African business, politics and lifestyle
“Kill the Boer”: History or hate speech?
The African National Congress has defended the singing of an apartheid-era song with the words “Kill the Farmer, Kill the Boer”, saying it is no incitement to violence but a way of ensuring a history of oppression is not forgotten.
That does little to assuage the concerns of the white minority, however, in a country branded the “Rainbow Nation” after the relatively peaceful end to apartheid 16 years ago and the government’s message of “unity in diversity”.
The singing of the song by the ANC’s firebrand youth leader Julius Malema recently has strained race relations. Afrikaner farmers feel particular offence, pointing out that 3,000 white farmers have been killed since the first democratic elections in 1994.
A regional high court ruled last week that the song amounted to hate speech.
The concerns of minorities were further fuelled by fact that students at two of South Africa’s top universities enthusiastically joined in singing the song with Malema. ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said he had sung the song at rugby matches.
Malema articulates the anger of many in the black majority at the relative prosperity of most whites and their influence over the economy while millions of black South Africans are marginalised and live in poverty.
South Africa prides itself on having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and entrenches free speech which was barred under apartheid. But it also depends on harmony between its various groups.
Is this storm over nothing more than keeping alive a historic song and the memories of the struggle against apartheid or is it a more dangerous sign?