Mngxitama on Holocaust tweets: I’m just paraphrasing Helen Zille

Andile Mngxitama, president of the political organisation Black First Land First (BLF), said he’s achieved the objective of his controversial tweet about the Holocaust. “I wanted to show the hypocrisy and double standard that black suffering is totally disregarded and in fact it’s encouraged,” he told The Daily Vox.

Mngxitama posted the tweet, which alludes to the belief that the bodies of Jews killed during the Holocaust were used to make lampshades and soap, on the same day the BLF met with the Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s lawyers concerning the tweet in which she said colonialism was not entirely negative.

“I’m just paraphrasing her, literally. That’s all,” said Mngxitama.

His tweet caused outrage, particularly in the South African Jewish community.

Mngxitama said Africa and black people have been living through colonialism, which predates the Holocaust. “It [the Holocaust] is the niggerisation of white people for a moment. We are being niggerised for 500 years or more. We live through the Holocaust.”

Mngxitama said the comparisons he draws to Zille’s tweets are correct and that he used Holocaust myths to compare myths generated by colonialism. “It’s a myth that the separation of powers of the judiciary or technological development are a consequence of colonialists. My comparison is actually apt, completely. It carries the intensity of the offence, the intensity of erasure, the intensity of the lie that is contained in Helen Zille’s tweet.”

Mngxitama said his tweet exposed the unethical position of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and their selective anger. “If you are not offended by Zille basically reducing our holocaust, the black holocaust, why do you care for any holocaust?” he asked.

He refused to apologise to the Jewish community, saying they haven’t apologised for their role in the historical oppression of blacks. “I’m the one who is owed an apology here. Have they apologised for slavery, for colonialism, for land theft, for racism, for fascism, for Zionism?” he asked.

SAJBD national director Wendy Kahn said the organisation will be lodging complaints with the Equality Court. She said they were currently preparing their case and will be instituting legal proceedings. “We always believe a full and unequivocal apology is important in these instances, and an understanding of the hurt that comments like these have for a community,” she said.

Kahn said Mngxitama’s tweets were an attempt to offend and hurt the Jewish community, which she says he has achieved. “We still have survivors living in South Africa who, you can imagine, this is extremely upsetting and painful for … There has been resounding support from South Africans who can understand and empathise with the pain,” she said.

While there was some support for Mngxitama online, Kahn said there was no justification for hate speech and it is disingenuous to try to rationalise the tweet. “We always need to be vigilant and stand up when there is hatred, irrespective of what type it is,” she said.

South African Human Rights Commission spokesperson Gail Smith said the commission has received 15 complaints against Mngxitama so far. The commission would assess these before deciding whether to take Mngxitama to the Equality Court.

Reporting by Nolwandle Zondi and Rumana Akoob.

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