Over the past several months there has been a striking resurgence of racial propaganda in South Africa, directed against the country's white minority. This follows in the slipstream of the African National Congress government's renewed legislative efforts to solve the race question in South Africa by inter alia progressively limiting whites in all private and public sector institutions to their percentage of the total population; the efforts to gradually Africanise small business through the amended B-BBEE codes; and the vociferous calls from the Economic Freedom Fighters, and elements within the ANC, for land owned by whites to be expropriated without compensation for the benefit of the population as a whole.
It also occurs in a context wherein the ANC's past efforts to deal with this question have collapsed into a morass of state dysfunction, corruption, high unemployment and low economic growth - while creating a narrow and hugely wealthy politically-connected elite.
However, unlike in the past, and particularly during the Mbeki-era, this propaganda is not being driven by the ANC and its cadres, but rather by race-aware individuals in South Africa's mainstream media (of all colours) otherwise quite contemptuous of the Zuma administration.
This propaganda is generally characterised by an intense focus on any incident of violence or indignity inflicted by whites on blacks; allegations of continuing and undeserved "white privilege"; claims that property, and particularly land, owned by whites was "stolen"; the effort to downplay or diminish incidents of black on white violence no matter how brutal; and outraged reactions to any call for equal treatment for individuals from the white minority. The following examples are illustrative of the febrile atmosphere of South Africa's media, when it comes to racial issues.
In February this year TimesLive reported - in a story titled "Another race attack at top university" - that "In an apparent racist attack, two white students at the University of the Free State (UFS) allegedly drove deliberately over a black student and repeatedly beat him when he confronted them."
The newspaper claimed that the two students - subsequently named as Cobus Muller and Charl Blom - had, while driving through the main campus of the university in their bakkie, tried to swerve into three black women students (while "calling them kaffirs") before hitting a fifth-year economics student Dumane ‘Muzi' Gwebu while he was walking on the pavement. When Gwebu had confronted Muller and Blom at a nearby residence they had viciously attacked and beaten him.
In a statement issued to the newspaper the UFS said its leadership was "shocked and outraged" by the incident, that the two students involved had been tracked down and handed over to the police, and had been "expelled" from the university. Blom and Muller later stated that two days after the incident they had approached Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Professor Jonathan Jansen, to give their side of the story. Jansen had refused to hear them out and had instead immediately called in campus security who had handed them over to the police.
This incident provoked an outraged response across social media with much discussion of the continued problem of white racism in South Africa, and what to do about it. Eusebius McKaiser the Rhodes Scholar, Power FM talk-show host and columnist for Independent newspapers, tweeted:
A day or two later Jansen wrote an open letter to all UFS students indirectly accusing Blom and Muller, without naming them, of being "violent and hateful persons" and "criminals" who still act as "these are the days of apartheid." He concluded by stating: "The two former students were expelled and will now face justice in the criminal courts. It is hoped that in the course of time they will come to their senses and seek restoration and reconciliation with the student they so callously harmed. They are not part of the university community anymore. That is the kind of university we are."
Gwebu's allegations were subsequently examined both by the South African Human Rights Commission and in the trial of Blom and Muller on charges of reckless driving, crimen injuria, attempted murder and assault. In their trial Blom and Muller denied that they had intentionally hit Gwebu with the vehicle, uttered any sort of racial slur or initiated their assault. According to their version Gwebu had dragged Muller out of the stationary vehicle and begun assaulting him. Muller had then head-butted Gwebu in self-defence. Gwebu had then gone after Muller again, before Blom had pulled him off.
It emerged in court that in their original statements the two black women called as witnesses had said the bakkie had not hit Gwebu, nor did they see him fall. He had also walked away normally. They subsequently changed their statement, after meeting with the prosecution, to say that Gwebu could have been hit. It also emerged from the SAHRC investigation that no witness could corroborate Gwebu's claim that the k-word had been uttered, nor had he himself claimed to have heard it personally.
