[OPINION] Racism is wrong, regardless of who practices it
The rise of the extremism of one era is usually a response to the extremism of a preceding era. The repression and extremism of post-Revolution France was a response to the repression and cruelty endured by the ordinary people under the Louis XVI monarchy. The same could be said for the repression of the post-Russian revolution communists, theirs was a direct response to the extreme repression of the Royal Tsar family and its excesses. Hitler’s Nazism could be said to have been a result of the repressive and extreme conditions of the Allied forces against Germany after the First World War. The rise of Isis in Iraq may be attributable to the initially American sponsored Saddam Hussein regime.
We could continue to travel down the annals of time and the same pattern seems to emerge where people have been subjected to organised extremism and repression. Are there lessons for South Africa in this regard as we enter a new chapter in our political evolution?
The end of former President Zuma’s reign and the ascendance of Cyril Ramaphosa to the high office marked the end of one political era and the beginning of another. What may be described as a disastrous term of office distinguishable by rampant corruption and general ineptitude seems to have been replaced by a renewed hope for a better day under Cyril. However, some disconcerting signs of potentially disastrous possibilities seem to surface periodically and they need to be identified and resolved.
Following his announcement that the EFF would be tabling a motion of no confidence in Mayor Athol Trollip of the DA in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Julius Malema has sparked yet another important debate regarding identity politics, more specifically, the politics of race.
It is important to mention that until the debate on land expropriation without compensation, which took place on the 27 February 2018 in Parliament, the DA and EFF had been political bedfellows, regardless of their very deep ideological differences and perceived different racial profiles. They had together managed to unseat the ANC in three major metropolitan councils, marched together in anti-Zuma campaigns and generally showed a united front against the Zuma associated corruption of that unfortunate political period. A welcome political development in many minds as it marked the ability of South African politics to rise above the politics of expedience and engage in the politics of principle, regardless of ideological or racial difference. An encouraging sign that perhaps the divisions of race politics could be overcome to usher in a new era of the politics of racial unity instead of racial division and acrimony.
“Not so!” declared Julius when he announced that the EFF would table a motion of no confidence against Athol Trollip because of the DA’s opposition to the policy of expropriation without compensation.
The argument goes: “This is a policy (expropriation without compensation) of such deep and profound import to the EFF that they would be willing to drop any alliance that they had with the DA and join with their recent nemesis, the ANC. This, to give effect to their non-negotiable historic struggle for the land.” A perfectly sound and politically understandable argument, as far as political rhetoric goes. “Furthermore, that the issue of land is a fundamentally racial battle that is inextricably linked to the historical racial dominance of black people by whites since the days of colonialism. That the DA represents, in the EFF’s opinion, particularly in its inability to support land expropriation without compensation, a rabid intransigence in their desire to keep the status quo of white supremacy. Therefore, until these historic racial injustices are dealt with, to do away with the racial structural inequalities that characterise South Africa’s economy and society, there will be no racial ‘Khumbaya moment’ as suggested by the recent alliance of convenience with the DA.”
Perfectly consistent political arguments, in line with their stated political aims. Whether one agrees with them or not, one cannot dispute their political logic. Some would go as far as to argue that this political posture represents indisputable political truth, at least where South Africa is concerned. Therefore, for those who may wish to argue the point of a lack of political loyalty to the DA, they must understand that there are “bigger political fish to fry” than a petty loyalty to a temporary tactical alliance. “It was a necessary one-night stand, to get rid of Zuma. Get over it!”
The struggles of revolutions all over the world have been waged on the basis of the truth of the fight against some or other form of repression. It is because of prolonged injustice that the people rise up and say ‘no more!’ Those who lead such revolutions give meaning and sense to the feelings of the masses by articulating and expressing, in various forms, those deeply felt impulses of injustice. OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey and the Dalai Lama are a few cases in point. This happens mostly through rhetoric.
However, there comes a time when, sometimes, the leaders of the revolution no longer reflect the sentiments of the downtrodden but usurp them and express their own pain and twisted aspirations through the sacred platforms of the people. Often, as in the case of Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, the leaders are charismatic, articulate and passionate individuals who hijack the sentiments of the poor and lead massively oppressive dictatorships. The signs are usually evident during their popular rise in power, but little attention is paid to their dangerous change in tune, while the masses revel in the intoxicating words of their heroes.
We would do well to learn from these history lessons.
The fight against the historical racial injustices of South Africa’s past is legitimate, moral and necessary. It is a fight for the dignity of all humanity, black and white. It is not over. And yes, it is a fundamentally racial fight because it is indeed inextricably linked to historical racial injustice.
It is, however, not a racist battle. In other words, while the effort against apartheid and its lingering vestiges deals primarily with the racial nature of the injustice against the people of our country, particularly black people, it cannot be a promotion of racism by those who fight it. This is a very important line never to cross because it has the potential to legitimise gross racism, repression and extremism from those who were victims of the same scourge, with the added volatile ingredient of entitlement. We dare not usher in a racially repressive order that will undo that which we fought against.
So, having explained the EFF’s perfectly understandable political reasons for tabling the upcoming motion of no confidence against Trollip, Malema drastically erred by adding that they “will remove him because he is white” with some unfortunate references to throat-cutting. This was a clear departure from robust political discourse into the realm of, pure unmitigated stated racism. It cannot be permissible that we become the perpetrators of the same sentiments that created our oppression, however justified we may feel. This is both a lapse in judgement and a warning sign about the tacit motivating sentiments of the CIC, and perhaps the EFF. It is wrong and ought to be condemned.
Aubrey Masango is a presenter on Talk Radio 702. Follow him on Twitter: @702Aubrey