Ivo Vegter on Malema’s violent rhetoric – Defeating the demagogue’s agenda at the ballot box

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), once again stirs controversy with his violent rhetoric during the party’s 10th-anniversary celebrations. Advocating for land redistribution, Malema chants “Shoot to kill, Kill the Boer, the farmer!” in front of a massive crowd. His dangerous demagoguery and hate speech have raised Ivo Vegter’s concerns about potential violence against white South Africans. Despite previous convictions for hate speech, little action has been taken against him. Malema’s ideology, inspired by Frantz Fanon, promotes racial conflict and seeks to dismantle the democratic New South Africa project. Vegter advocates defeating this violent ideology at the ballot box.

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Malema doubles down on violent rhetoric

By Ivo Vegter*

At the height of the EFF’s 10th anniversary festivities, Julius Malema once again exhorted the crowd to ‘shoot to kill’.

At a mass rally to commemorate the founding of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) a decade ago, held at FNB Stadium on this past Saturday, 29 July 2023, the party’s leader, Julius Malema, once again showed his violent colours.

In an infamous speech in November 2016, Malema said: ‘We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now. What we are calling for is the peaceful occupation of the land and we don’t owe anyone an apology for that.’

This certainly amounts to a threat, that if ‘peaceful occupation’ of ‘the land’ proves not to be possible, perhaps because incumbent landowners refuse to surrender their property, that he would call for slaughtering white people.

In front of a reported 100 000-strong crowd in a football stadium, Malema danced, chanting: ‘Shoot to kill, hamaza [hurry]. Kill the Boer, the farmer! Kill the Boer, the farmer!’

Then he mimicked the sounds of automatic gunfire in a call-and-response fashion to the receptive crowd.

Read more: Nicholas Woode-Smith on the EFF’s dangerous influence: A threat to South African politics

Dangerous demagogue

Malema is a dangerous demagogue, systematically preparing the minds of his ‘fighters’ to be ready to take up arms in a revolution against both white South Africans and the ‘party of murderers’, as he describes the ruling ANC (referring to the Marikana massacre).

Malema has a rap sheet as long as my arm. He has repeatedly been found guilty in courts of law of hate speech – notably in 2011, when he was the 30-year-old leader of the ANC Youth League, and the phrase ‘shoot the Boer’ was ruled to be discriminatory and harmful.

‘No justification exist allowing the words to be sung,’ said Judge Collin Lamont in his ruling.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution, and tasked with, among other things, addressing human rights violations and seeking effective redress, has blown hot and cold about Malema, though mostly hot.

Hot when it ruled the singing of the Kill the Boer song, and the slogan ‘kill the farmer, kill the Boer’, to constitute hate speech back in 2003. Cold when in 2019 it ruled a number of statements, including the slaughtering white people line, not to be hate speech. Hot when last year it gave Malema 10 days to retract statements telling his followers , ‘You must never be scared to kill’.

Malema thumbed his nose at the SAHRC. The Afrikaner rights organisation AfriForum further pulled its teeth by challenging its 2019 exoneration of Malema in the High Court, prompting the court to rule that the SAHRC isn’t empowered or authorised to make findings on these questions at all, but that they fall within the purview of the Equality Court.

It’s been 20 years since Malema’s murderous rhetoric was first declared to be hate speech. Malema has doubled down, time and time again, as he did on Saturday. Yet nothing has been done about it.

Frantz Fanon

Malema uses simplistic half-truths about land taken from black people under colonialism and apartheid to rouse a movement that seeks, as the only acceptable redress, the surrender of all land owned by white people to the black population.

Terrence Corrigan of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has argued cogently that robust property rights are the key to tackling the legacy of dispossession, and that land is not the key to economic justice. Anthea Jeffery has pointed out research by the IRR that shows land reform simply isn’t a priority for the vast majority of black South Africans.

Malema draws inspiration from Frantz Fanon, a militant Algerian liberation icon who drew on strands of Marxism and Black Consciousness, and features prominently in modern revolutionary thought on decolonialisation and critical race theory.

