We are equal, so apply the race-hate laws equally
THE South African government is to be admired for being so clearly determined to root out racism.
There have been strong words spoken by ministers about the evils of racism and legislation has been mooted, with swingeing penalties.
Never mind that the Equality Courts have a specific mandate to deal with discrimination and racism and indeed do so, the intention is to make racism a criminal offence.
The problem is racism has become a political issue for government legislators only because it has become the obsession of an influential ANC constituency. That group comprises younger, black users of social media some of whom who tend to be critical of the “old” ANC’s embrace of race reconciliation and favour a more radical, confrontational approach.
For this group, racism is the microscope through which they scrutinise every interaction with their white compatriots and every word uttered by them.
It has moved beyond a sensitivity with which one can sympathise to farce over which one can only laugh.
It’s reached the stage that these political quacks claim to be able divine the presence of racism with the same certainty that a homeopath will assert the active presence in water of a substance that has been diluted a billion-fold.
And as with homeopathy, no proof is required.
Let’s be clear, there undoubtedly is far more white racism than white South Africans are willing to acknowledge. Some of it is covert, nuanced and deliberate, while some is no less hurtful for being entirely unwitting.
But let’s also be clear racism in SA is a two-way street. While many black people enjoy the kicking boot now being on the other foot, so to speak, they should not delude themselves that racism as retribution, albeit understandable, is any less reprehensible.
Nor should anyone be deluded that reverse racism is somehow a benign, cost-free process, a kind of harmless therapy that SA just needs to work through. On the contrary, it is corrosive and is destroying us.
Unfortunately the ANC government lacks motivation to tackle black racism. A worrisome voter drift to the populist EFF makes it disinclined to do anything that might be perceived as siding with whitey.
This means black public servants who publish crude racial abuse on social media get away with a slap on the wrist.
It also means the increasingly inflammatory, anti-white rhetoric of groups like the EFF is rarely, if ever, challenged by ANC leaders.
On the contrary, President Jacob Zuma is quick to follow suit. This week in Joburg he admonished black voters not to betray the ANC and even think of supporting the DA, since this is the party that has “oppressed” them.
Racism – as well as its offshoots of hatred on the basis of tribe, ethnicity, language, religion or gender – is the impetus behind thinly veiled but nevertheless incendiary provocations to violence on our continent. Think Uganda 1972 or Rwanda 1994. Or South Africa 2016? According to statistics from the Transvaal Agricultural Union, violence against farmers, their families and their workers is increasing dramatically. There have been 1 824 farm murders over the past 26 years, the lowest number being 16 in 1990.
In 2012 there were 174 attacks, almost double the number of the previous year. Since then the rural siege has tightened, with 231 attacks in 2013, 279 in 2014, and 318 last year. And in the first six months of 2016 there were 186 farm attacks and 39 murders.
This is admittedly against a backdrop of generally increased criminal violence. Public violence has increased by 247 percent over the past decade, and to a lesser degree so has criminal violence.
But what makes the statistics on these farm attacks particularly worrying is they may provide the first evidence that the rise in racial scapegoating may be translating into actual violence.
The Institute of Strategic Studies’ Dr Johan Burger says racism adds to an already existing feeling of insecurity. Political rhetoric adds fuel to the fire, “dangerously polarising” communities and “intensifying the risk of violent conflict”.
What is needed is political leadership. Particularly, the government of the day has to set an example of restraint. It also has to hold accountable the demagogues who seek to delegitimise other communities.
So pass laws against racism by all means. Prosecute the odious Penny Sparrow and her ilk, but also prosecute black racists.
And use existing laws against incitement to violence to curb the threats of Julius Malema against whites and Indians.
And for that matter, by the Zulu king against foreigners.
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