Grant Walliser
Grant Walliser

‘I’m South African Neutral’ and what it really means

Being a South African over the past few weeks has been a turbulent experience. The excitement of the looming Fifa World Cup has been tempered by a degree of racial polarisation not seen since the apartheid era.

Instigated largely by Julius Malema’s inflammatory style and culminating in the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche, this polarisation has lead to many people reluctantly taking sides they don’t actually stand for. Usually isolated and reserved for the rabid race trolls amongst us, the extreme left and the extreme right are recruiting at will and good, sensible people have lost sight of the centre.

Faced with this reality a Johannesburg advertising agency, most fittingly called Cross Colours, decided it was time to highlight another option: neutrality from the radical nationalism offered by the extreme left and right. The “I’m South African Neutral” campaign, currently setting Facebook and Twitter alight, was the result.

When faced with support for the AWB or the ANCYL black and white people working at the agency both winced and felt they needed another option. They had more in common with each other than they did with the loud radicals perched on the ends of the political spectrum baying for their allegiance.

There has been some speculation that the “I’m South African Neutral” is asking people to ignore the current climate of racial tension, bury their heads in the sand and refuse to be part of the political process in this country.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The campaign is trying to get the idea across that you do not have to take racial sides in this current debate. It is saying that you do not have to pick a side when both sides are equally bad for our country. “I’m South African Neutral” means that you do not support Malema, his radical policies, Zanu-PF alignment and petulant behaviour. It equally means that you do not support the AWB, their bigotry and anachronistic, myopic view of our country and its people.

Being “South African Neutral” means that you are open for constructive debate. It means you care enough about South Africa to engage at a level where progressive elevated thinking and effective solutions trump flag waving, finger-pointing and mass hysteria. Being “South African Neutral” entails having the emotional maturity to rise above the calls for racial polarisation and to see it for what it is: a dangerous power game played by a small group of radicals for their selfish gain.

It does not mean that you don’t care about politics or the current issues that face us. The neutrality here denotes a staunch refusal to be drawn into the trap being set by those who would thrive under conditions of revolution and violence. It does not indicate apathy or blind optimism but rather addresses the only sustainable way forward — realism and the deconstruction of the concept of race.

Neither the ANCYL nor the AWB define me or my views and I am disgusted by the way their leaders behave and what they stand for. I’m South African Neutral.

I have attached the official press release from Cross Colours below.

Creative Agency Turns Chaos into Campaign for Change

What happens when a couple of creatives have a corridor chat about the polarisation of our nation? In the case of advertising agency Cross Colours, it resulted in a social media campaign named “I’m South African Neutral” which calls on all South Africans to put aside their differences and join together in the name of unity.

“With all the recent ranting from both the far left and far right, we realised that 99% of people in the middle aren’t being heard. If the vast majority of the country is saying enough fighting, enough hatred and enough finger pointing, our democratically elected leaders on both sides should deliver on that,” explain Jacques Shalom and Shane Geffen of Cross Colours.

“It’s not about left and right. It’s about belonging to something that stands for a peaceful South Africa. There are so many amazing things that we as South Africans have to offer but unfortunately the wrong message is getting out.”

The first point of action was a logo designed by Tsepo Makate, as well as collaboration with Don Packett, a social media enthusiast and co-founder of Thunk! Perspective Lab. This resulted in an online drive consisting of Facebook, Twitter and mass emails, with the next step being mainstream media involvement.

The movement hopes for companies to place this logo on their websites and email signatures and individuals to change their Facebook statuses to “I’m South African Neutral”.

“By using the logo, we are providing a means through which people can demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful South Africa,” adds Shalom. “Our hope is that the campaign will create a forum in which people can show their solidarity with one another, regardless of their background.”