Feature

South Africa: Is a song inspiring blacks to kill whites?

“Kill the Boer,” an apartheid-era anthem that calls for the shooting of white farmers, has become a hit once again, now that a prominent black politician has begun singing it at his rallies.

Thanks to an incendiary song, racial tensions are running high in South Africa, said Alex Duval Smith in the London Independent. “Kill the Boer,” an apartheid-era anthem that calls for the shooting of white farmers, has become a hit once again, now that a prominent black politician has begun singing it at his rallies. Julius Malema, 29, head of the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress, contends that the song is metaphorical, and he insists that its message is still relevant in a country where the 10 percent white minority controls the vast majority of the wealth. But the courts disagree, ruling that “Kill the Boer” is hate speech, and that anyone who sings it could face charges of incitement to murder. Some Afrikaners say the song has already inspired killings. At least six white farmers have been murdered by black farmhands in the weeks since Malema revived the song. The most recent victim, Eugene TerreBlanche, 69, leader of the tiny Afrikaner Resistance Movement, was bludgeoned to death last week. Afrikaners say the murder of such a famous white supremacist is a “declaration of war by the black community.”

That’s absurd, said Tinyiko Sam Maluleke in the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian. “It is both tenuous and dangerous to make one-on-one connections between the murder of TerreBlanche and the ‘shoot the Boer’ song.” TerreBlanche hadn’t been a major figure in this country in decades. His fiery speeches advocating white rule may have seemed scary in the 1980s, but once apartheid ended, in 1994, he was seen as a comical figure, especially after a British documentary showed him posturing vainly in neo-Nazi regalia and falling off a horse. The two farmhands who confessed to killing him say they were angry over unpaid wages. That is a personal, not a political, motive—and as far as we know, they’ve never even heard the song. Even so, I’d like to see our leaders stand up and condemn Malema’s irresponsible race-baiting. “Such songs and slogans—regardless of which side of the divide they come from—rightfully belong in the Apartheid Museum.”

That’s where both TerreBlanche and Malema belong, said Tim Cohen in the Johannesburg Business Day. Neither man represents today’s South Africa. They are “flip sides of the same coin: Their techniques, their style, their general ham-fistedness, their faux-populism, their carefully constructed outrageousness, their bizarre media appeal—all come from the same political copybook.” Both are cartoonish figures who inspire mocking nicknames. TerreBlanche was known as E.T., and after his mistress wrote a tell-all magazine article, he was widely called “the man with the blowtorch-blue eyes.” Malema has been nicknamed Droolius, JuJu, and even Kiddie Amin. The difference, of course, is that TerreBlanche’s star had already set long before his death, while Malema’s is still rising.

That’s the media’s fault, said Sarah Britten in the Mail & Guardian. Malema knows that “saying stupid, outrageous things is a surefire way to remain in the public eye.” He doesn’t really want to lead, he just wants notoriety. “The more we talk about this loathsome turd of a man, the more power we hand over to him.” Malema’s song had nothing to do with TerreBlanche’s death, and to pretend it does is to give him too much credit for influencing people. If the media keep acting like he is a real threat to peace, he could well become one. “Then all the jokes about Kiddie Amin won’t be so funny anymore.”

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