We are equal, so ap­ply the race-hate laws equally

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

Fol­low WSM on Twit­ter @ TheJaun­dicedEye

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