By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity
The leader of the EFF is at it again! This time he has South African Indians in his line of fire, while maintaining his unrelenting hate campaign against white people.
His supporters have, for good measure, thrown anti-Coloured venom into the mix, hence targeting the largest groups of minorities in South Africa.
Malema and his EFF pursue and promote a toxic form of race profiling that is intended to rouse followers and orchestrate race rage through statements like, “we are not calling for the slaughter of white people, at least for now” (interview on TRT World); to “(the) majority of Indians hate Africans, (the) majority of Indians are racist, and we must never be scared to say that they are racist” (statement made at a Youth Day rally in Klerksdorp). The semantics aside, whether whites are safe for now and that the majority, and not all Indians are racists, does not offer succor to a country and people reeling under the effects of corruption, mismanagement and an economy that is teetering on the brink.
Malema and the EFF have craftily built a political narrative based on historical injustice and narrowly-refined beneficiaries for redress. His statement on Youth Day went further, “we were not oppressed the same. Our oppression was worse than the oppression of the Indians”. This strategy is essentially one that promotes a racial nationalism that portends huge harm to South Africans of every hue and political persuasion. It does not build but destroys a social compact entered in 1994 that both recognised South Africa’s history and seeks to build a collective future for all.
While the EFF have ably used parliamentary privilege to vent hatred and prejudice, the party and its members have taken the venom beyond the doors of Parliament and have stoked fear and anger across the country.
While Malema and the EFF have on numerous occasions been called out for sowing and inciting racial tensions, there has not been a concomitant course of actions to deal with them decisively. They have been given too many free passes on the basis that their utterances are part of the process of electioneering, or that they are young, radical hot-bloods who speak to a disenchanted youth constituency, who – with proper opportunity and guidance – will eventually grow up. But this must not be condoned or treated lightly because there is no excuse for failure to hold racists to account. Vicky Momberg found this out the hard way.
The South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (SAMREM) is in the process of opening a third case against Malema’s anti-Indian comments. They have asserted the constitutional imperatives contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, in respect of cultural, religious and linguistic rights, together with the founding values of equality, dignity and non-discrimination. These are clearly of little significance to the EFF and its ilk.
Malema and the EFF’s goading and taunting, whether in relation to land, land occupations or race relations, go to the heart of our constitutional values and tenets. The lack of respect for, and the active challenge to, democratic liberties is perhaps the biggest cause for concern. This, not only in the run-up to the next election or the one after, but fundamentally to how we engage each other to build a future for all. The blatant use of identity politics and racial nationalism does not bode well. Creating shadows and a narrative of the racial bogeyman will cause untold harm to a fragile social compact in South Africa. Lest Malema forget, we have all been failed by corruption, mismanagement and poor governance. Righting these requires a collective effort.