On September 9 magistrate Rasheed Mathews found Blom and Muller not guilty on all charges. Gwebu was found to have been a prejudiced, hostile and unreliable witness who contradicted himself repeatedly. Gwebu's testimony was also not corroborated by other witnesses or by the physical evidence. Following their acquittal the UFS issued a statement defending the original decision to "suspend" Blom and Muller. Jansen did however apologise "on behalf of the UFS to Cobus Muller and Charl Blom, their parents, and their families, for the disruption that the suspension brought in their lives and for the stress they had to bear during this difficult period. ‘For that, I am truly sorry,' he said."
More recently, the incident in which two white male University of Stellenbosch students dressed up as Venus and Serena Williams at a private fancy dress party, and blackened their faces, met with an equally irate response after a picture slipped into the public domain via social media. Although the students quickly apologised, the Daily Maverick thought this incident of sufficient national import to devote three opinion pieces - by Marelise van der Merwe, Mariann Thamm, and Sisonke Msimang - to denouncing the students. Thamm laid great emphasis on collective historic white guilt and black victimhood; while Msimang wrote that the best that could be said of the students "that they are naïve and unconsciously racist."
The race-aware (white) ventriloquist Conrad Koch also expressed his indignation by tweeting through the medium of his (black) alter ego Chester Missing:
White people who think 20 years is enough time to have fixed apartheid, but not enough time for them to learn that blackface is kak.— Chester Missing (@chestermissing) September 23, 2014
In February this year McKaiser told a conference that "no sense of guilt" needed to be felt over discrimination against children and young adults on the basis of their (white) race when it came to the allocation of positions in schools and jobs. In his writings McKaiser - who recently confessed to the Sunday Times that he "did once buy sneakers for about R13 000 cash" - has repeatedly written about the "unearned privileges" of young white South Africans who attended the same sort of schools and universities he did.
In a column in The Star on Monday this week McKaiser, who has recently left Power FM after a contractual dispute, wrote that the sense of shock that white individuals feel when being passed over for an appointment or promotion, in favour of a (less qualified?) black candidate, reflects an "unexamined sense of entitlement" and "an embedded, internalised sense of superiority." He wrote:
"There is sheer arrogance involved here on the part of the white South African who can't make sense of his or her failure without sustaining a secret belief that they are intrinsically more capable than blacks. You can only lament and be shocked by fewer job offers or promotions in the job sector if you think you deserve these more than blacks. Nothing innocent anchors such shock and disappointment. A sense of superiority, left over from apartheid, fuels this misplaced sense of being democracy's victim. If you conceived of the possibility you might not be the best, other responses to failure beyond shock will open up. Apartheid's beneficiaries aren't yet in that head-space."
McKaiser added that whites still need to do "psychological and moral work" and accept "that past discrimination, not genetic superiority or sheer effort, explains why you're materially better off than me and my family."
The underlying sentiment expressed by McKaiser, and other race-aware commentators, is that what the minority possess today was gained at the expense of the racial majority, through foul measures, over the course of hundreds of years. The corrective measures being currently taken against this minority are both justified and, indeed, considerably more lenient than this race deserves, given their past crimes.
This attitude may help explain why while the UFS and "Williams Sisters" incidents, referred to above, were met with public outrage, violent attacks on white and particularly Afrikaner farmers are met with equanimity in race-aware media circles. The South African Police Service recently disclosed that there had been 2 227 attacks on farms and smallholdings between April 2010 and March 2014, in which 245 individuals had been murdered. By comparison there were 198 robbery-related murders in Germany (pop. 80.2m) in approximately the same four-year period.
