Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
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.
During the run-up to South Africa’s election last year, there were plenty of jibes about which of Jacob Zuma’s wives would become first lady once he was president.
But Zuma’s local critics largely kept silent this week as he married for the fifth time, taking his third current wife. While outside the country, his polygamy was very much still a talking point, in South Africa the wedding was treated more as being a colourful society event than being controversial.
It would be hard for the leaders of South Africa’s COPE party to put a positive spin on its latest poll rating of just over 2 percent. If the breakaway group from the African National Congress gave the ANC a bit of a jolt before elections in April, the ruling party doesn’t seem to have much to worry about from that quarter now.
In terms of electoral success, it hasn’t been a good year for parties trying to challenge the former liberation movements that run most of southern Africa.
South Africa’s largest trade union federation was quick to break into stirring songs of class struggle during its recent congress and COSATU members showed an impressive ability to sign along in unison.
But the question of what it is fighting for these days and its role in the ruling tripartite alliance with the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party has never been under such great scrutiny as it has since President Jacob Zuma took office in May.
The attempt to sink the $10 billion bourse debut of Vodacom, which went ahead on Monday after an 11th-hour court ruling, hurt the rand currency and revived investor concerns over Zuma.
Making sure South Africans hold their new government accountable is essential if the country is to succeed under Jacob Zuma, believes Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist and prominent South African businesswoman.
“We underestimated what it means to govern a modern democracy,” she told Reuters. “In that context we have made many mistakes. The first mistake was to conflate the leader, the party, the government and the state. That conflation leads to the undermining of state institutions … and abuse of state resources for party political reasons.”
It was South Africa’s most exciting election campaign for a long time, enlivened by the split in the African National Congress and the personality of Jacob Zuma, the man who is now pretty much assured of becoming president despite the best efforts of plenty of people within his party as well as the opposition.
So far, the results don’t look too different from the pre-poll forecasts. An ANC victory was never in doubt and the battle was as much as anything about whether the party could keep its two-thirds majority in parliament, which lets it change the constitution and further entrench its power. That was still in doubt after early figures.
Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation after the end of apartheid in 1994, appeared at the ruling ANC’s last election rally before Wednesday’s vote, delivering a last minute campaign boost for party leader Jacob Zuma.
Wearing a Zuma t-shirt, he sat beside the ANC leader, who has been fighting corruption allegations for eight years. The case was just dropped on a technicality and some South Africans still question his innocence.
It’s one of the biggest ironies in South African politics — the most loyal ANC voters are often those the party appears to have let down most bitterly.
For millions of poor, mostly black South Africans, life has barely changed since the African National Congress defeated apartheid under Nelson Mandela in 1994.