Michael Francis
Michael Francis

Hate crimes and farming in SA

Eugene Terre’Blanche was a figure of ridicule and disdain for many people. He evoked strong responses of anger and shame for his political beliefs and in death further polarises South African society. I am horrified by the responses that bluntly state good riddance and that he deserved this type of death. I feel for his family and friends that suffered such a loss. And due to the means of the loss they must feel insecure and brutalised by the cruel discussions that justify and excuse the brutality.

He died a horrific brutal death that no person deserves. His death is clearly a hate crime and all the worse for it as it follows in the wake of Malema’s lack of conscience and grace in singing a brutal hate-filled song. Shouts of “kill the boer” may echo with the past struggle against apartheid, but even that echo is tainted with blood.

Kill the boer/ kill the farmer was a sickening call to rise up against civilians that should never be remembered fondly and not repeated as a slogan to challenge contemporary marginalisation. It belongs in a museum with a placard that discusses how humanity must never respond to tyranny with savagery. Such a response damns the future of a nation as the brutal murders all too common across the country attest to.

All crime and murder is horrific, but hate crimes deserve special attention and deserve recognition as such. Farm murders are hate crimes. To deny this is to dismiss the hate-filled language and socialisation that allows such crimes to be committed. Without recognition these crimes will never be properly addressed or understood.

Eugene Terre’Blanche’s death was a hate crime. Even if the initial reports of a wage dispute are true it is still a hate crime. A wage dispute that leads to a savage murder must be premised off of hate. One can dislike the man, hate his politics, but this cannot be used to condone or excuse the brutal death he suffered. His death does not challenge or refute his racial prejudice, but entrenches it among those that share those beliefs. His death further polarises South African society.

I have argued elsewhere that the race debate is a dead end and still believe it is, but there must be a discussion around race that is mature and honest. Too many people deny race conflicts/problems exist in South Africa all the while claiming the very integrity of race groups as a salient way to divide society up.

South Africa needs to find a way to move beyond race. As long as there is race-based categorisation we can expect race-based violence. Poverty obviously needs to be tackled as well, but the politicisation and crass populism that draws on crude notions and understandings of race as the excuse for poverty are intellectually impoverished themselves. We must be able to admit and frankly discuss hate crimes and racial violence. We can also admit there is race-based inequality from the apartheid past, but redrawing the apartheid categories is not a step forward or a viable solution for redress.

The race debate needs to acknowledge real racial tensions and find solutions to them. As things sit now we can expect more hate, more violence and more fear. The way race is used in South Africa it benefits a black middle class and black elite at the expense of poor blacks.

I am not sure I can offer solutions forward right now as leaders of South Africa deny the problems exist and keep on singing songs of death and destruction.