April 5, 2010
On Saturday morning Eugene Terre’Blanche was part of South Africa’s history, a reminder of a time when far-right opinions still had power, a time gone by. Today some are portraying him as a martyr, and his death as the cry for a call to arms. Saturday he was the leader for a small, an extremely small, minority, yes a minority who were allowed an opinion, but nonetheless not seriously considered to have a major impact on the future of South African politics. Today some consider him to be a symbol of a South Africa that are still ruled by racial hatred.
On Saturday we were fighting racism. We were debating the fine intricacies of a multi-racial South Africa. We knew that sometimes there were racial tension. We knew that there were a thousand points on which we disagreed. We had intense political debates, argued about the future of the South African economy, the adequacy of the Zuma government, how to build a more healthy democracy. Next week we will continue our rigorous debate for this beloved country, but today, today the moderate voices need to be heard.
Terre’Blanche’s death on it’s own wouldn’t have caused the reaction it did. Newspapers yesterday was supposed to report another farm murder, something to get mad about, but not to start a war about. It should have had a short autobiography about a man who was a leader of a small extremist group, not debates about the future AET (After Eugene Terre’Blanche). But a number of circumstances has led to the current situation. Let’s be honest, most notably Julius Malema. No, he shouldn’t be held responsible for what happened in this particular instance, but he has been causing a rise in emotions among white South Africans, and definitely isn’t the favorite politician of all black South Africans either. The “Kill the Boer” argument currently running also contributed to the heated reaction, and I guess a better political analyst would be able to add many more factors that contributed to cause this event to be of sudden international interest.
Suddenly extremist views abound even more than usual. So today we need the moderates. Today we need everyone, from COSATU, the ANC, IFP, COPE, DA and FF+, black colored, white, indian, to condemn murder, to call for calm and reasoned reaction. Today we need to forget our differences and focus on the fact that we have a common enemy. Our common enemy is not white, not black. Our common enemy is violence, violence against all South Africans, in spite of race. Next week we will continue our work on the day to day racial tensions, but today we have a common enemy in extreme racial hatred. Today the majority of moderate South Africans need to be silent about their detailed differences, and unite to be a voice calling for peace. Allowing friends and family of Terre’Blanche of grief, together condemning voices that posthumously sentence Terre’Blanche to death and so belittle murder, and also condemning voices that call to arms and revenge.
April 4, 2010
Resurrection Sunday has always been a day of theology for me. In 2007 and 2008 I wrote blogsposts on this day reflecting on the resurrection, and in 2009 a few days later. But on this resurrection Sunday what is called for is not a philosophical reflection on understanding the resurrection, today we need the resurrection to come alive in South Africa. Today, resurrection Sunday calls for a response of public theological nature.
Last night Eugene Terre’Blanche, well known leader of the AWB, the most right-wing white party in South Africa, was murdered. All reports so far confirm that this was because of a dispute over salary, and done by two of the workers on his farm. However, the first 12-18 hours after the news came out has seen a renewed surge of racism and even calls to arms in South Africa. President Zuma, as well as many other important voices in South Africa, has called for calm reaction, and high profile figures from the ANC government, such as Genl. Cele and Minister Mthetwa, is involved to help things remain calm.
However, I have personally experienced how the comments being made by Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth League, and the prominence given to him by the media, has caused a renewed anger among even very open-minded and positive white South Africans. And with his “Kill the Boer” case fresh in the memories of South Africans, this event can easily be made into a political moment which didn’t underly the murder. Whether it is the call to arms from white supporters, or the insensitive ”he deserved it” from his opponents, it’s not helping South Africa.
This event can be a trigger to resurrect the AWB. To give reason why Terre’Blanche’s hope for a white homeland should be resurrected. To kill so much of what we have worked for in uniting the races of this country. But on the day of the most important festival of the largest religion in the world, also the largest religion in South Africa, and the religion to which both Mr Terre’Blanche and the leader of the ANC, President Zuma (although in very different forms) subscribed to, is it possible for a country, whether Christian of not, to hope for life to come out of death? Is it possible that in the face of this death, people from different races can come together to mourn another murder? To give condolences to a family who has lost a father, to them who have lost a friend?
Can this be the moment where black South Africans can say that it is possible to forgive? To repeat what President Zuma has said over and over again, that in this country people of all races must come together to build this nation. Is it possible for white South Africans to state loudly that we will not put our hands to the gun. We will not politicize every crime in this country. And we will speak out with the strongest possible critique against those who will use this tragic event to pour fuel on racial hatred in South Africa.
Because however you understand the resurrection, and however you celebrated this day, I believe today the question of whether the resurrection has meaning will be tested on how we approach the death of Eugene Terre’Blanche.