Having again demonstrated their prowess in battle, most recently against women working at Clicks and schoolchildren at Brackenfell High, Julius Malema’s Economic “Freedom Fighters” (EFF) are now threatening the families of policemen and women.
“We will treat them the same way we treated them in the 1980s,” he said on Sunday a week ago. “We will not only fight them in the picket lines, we will go to their homes and fight them in their houses with their own families.”
How exactly did “we” treat police and their families in the 1980s? Homes were plundered and burnt. Among the weapons used were petrol bombs and hand grenades thrown into their homes while police and their families were asleep. Apart from being targeted for murder in their homes, police officers were killed in conflict on the streets. According to Hernus Kriel, minister of law and order during part of that period, killings of police escalated from one a month in the 1970s, to two a month in the 1980s, to 13 a month in 1991, and to 19 a month in 1992.
Another tally showed that 953 police were killed in the decade between July 1983 and May 1993. Most of the victims were black municipal policemen, sometimes known as “kitskonstabels”, but all police, black and white, including police in the homelands, were targets of attack.
The murder of police was part of the strategy of People’s War launched in the 1980s with the key objective of making black townships “ungovernable”. In a broadcast from Addis Ababa in September 1985, for example, the African National Congress (ANC) declared that “police and soldiers must be killed even when they are at their homes, and irrespective of whether they are in uniform or not”.
Other targets of attacks were black local councillors and members of rival political organisations, while the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe also planted explosives that killed people in shopping centres, on city streets, in bars, and at other “soft” targets.
The attacks on black police and councillors were played down by opposition newspapers, as the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) reported at the time. Even today, most of the communications media fail to recognise the importance of the People’s War or even to ask the question whether the modern-day ungovernability so evident in South Africa might be a consequence of the People’s War.
So also, violence, as for example at Clicks, is euphemised as “protest” – just as much of the American media and many Democrat politicians euphemised calculated violence in the name of “Black Lives Matter” as mere “protest”. Raymond Louw, former editor of the Rand Daily Mail, told me several times in recent years that Afrikaans newspapers were the only ones reporting fully on the murders of farmers in South Africa.
Which brings us back to Mr Malema. After the EFF’s actions at Brackenfell, Bonginkosi Madikizela, leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape, likened its behaviour to that of the Nazis on Kristallnacht in November 1938. The EFF objected that this was ”shallow and insensitive”.
One should always be careful in drawing comparisons between the Nazis and anyone else. But in one limited respect there is an analogy. Adolf Hitler was shrewd in sizing up his possible opponents in London and Paris and calculating that they would be reluctant to act against him. Among other things, he got away with marching into the Rhineland in 1936, with the annexation of Austria in March 1938, and with the carve-up of Czechoslovakia later that same year. Eventually, thanks in part to the stupidity of his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, he brought war upon himself when he invaded Poland the following year.
Mr Malema has been accurately sizing up his opponents for years now. Most recently, when he and his men sought to terrorise Clicks and Brackenfell High on trumped-up charges, Cyril Ramaphosa defended their right to “peaceful protest”.
Following Mr Malema’s threats to police and their families, AfriForum, Solidarity, the Transvaal Agricultural Union, and the Freedom Front Plus are laying criminal charges. Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Freedom Front Plus, says Mr Malema “seems to think he is invincible”.
What of the minister of police? The DA has called on him to lay charges, but Bheki Cele has so far contented himself with a press statement denouncing Mr Malema’s “dangerous” statements advocating violence against police and their families. He called on the police to defend themselves. Threats to their lives and their families “will not be tolerated”.
Mr Malema has dismissed this as “grandstanding”, adding “We are not fazed by Bheki Cele’s comments”.
During the recent violent demonstrations in America, the call went out to “defund the police”. This call was strengthened by numerous examples of police brutality. Mr Malema last week cited numerous examples of such behaviour by police in South Africa in recent years. There were also plenty before the ANC came to power. These incidents helped the ANC to depict the People’s War as a “just war”.
But the purpose of terrorising, attacking, and demoralising the police was in fact to disarm them so that the ANC could take over the townships. It would now be prudent to operate on the assumption that Mr Malema has a similar purpose in mind: to make it difficult to deploy the police against him.
Mr Cele might be grandstanding in response to Mr Malema’s threats. But it would be unwise to assume that Mr Malema is also merely grandstanding.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.