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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More