KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg:
9 April 2010
The IFP has been increasingly concerned about the
rapid deterioration in race relations in recent weeks in South
Africa as evidenced by the re-emergence – seemingly out of nowhere –
of a liberation struggle song that today, sixteen years into
democracy – can only be interpreted as an incitement to racial
hatred and violence, and the killing – and brutal one at that – of
an infamous white supremacist.
All these incidents are underpinned by something
that has now become quite obvious – a palpable lack of direction and
leadership in the highest political places.
But let us go back for a moment and consider the
facts. At first, the ruling party rallies around one of its junior
leaders who continues to popularise the controversial song to the
extent that it defies a court order. Later, the ruling party meekly
complies and changes its tune, as some newspapers termed it, by
calling for restraint from its structures amid tensions sparked by
AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche's murder.
In the past two days, we have seen the full extent
of popular frustration with the state of race relations in this
country sixteen years into a regime that is meant to be
all-inclusive and harmonious by definition. At first a white
politician storms out of a live television debate about race
relations and later the leader of the ANC Youth League throws racial
epithets at a white journalist whom he first kicked out of a news
I would like to return to one aspect of
yesterday’s debate in this House, namely whether Mr Terre'Blanche's
death was symbolic in some ways or whether it was merely just
another violent death in a country where people get killed
indiscriminately. My own answer to this dilemma is both yes and no.
In some ways, the killing of an elderly white man
on a farm, as horrible as it was, is hardly newsworthy in a country
which has seen more than 3300 such deaths since 1994. According to
this logic, Mr Terre'Blanche was just another victim of crime in a
country where, it would appear, criminals have had a free ride for a
On another level, however, the death of the AWB
leader is symbolic because it brings all these past murders, some of
which have gone unnoticed, into sharp focus. It does so purely
because of who Mr Terre'Blanche was. We can argue that the
ideologies of Mr Terre'Blanche were not intended to serve the
nation, but to preserve the standing of a minority which felt
sidelined by the advent of democracy.
Did that make him a target for assassination?
Speaking from Zimbabwe, where he recently became enamoured with
President Mugabe's economic policies, ANC Youth League President Mr
Julius Malema suggested that - had racism made him a target - Mr
Terre'Blanche would have been murdered long ago. Yet not every
racist harbours murderous intent.
Malema may have brushed this tragedy aside,
offhandedly welcoming Afrikaners to take him on. But our President
Jacob Zuma, being an older and more accomplished leader when it
comes to diffusing tensions, knew well the kind of disaster that
could mount in the wake of this murder.
We cannot help but ask myself why our President
took so long to make this call. Leaders from all opposition parties
warned of the potential consequences of Mr Malema's hate speech.
Does the ANC still believe itself right to have rejected the High
Court ruling upon first deliberation on its meaning?
We warned that the ANC's defiance of the High
Court ruling was tantamount to putting the party before the law,
running the risk of destabilising our society on two fronts; how we
see one another and how we see the rule of law. This is a dangerous
combination. The moment the law is seen to flounder, to be
unenforced or flouted, it loses authority and can be easily
For years the IFP has called for a referendum on
the death penalty to allow South Africans to decide whether ours
shoulands an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. This debate is
not about vengeance, but about deterrence.
The jury is still out on whether the death penalty
substantially deters murder. One thing is certain, however. Lenient
laws and a justice system that is bent to the will of politicians is
a poor foundation for any wall that intends to keep murder out of
South Africa's justice system needs to be
profoundly strengthened if we are to lower the crime rate. But
equally, the message that laws apply to everyone must prevail. It is
damning that the IFP had to drag the Minister of Justice and
Constitutional Development to court to force her to consider the
long outstanding cases of hundreds of political prisoners. A
government official should not have to be forced to do their job,
particularly when the law dictates that a job must be done.
There are so many instances where the law appears
to have been flouted when it comes to high profile people. South
Africa cannot afford for contempt for the judiciary to enter, as it
did in Zimbabwe where the ruling party repeatedly disregards
decisions of the court. It is deeply concerning that Mr Malema has
expressed a desire to import into South Africa the worst of
It is also repugnant that he could advocate "land
grabs" within hours of Mr Terre'Blanche's murder. Land reform is a
contentious issue, and is certainly higher on the national agenda
than the murder of farmers. We know that since 1994 more than 3300
South African farmers have been murdered on their properties.
Obviously farm murders cannot be put down to wage disputes and
There is something more sinister at work here.
These things could not happen in the absence of a culture of
lawlessness that hints at the prospect of impunity. Regardless of
whether recently revived liberation songs are to blame or not, it is
ill-advised to bring the past into the present, except as a means of
expressing how far we have come as a nation.
As individuals, we are not all at the same point
on the continuum that leads away from a past of division and towards
a shared future. It should be clear that the hairline fracture of
racial division can still be shattered if hit hard enough or often
enough. As a nation we have put so much energy into pursuing
reconciliation, it would be a tragedy if we allow individuals who
lag a little further behind to arrest the progress made by so many.
Perhaps more than many others, I am wary of the
danger inherent in divisive behaviour. The internecine low intensity
civil war that raged between members of the ANC and members of
Inkatha in the late 1980s and early 1990s etched into our shared
consciousness the destructive power of foolish words and bad timing.
In some ways it was revenge that cost us 20,000
black lives, because once the ball of hatred began rolling it
demanded more and more destruction as recompense for whatever came
before. I therefore thank God that the supporters of the AWB have
retracted their threat of retaliation. It showed wisdom and
discretion on their part, traits that I have come to value in the
Now it is up to our country's leaders to show the
same wisdom and discretion in putting an end to foolish words like
"kill the Boer". That song may have been sung during our liberation
struggle, but singing it now is more than just bad timing. It is a
call to greater destruction, greater division and greater pain.
Together with my political party, I extend my
condolences to the families of Mr Terre'Blanche and many other
recent victims of violent crime. We share your sorrow and we pray
As a responsible political party, we cannot help
but conclude that the combination of a deep-seated economic
recession and rapidly deteriorating race relations is a toxic and
dangerous one. In a country where income inequalities between races
persist despite every attempt on the part of government to eradicate
them, such a confluence of factors can easily lead to a disaster. It
is for this reason that we need decisive leadership to nip these developments
in the bud.
I thank you.
Contact: Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi, 082 516 0156