Boere verrecke!

Andrew Donaldson on the EFF's Nuremburg style 10th anniversary rally


WHAT an opportunity for the would-be Leni Riefenstahls. Smartphones out, they recorded their own latter day versions of Triumph of the Will, the film that Adolf Hitler commissioned to cover the September 1934 Nazi party congress and its massed rallies in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700 000 rabid supporters.

The comparison may be a stretch; how many of the estimated 100 000 redshirts who were at the FNB stadium on Saturday even know about Riefenstahl? But their video clips were nevertheless all over social media. The similarities between their crude propaganda and the Riefenstahl documentary were striking; the optics, as they say, were not good.

Perhaps the primary image was that of a slightly pudgy Julius Malema on a riser saluting the masses as a shower of confetti rained down on the stadium. The soundtrack to all this, of course, would have featured the commander in chief leading his followers in song, the notorious Dubul' ibhunu (Kill the Boer). ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

None of this was lost on the Solidarity Movement’s Jaco Kleynhans, who tweeted: “One addressed growing crowds rousingly about the ‘Jewish danger’. The other addresses growing crowds about the ‘Boer danger’ and encourages murder and violence. In both cases, the established orders, the elites and the international community look away until it is too late. Will a repeat of history be prevented?”

There came the customary response from the usual suspects to such concerns, that the Afrikaner “right” was, to put it in diplomatic terms, being a tad over-dramatic here. This, even, as an elderly farmer was tortured and murdered and his wife assaulted and left for dead on their Balfour, Mpumalanga farm on Sunday morning. Whether or not the four youths later arrested for the brutal attack on Theo and Marlinda Bekker were directly influenced by events at the EFF’s 10th birthday rally is neither here nor there. 

But the chanting of Dubul' ibhunu, growing in volume as the redshirts’ anthem, is arguably of significance at a time when farm murders are now commonplace. Both the Freedom Front Plus and the Democratic Alliance are, accordingly, taking action against Malema.

On Monday, FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald opened a case against the EFF CIC with the police, according to Daily Maverick, and laid a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission. 

DA leader John Steenhuisen meanwhile announced that his party intends laying charges against Malema with the UN Human Rights Council and Parliament’s ethics committee:

“This is a man who is determined to ignite the civil war we averted in 1994. From that stage in Soweto, Malema told thousands of followers that they must ‘shoot to kill’. He instructed them to ‘kill the Boer, kill the farmer’. Then he mimicked the sound of machine-gun fire to members of his political cult, who answered with thunderous approval.

“Julius Malema told us exactly who he is. It is time that we believe him. For far too long, people in government, the media, civil society and constitutional institutions refused to acknowledge Malema for the bloodthirsty tyrant and demagogue he really is. These people helped to normalise Malema’s hatred and racism.”

Intriguingly, that hatred and racism was given an uncomfortable spell in the international spotlight by Elon Musk no less. It was a simple tweet on X, as the business magnate and investor has renamed Twitter: “They are openly pushing for genocide of white people in South Africa. @CyrilRamaphosa, why do you say nothing?”

Again, the usual suspects were quick to respond to this. My old friend Carl Niehaus was among the first, tweeting: “@elonmusk a little knowledge is dangerous. Let me educate you: There is no genocide of white people in SA. Yes, the few white farm killings are wrong, but the majority of those who are tortured and killed on farms are black. It is done by white racists.”

Carl, of course, is correct. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In this he leads by example. Malema, who had circulated a clip of his supporters singing Dubul' ibhunu at the EFF rally to his four million followers on X, shot back at Musk with his own tweet: “O bolela masepa” (Roughly translated as “You are talking shit.”)

However, Musk’s tweet has been picked up by the international media. Reports highlighting Malema’s behaviour and the singing of the anti-Boer song have appeared in The Times and the Washington Post, among others. 

The only complaint I have in this regard is that these reports routinely refer to our Juju as “left-wing”. This presupposes that he and his rabble operate in that part of the political spectrum that is traditionally the territory of liberals and progressives. They do not. They may masquerade as politicians, and they may believe they are politicians. But they bear no good will. As Steenhuisen and others have noted, they are fascists. Should they be uncomfortable with the term, I would suggest “criminals” may also suffice.

Heavens above

Some of the images have not been flattering. Last Thursday, for example, The Times published a photograph of David Grusch that suggested this former American air force intelligence officer was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Snapped mid-babble during his testimony before a House of Representatives oversight committee, he appeared wild-eyed, mouth agape and unfortunately Cro-Magnon of brow. 

But what extraordinary testimony. One of three former military officers turned whistleblowers who appeared before the committee, Grusch claimed that, since the 1930s, the US government had been collecting crashed alien spacecraft and other evidence of life out there beyond the stars, and were engaged in projects to uncover and copy the secrets of their superior extraterrestrial technology. 