Fanon held that freedom could not be achieved without violence, and that true decolonialisation cannot be attained until the colonised have launched back the same accumulated violence that the colonisers inflicted upon them in the first place.

In terms of Fanon’s influence, one might draw parallels between Malema and the Black Power movement of Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X.

With Malema, there’s no ‘breaking the cycle of violence’. He’s whipping up raw, cathartic, angry, breach-for-breach, eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth stuff.

He’s not just a grasping champagne socialist thriving on corrupt tenders and the anger of the underclass. He has a fully-fledged, violent, revolutionary ideology behind him.

Read more: John Steenhuisen: How the DA will beat EFF and the fragmenting ANC and win in 2024

Race essentialism

Like all militant decolonisers, he holds different races as being in conflict, in the same way Marx envisioned class conflict.

This conflict can only be resolved, in this ideology, by the absolute victory of the colonised, as Marx envisioned the victory of the proletariat.

This race essentialism – the idea that everyone’s identity is intimately wound up in their race – exploits old racial divisions and will stir up new racial hatred.

I cannot imagine that Malema’s violent rhetoric stirs feelings of tolerance and unity among Afrikaner farmers.

If Malema’s followers were to turn to the violence which is essential in the EFF’s ideology, they would spark a bloodbath.

The white people and farmers against whom Malema directs his hatred are not likely to lie down and take it, especially not after having witnessed the economic destruction of neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Malema once had its former despot, Robert Mugabe, emblazoned on his shirt, and South African memories are long.

Economic freedom

I’m also still bitter about Malema’s appropriation of the term ‘economic freedom’.

He does not mean economic freedom in the sense that classical liberals have always used it, to describe the relative absence of coercion and restraint imposed by governments on private economic activity.

He intends it to mean the freedom to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, in a classic Marxist-Leninist framework. That makes ‘economic freedom’ a massive misnomer, of course. As I wrote two years before Malema founded the EFF, he really marches for economic slavery.

In every way, Malema’s ideology is regressive. It is stuck firmly in the violently nationalistic resistance movements of the 20th century. It seeks to burn the democratic, non-racial New South Africa project to the ground, and instead have the race war our elders worked so hard to avoid in the early 1990s.

Read more: Coalition government: DA the favourite, EFF the feared

United Nations

The leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, has announced that in addition to whatever domestic remedies there might be to tackle Malema’s hate speech and incitement – such as the Parliamentary Ethics Committee and the Equality Court – the party will also approach the United Nations Human Rights Council, to file charges against both Malema and the ruling ANC.

Its case will raise Malema’s repeated incitement of ethnic violence, as well as the inaction of the ANC government despite the brutal and escalating murder of farmers, their families and their workers.

It will accuse Malema of directing and publicly inciting people to commit mass murder on the basis of their identity, and it will accuse the government of failing to protect the rights of minority groups.

I’m not sure why Steenhuisen believes this will be any more effective than the litany of complaints laid against Malema at the SAHRC and in the courts.

There seems to be little appetite for going any further than the occasional rap over the knuckles. Arresting, charging and incarcerating Malema may serve the cause of justice, but it will also make a martyr out of him.

Revolutionaries and their minions are quite capable of directing violent uprisings from prison cells.

Ballot box

Ultimately, it will fall to ordinary South Africans to defeat Malema’s violent ideology at the ballot box. They must vote not only to deny the EFF power, but also to deny it the opportunity to enter government as part of a governing coalition of any kind. That means voting against the ANC, and likely the Patriotic Alliance, too.

Steenhuisen is right when he says that the only hope for a better, more prosperous future for South Africa is for the Moonshot Pact parties to win a Parliamentary majority.

That isn’t just how South Africans can put an end to the ANC’s destruction of the economy and the country’s institutions, but it is also the only way to keep Malema as far as possible from the levers of power.

Of course, that assumes that Malema feels bound by democratic politics. Just the number of supporters he had inside the FNB Stadium on Saturday would roughly equal the size of the entire South African National Defence Force, reserves included.

If he launches the violent revolution he seems to crave, not even the Moonshot Pact will save the country.

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*Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. Follow him on Twitter, @IvoVegter.

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission

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