” was at the forefront of the protest action. By all estimation, racially privileged white farmers are not prepared to concede anything that they consider a threat to their livelihoods and position.
The so-called “farm murders” is both an excuse and rallying point. Whites will simply not be giving away land as demanded by blacks. A pocket of 40 000 white farmers, as at December 2016, held 73,3 percent of land in South Africa, a country of 56 million and more than 70 percent black. Government, which has managed to redistribute only about 8 percent of its target of 30 percent land since 1994, has been under pressure and President Jacob Zuma’s call for “expropriation without compensation” has been severely undermined by politics and, generally, by time.
Meanwhile, white farmers are becoming bolder and in many instances openly show disdain for black people. On Monday, a picture circulated of farmers posing with a bakkie with the message which read, “NO BOER, NO PAP”. Pap is the local word for “sadza”, and the white farmer – the Boer – was telling us that without him black people who depend on pap, as we all typically do, would starve to death! What an insult to South Africans and all of us! And, by the way, apartheid flags were openly displayed by some of the protestors.