He was joined by Ryan Graves, a former Navy pilot, who testified that sightings of unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPS (now the preferred term for UFOs), were common and that dark elements within government were more aware of of them “than they let on”. Another former Navy pilot, David Fravor, said that he had circled one such object while flying over the Pacific in 2004. A video of that encounter was declassified in 2020, and Fravor went on to enjoy a brief spell in the media spotlight as a result.

Grusch, though, was the committee’s star witness. He had, until this year, led UAP analysis within a US defence department agency, and it was in this role, he said, that he had encountered “people who have been harmed or injured” in the course of the government’s efforts to keep this alien project secret. The committee also heard that, having spoken up about such things, Grusch now feared for his life. 

Fortunately, some of the lawmakers who attended the hearing found Grusch’s testimony quite convincing. Tim Burchett, a Republican congressman from Tennessee, told the Guardian, “I believe [aliens] exist. I knew that before I came here. I don’t want to oversimplify it, but how are you going to fly [a spaceship]? You got to have somebody in it. That seems to be pretty simple.”

Even more simple, perhaps, was the fact that Grusch had personally not dealt with, let alone seen, any alien material in all his years of service but had only heard about such things from colleagues. 

Hearsay, then. But there are, accordingly, two possible take-outs here: one, Grusch is telling the truth, which is worrying; and two, he is not telling the truth but was nevertheless employed by the US military as an intelligence operative dealing with spy satellites, which is a great deal more worrying.

Those of us with an interest in modern urban mythology can link historic claims of UFO encounters to the Cold War paranoia and existential dread of the 1950s. The most publicised sightings were those over Washington DC on several occasions in July 1952. which prompted front page newspaper headlines like, “Saucers Swarm Over Capital” and “Jets Chase DC Sky Ghosts”. 

It later turned out that the UFOs had been nothing more than high-altitude temperature inversions. But this did little to dampen the flying saucer craze that has occupied the imagination of middle America since the so-called “Roswell Incident” of 1947. 

The fascination with aliens spread like wildfire. At its most harmless, it gave popular culture charming, if low-rent, sci-fi movie fare like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and It Came From Outer Space (1956). This in turn begat more “sophisticated” trips to the cinema to take in such delights as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Alien (1979) and ET (1982).

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the phenomenon that is David Icke, the English “psychic” who has repeatedly claimed that shapeshifting reptilian aliens in human form have gained political power and now rule over the planet. Our leaders are either possessed by reptilians or are lizard people themselves. This bilge, which includes elements of anti-Semitic tropes, has been catnip to QAnon conspiracists.

The aliens, meanwhile, have also been bothering South Africans over the years. Being South Africans, though, we haven’t made them welcome.

One of our more internationally celebrated UFO events took place on the morning of 26 June 1971, when a Fort Beaufort farmer, Bennie Smit, was alerted by a labourer to a small “fireball” about 80 centimetres in diameter moving about his property at treetop height. He immediately grabbed his firearm and began shooting at it. 

This had no visible effect on the object, it was later reported, but it did react by shying away and attempting to hide. About an hour later two local police officers arrived on the scene, and they also opened fire. They later stated that, at this point, the object was changing colour and now assumed the shape of a large greyish oil drum. After a final volley from Smit, the object took flight and entered nearby impenetrable bush where it could be heard crashing through the undergrowth.  

Six Fort Beaufort council members, meanwhile, later claimed they had observed the UFO through binoculars. Imprints, supposedly of landing gear, were also found in clay on Smit’s farm. Soil samples were sent off to laboratories in Pretoria for analysis. There they were presumably puzzled over at length by men in white coats but without conclusion. A local journalist who had been covering this story wondered whether the government were being complacent or, worse, secretive about this work. Her concerns prompted somewhat withering comment by the New Scientist in its edition of 3 August, 1972: 

“There are undoubtedly many worrying phenomena in South Africa but our correspondent has chosen to concern herself with higher things. Let us hope those soil analysts come across smartly with their results. South Africa is very fastidious about the sort of immigrants she welcomes and little green men may well be on the prohibited list.”

There have been numerous other incidents and sightings over the years. In August 1996, for instance, all hell broke loose when a “pulsating disc containing a red triangle” that at one stage “emitted bright green tentacles” was spotted hovering in the skies above Pretoria. No less than 200 police officers and a police helicopter gave chase. The object reportedly outmanoeuvred the chopper in vertical and horizontal undulating movements, while outpacing it at maximum speed. The hot pursuit was finally abandoned somewhere at 3 000 metres above Cullinan. (That at least is how Beeld reported it.)

The great majority of these incidents, of course, take place in the US and usually in the more remote and isolated regions of that country. Reports of alien abductions and experiments on hapless Americans are not uncommon. These are the sort of people, the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) have uncharitably noted, who make their own cousins. One day these aliens may yet encounter intelligent life here. But we’re not getting our hopes up.