/ 22 October 2020

Distraction, intimidation and future alliances define events at Senekal

Eff Leader Julius Malema And Members Of The Economic Freedom
SENEKAL, SOUTH AFRICA - 2020/10/16: EFF leader Julius Malema and members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chant slogans outside the the magistrates court during the protest. A tense standoff between white farmers and Black activists gripped the South African town of Senekal, as two men accused of killing a white farm manager were to appear in court. More than 100 police patrolled the area in front of the courthouse in the Free State province and used barbed wire to separate the rival groups. (Photo by Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It’s called the accident of birth: the millions of poor black South Africans had no say in where they were born, or who their parents were. The same can be said for Brendin Horner. He did not choose to be born in South Africa. He did not choose to be white. This is true for every single one of us. We have no say in the location, race or culture into which we are born.

But according to the EFF, Brendin Horner’s family and the farming community have no right to be angry and protest. Why? Because white South Africans are “visitors” to South Africa. In other words, he feels they are not citizens. The lack of compassion towards the Horner family and the farming community at Senekal is a consequence of this type of identity politics.

What is really behind the actions of the EFF at Senekal? 

Firstly, it’s a distraction. “The white farmers are threatening our democracy. Whites are only visitors to South Africa. They stole our land.” Any rhetoric that distracts from the fact that what happened to Brendin Horner was not opportunistic crime will do. 

There is one ideology that is important for the EFF’s survival: white = perpetrator, black = victim. In fact, this is the very ideology that not only keeps the EFF growing in popularity, it also keeps political parties such as the ANC in power, despite its corruption and incompetence. Parties such as Zanu PF are still in power for the same reason, despite the fact that it plunged Zimbabweans into poverty. It’s all part of identity politics and it’s the same divisive strategy the apartheid government used to stay in power.

Secondly, it is an intimidation tactic. The Senekal farmer who called for the storming of the Senekal courts has been charged with terrorism, among other things. The EFF laid a charge of crimen injuria against Anthony Hall, from All South African Lives Matter. He called Julius Malema an “enemy of the people” and an “enemy of the state” at Senekal. But there is no consequence for the EFF’s hate speech, for singing Kill The Boer or for damaging public property in Senekal. What consequences did the EFF face when they incited violence and vandalised property during the Clicks protests, besides a few members getting a slap on the wrist? The EFF made sure that the granny who drew her gun to defend herself went to court. 

Are these double standards a message to the white minority group to shut up? To a large degree it appears to be working.

The third consideration is, how does the EFF get away with it? It is tempting to think the police are on the EFF’s side. Photographs of Julius Malema and Police Minister Bheki Cele sitting next to each other in court at Senekal, having a chat, don’t help. I’m not surprised. The EFF is the kingmaker and may be vital to the ANC’s survival come election time.

Is the Senekal incident another nail in the coffin of our rainbow nation? 

The South African Bill of Rights starts: “This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.” 

The Bill of Rights was five years old when Brendin Horner was born. But he wasn’t “born free”. You can’t be free in a country where you are considered guilty for something that was not your choice.

The EFF’s behaviour at Senekal is only a taste of how ugly this collective form of guilt and responsibility can get. It’s not something that will simply go away once you have posted a black tile on Instagram.

I don’t pretend to know how to resolve the wrongs of the past, or exactly how South Africa can move forward. 

The ultimate goal is a post-racial society. A post-racial society, where race as a consideration for employment or enrolment in university would be as ridiculous as considering your hair colour. 

Surely we can achieve this by maintaining our humanity?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.