A police report described the circumstances around the murders of Nicolaas Lens and Martha Mary Magdalena Lens on September 3 2014 on their farm Elim in the Groenvlei district near Lüneburg in KwaZulu-Natal as follows:
"Mr Lens was shot from behind while he was standing or kneeling. The person who shot him, put the firearm against his head and pulled the trigger (in an execution style). His hat was found next to the body, a roll of binding wire, as well as a 5-litre plastic container containing a pair of fencing pliers and a metal saw... It seems as if his wife was busy preparing food in the kitchen, as they were going to have a braai, when the intruders entered the house. She was taken to the bedroom to open the safe. A panic button was found on top of the safe, which she had pressed to alert people that there was a problem. The panic button was pressed just after 17:00 hours. When the panic button is pressed, the radio's microphone turns into a sender and people tuned in on the network can hear what is happening in the immediate vicinity. A person in the area heard over the radio how a woman was pleading with a person who was shouting at her, then a gunshot was heard. After that the Lens' telephone was heard ringing through the microphone, but nothing else.... Mrs Lens was [later] found on the ground with her hands, in a ‘hands up' position. She was shot in an execution style, with the firearm being pressed hard against her head when the trigger was pulled."
In this context the controversy over the music video of the song "Larney Jou Poes" by Dookom - a largely-white rap group fronted by the (black) rapper Isaac Mutant - is revealing. The song (below) essentially contains 4 minutes of volksverhetzung directed against white farmers, beginning and ending with the call for the farms to be burned.
The video, with its violent fantasies of a reichskristallnacht on the land, may have remained in obscurity had City Press not decided to give it expansive coverage on Sunday. The newspaper quoted the (white) British member of the group as accusing farmers of "treating workers worse than animals" - suggesting that if there was violence the farmers would have brought it down on themselves.
The video was widely praised by race-aware intellectuals. TO Molefe, South African columnist for the New York Times Online, tweeted:
Ahead of publication, City Press had approached the Afrikaner civil rights organisation, AfriForum, for comment in an apparent effort to give some "balance" to its coverage. The organisation's deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, told the newspaper: "Farm murders are a massive problem in South Africa, and to romanticise burning down a farm is ridiculous. We are considering laying charges of hate speech."
This comment, in turn, provoked an indignant reaction from the race-aware UCT constitutional law professor, Pierre de Vos. In an article for the Daily Maverick De Vos, whose chair is funded by the Claude Leon Foundation, described AfriForum as an "organisation that fights for the preservation of white privilege" and the song's deployment of Afrikaans as "exquisite". He then entered into a long denunciation of white South Africans, stating inter alia:
"For many (but not all) ‘white' South Africans their racial privilege thus remains comfortingly invisible - much like the air they breathe. When somebody claims ‘not to see race' I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt and to assume he or she does not have the intellectual tools to realise that such a denial helps many of us ‘white' South Africans to remain soothingly blind to the structural racism from which we benefit - whether we choose to do so or not."
AfriForum's comments also provoked an angry response from the journalist Lloyd Geyde. Writing in The Con, an online magazine, he stated:
"The fallacy of the ‘white victim' is becoming nauseating...Farm workers are routinely beaten, raped or murdered in South Africa - just take a look at our court rolls - but white farmers hog the headlines with their claims of ‘genocide'. It's clear slavery and apartheid are still alive and well in South Africa; they are just obfuscated with the language of democracy now."
Finally, in an article in the Mail & Guardian online, the video was also highly commended by the EFF MP and former employee of the European Union funded Foundation for Human Rights, Andile Mngxitama. Mngxitama, who has long called for the dispossession of white farmers on Zimbabwean-style lines, described his interaction with the (white) director of the video as follows:
"One can't help imagine Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained [in viewing the video]. Like the movie, black resistance is permitted by a white creator. Mutant is a front man of a white band. The video itself is produced by a talented white man who goes by the name Sirius Tales. When I tell him [at the launch] that he has pulled a Tarantino, he is pleased. But then I go further and tell him at the day of reckoning he must not expect any mercy from blacks, he frowns with disappointment and asks, ‘But why?' I tell him I have no words to speak the weight of 700 years of black oppression. Dialogue ends."