News / Africa

Race in Spotlight Ahead of S. Africa 2014 Elections

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, gestures as he addresses supporters during the official launch of his political party in Marikana October 13, 2013.
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, gestures as he addresses supporters during the official launch of his political party in Marikana October 13, 2013.
The issue of race is rearing its head again as South Africa prepares for national elections next year.  One new political party has made a point of verbally attacking the white minority population who benefited under the apartheid system. At the same time, a small group of white South Africans say their race is threatened with “genocide.”  Analysts say that reckless racial sentiments are not productive and out of sync with today’s South Africa.
 
Nearly 20 years ago, South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, described his country as a “rainbow nation” at peace with itself. Mandela’s presidency ended the apartheid system in which non-whites were oppressed and treated as inferior to white South Africans.
 
However, the legacy of racism is still a reality in today’s South Africa. And two political movements have recently used race as a rallying cry ahead of the 2014 vote.
 
In early October, a group of white South Africans held a protest over what they described as “genocide” against South Africa’s white minority. The Red October group says white South Africans no longer feel safe because they are being targeted and killed on their farms and in their homes throughout the country.
 
The group estimates that at least 3,000 white South Africans have been killed in the past decade, largely in robbery-related incidents that they say are evidence of hate crimes.
 
But that figure pales in relation to national crime statistics. Over the last year alone, South African police documented more than 16,200 murders nationwide.
 
The economic factor

A new political party is also using race as a rallying cry. The newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF), headed by expelled African National Congress Youth League president, Julius Malema, is accusing white South Africans of pushing up crime levels by refusing to share the country’s wealth with the poor black majority.
 
Malema warned white South Africans who obtained land during the colonial period, to return it to the indigenous blacks, or forget about reconciliation.
 
“You are not ashamed for having stolen our land. You want us to come to you and kneel before you to ask for the land of our ancestors. We are not going to do that. We are not going to beg for our land,” said Malema.
 
Malema’s supporters seemed to take his message even further. One banner carried at his party launch rally read: “Honeymoon is over for whites.” Another said: “to be a revolutionary you have to be inspired by hatred and bloodshed.”
 
Helen Zille, the leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said she is not impressed by the racial mudslinging.
 
“I know there have been terrible farm murders and obviously they have been gruesome and terrible, and obviously we can condemn every single murder as we do. Conditions in many, many places, especially in informal settlements are very bad.  But to try and turn it into a race mobilization issue is totally counter-productive and certainly doesn’t have my support,” said Zille.
 
Tensions overinflated

Anthea Jeffery, Head of Special Research at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said that while racial tensions still exist, relations have actually improved over the years.  
 
 “There is obviously still a great deal of racial inequality within the country. There is of course the sense that to be black is to run a greater risk of being jobless and to be poor, and to be white is to have a much greater prospect of good jobs and income. The economic pinch is affecting everybody and the racial scapegoat is a very easy avenue for the country to follow,” said Jeffery.
 
She emphasized that the real issue is economic inequality, and that the government needs to do more on that front to keep tensions from spiraling out of control.
 
“What we really need to see, if South Africa is to get onto the right path, is an emphasis on growth. If we were to have investment and growth and jobs, it’s very important that there should be racial harmony, that there should be a sense of trust across the different population groups,” she said.
 
Jeffery and the South African Institute of Race Relations say their research suggests that the views of Red October and the EFF represent extremes in the political arena and that the race card is not likely to resonate with most South Africans when they go to vote next year.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid