Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our rights and our future are indivisible

Say it with a sting.....

The murder of Eugene Terre'Blanche on Saturday night unleashed a tidal wave of pent up rage and frustration in sections of our society. The context explains why. For over a decade now, farmers and farming communities have been on the receiving end of escalating criminal violence, and 3 368 have been murdered. More recently, the ANC Youth League's sinister leader, Julius Malema, has made popular again an old struggle song, the lyrics of which include the phrase, "kill the boer". Most South Africans of all races and backgrounds condemn the killing of another human being. They also do not agree with the hate speech of those at the margins. The majority of South Africans want to build a shared future in which they all have the opportunity to prosper. At the same time, political leaders must acknowledge the legitimacy of the feelings being expressed in response to the murder. Merely pointing out, as the ANC has done, that there is no direct evidence linking Malema's hate speech to Terre'Blanche's murder is unhelpful, to say the least, at a time like this. We must acknowledge the fact that songs inciting people to kill others create a climate in which murder is legitimised and romanticised. We must understand why people are angered and alienated by a song that calls for their murder. We must understand why this anger is multiplied many fold when the country's President fails to take a stand, effectively condoning the flouting of a court ruling that declared these words to be hate speech. This song is not experienced as 'an attack on the apartheid system', which its apologists claim it is; it is experienced, (and I believe it is meant by those who sing it), as a contemporary expression of a hateful attitude towards farmers and Afrikaners in particular, and whites in general. It is time for Jacob Zuma to act like a President and tell his youth league and its leader that we cannot allow our history of division to destroy our chances of building a shared future. If President Zuma cannot take a stand against Malema, the rest of South Africa must. It is time for us all to remember Nelson Mandela's leadership in what was, for the ANC, an even more challenging historical moment, the murder of Chris Hani. One cannot draw a direct parallel between these two events. Hani's murder was a planned political assassination, Terre'Blanche's killing was apparently a criminal act. But many people in the ANC felt then what the followers of Eugene Terre'Blanche are feeling now. Yet with incredible sacrifice and courage, President Mandela said it was not possible to fight violence with violence. His leadership brought South Africa back from the brink. The farming community in our country, both farmers and farm workers, is understandably angry about their ongoing vulnerability to violent attacks and murder. It is not good enough for the government or for ministers to hide behind bureaucratic obfuscation and promises of future action. Our farming communities deserve an effective response from the SAPS and the security services - and especially from the country's leadership. No such response has been offered over the past decade. While most farmers have good relations with their employees, those farm workers who are subject to ill-treatment at the hands of their employers are understandably angry. While murder is never justified, it is wrong and unhelpful to ignore the grievances of ill-treated workers. In saying this, I must emphasise that I have no direct knowledge at all of Terre'Blanche's relationship with his workers. What I am saying, is that relations on farms and in rural areas generally need to be managed sensitively by all concerned, given the racial divisions in our history, that persist in the present. What, then, is to be done, and what is to be avoided? What to do: * The law must be allowed to take its course. Two youths have been arrested on charges of murder. They must be given a fair trial and the courts must deliver a verdict without fear or favour. There is no just substitute for due process of law in a free society, and all leaders, parties and organisations must respect that process. * The ANC must take a formal decision at the highest level to stop singing the song that includes the words "kill the boer." The issue is not the legality of the words. Ultimately, the Constitutional Court will rule on that question. But legal or not, no political leader in South Africa should use language that inflames racial feeling or causes racial division. The new struggle in our country is for a secure and prosperous future for all South Africans. Accordingly, the ANC leadership, and President Zuma in particular, should condemn the inflammatory behaviour of Julius Malema and end their endorsement of the offending song. * The government must urgently put in place a strategy to promote rural security. The DA proposes the following: * o Measures to strengthen the sector policing system in rural areas. All evidence suggests that very few rural police stations have implemented an effective sector policing strategy. What is required is proper, systematic implementation of sector strategies, driven and monitored at the highest level, and held to account by the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Police. * o The establishment of a specialized Border and Rural Safety division in the SAPS. This division should be directly accountable for all aspects of rural safety. One of its key functions will be the coordination of the 5 specialised rural reaction units and a rural intelligence centre. * o A Rural Intelligence Centre.
This Centre must be responsible for empowering residents of rural areas with reliable information regarding crime trends and statistics, as well as communication systems. The rural intelligence centre will also analyse crime trends in rural areas and then deploy one of the rural reactions units to where it is most needed. The members of these units will receive specialised paramilitary training that will enable them to stabilise an area in a short time and prevent further attacks. The DA's plan proposes that these specialised units complement and strengthen, rather than compete with, the existing sector policing structures and area crime combating units in rural areas. * o Sufficient resources for SAPS stations and rural safety initiatives.
Rural-based police stations are seriously under-resourced - to the extent that many lack the very basics of running water and sanitation. There are shortages of basic equipment, staff and vehicles. * o A post of Divisional Commissioner to co-ordinate and lead these structures. By creating such a post it would make rural safety a priority, and that those who feed the nation, and who face danger on a daily basis, are adequately protected. What not to do: Racism cannot be fought with racism. Violence cannot be countered with violence. Crime cannot be eradicated by crime. This is the lesson, down the centuries, of Easter. Consequently: * No political leader should do or say anything to inflame racial feeling. * No leader or organisation should promote lawlessness or violence in response to the murder of Mr. Terre'Blanche. * No citizen should break the law or engage in violence in response to the murder of Mr. Terreblanche. What is required now is leadership. Leadership from all parties, from all organisations and from everyone with influence. We need to emerge from this situation with a renewed commitment to non-racialism and a clear plan of action to promote rural safety and stop the killings on our farms. We need to remind ourselves that in a constitutional democracy, our rights are indivisible. We must stand up and protect each other's rights, especially when it is most difficult to do so. That is the way forward. Finally, but importantly, we need to remember the human suffering that violence causes. Our condolences and thoughts should be with the family of Mr. Terre'Blanche, and in remembering them, with the loved ones of all those who have been murdered on our farms and in our rural communities over the years.

( Helen Zille)



At April 8, 2010 at 6:41 PM , Blogger Tango said...

ET's death was not just a 'labour related' incident.
It was well orchestrated by 'a third force' to draw attention away from the corruption and infighting within the ANC!
The truth will out, soon!
Communist propaganda has no place in a democratic SA.

Comment from Sonny Cox


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