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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid