Presentation to the South African Human Rights Commission by Ernst Roets Deputy CEO of AfriForum, 16 February 2017
Anti-white racism in South Africa
My name is Ernst Roets. I am the Deputy CEO of AfriForum. AfriForum is a civil rights organisation that operates with the aim of protecting minority rights. Our philosophy is that the test for a healthy democracy is vested in the question of whether minority communities also feel that they are welcome, included and protected.
AfriForum’s membership base currently comprises just over 186 000 individual members.
Let me state from the outset that if I seem angry or frustrated during my presentation today, it is because I speak for our members. And as a representative, it is my responsibility to convey to you the frustration that our members experience on the issue of racism. However, I am not here simply to convey the frustration, but to explain exactly why our members are frustrated.
Firstly, let met state that racism in South Africa is often blown out of perspective. Racism is a problem because of extremists at the fringes of society and not because South Africans are inherently racist. Every study on racism done by independent research organisations that I have ever seen has found that racism is not as big a problem in South Africa as we are led to believe. I mention a long list of statistics in my written submission, which I will not repeat now.
It is clear that racism is a problem that deserves attention. To talk of it as if it’s the biggest problem that this country has to face, however, is to reduce a long list of crises that are in fact much more damaging to our society. These include the education crisis, unemployment, crime and corruption, and so forth.
Racism and minority rights
In South Africa, we frequently hear the argument that white people should stop complaining because white people are believed to be rich. This means that white people are “economically dominant” and as a result do not have a right to protection as a minority community. We hear this quite often. There are many sources – particularly the United Nations – that indicate that communities which are small in number but believed to be wealthy are precisely the communities that need protection.
If economic status were the determining factor, it would imply that the vast majority of minority communities across the globe who have fallen victim to genocide or ethnic cleansing in the 20th century would not have been entitled to protection as a minority community. This would include the Jews during the Second World War, the Armenians and Greeks of Anatolia, the Muslims in Serbia and the Tutsis in Rwanda. It is precisely this alleged wealth that necessitates the protection of communities which are small in number.
Racism and double standards
On the topic of racism, we find alarming levels of double standards in the manner in which society at large deals with racism. These double standards are particularly also manifested in the manner that the media reports on racism.
Let me list some examples of how double standards on racism manifest in our society:
1. Penny Sparrow
Just over a year ago, Penny Sparrow, an unknown estate agent from KwaZulu- Natal, referred to black people who had littered the Durban beachfront as “monkeys”. In contrast, Velaphi Khumalo, an employee of the Provincial Department of Sport, Culture and Recreation, wrote in response to Sparrow’s post that he wanted to cleanse the country of whites and that whites should be treated in the same way that Hitler had treated the Jews. In a second posting he said that white people in South Africa deserved to be butchered like Jews and be killed.
What are the differences between Penny Sparrow and Velaphi Khumalo?
- Sparrow was an unknown estate agent, while Khumalo was – and, I believe, still is – a government employee.
- Sparrow offended black people, while Khumalo called for a butchering and genocide of white people.
- Sparrow was fined R150 000, while Khumalo was only subjected to an internal investigation.
2. Hart vs. Xingwana
Standard Bank economist Chris Hart was instantly converted into yet another example of the evil that is white racism when he tweeted that South Africa had an entitlement problem, which had a negative impact on economic growth. On the other hand, Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, went on international television, making the most atrocious statement imaginable:
“Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it.”
I find this statement extremely offensive. What the Minister did was to go on international television and insult the very core of my identity as a young Afrikaner. What’s the difference between Hart and Xingwana?
- Hart was an economist for a bank, Xingwana still continues to be a Cabinet Minister.
- Hart made an economic observation based on his research, suggesting that many black South Africans have an entitlement mentality, while Xingwana made a false racist attack right at the very core of what a particular minority community holds dear: their religion.
- Hart and Xingwana both apologised; yet Hart was fired, while Xingwana still continues with her job in Cabinet.
Now, imagine for a moment what would happen if a white person went on international television and made the following statement: “The problem with black people is that they are brought up in a culture according to which they become lazy and violent, believing that they can steal whatever they want, because the world owes them everything.” It is of course deplorable and I am convinced that millions of black people would never forgive and trust a white person who said something like this, despite an apology. Why should white people ever trust Xingwana again? Or, for that matter, any member of a Cabinet who shelters racists like that?
3. Elsenburg Agricultural College
When EFF supporters invaded the Elsenburg Agricultural College and started attacking white students with whips, the university authorities remained silent. When, in the absence of campus security intervention, AfriForum Youth
announced that they would arrange private security to protect the students, AfriForum was immediately accused by the university’s management of being divisive and polarising, while the EFF-supporters were left untouched.
4. “Worse than killing whites”
During the Shoot the Boer court case, Julius Malema, who was then still the president of the Youth League of the ruling party, was asked why the ANC stopped singing “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer” but continue to sing “Dubula i’Bhunu”. This was his explanation under oath:
When we were discouraged to sing “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer”, the explanation was that the farmer is directed at a particular group of people. And what is worse is that farmers are not only whites. You are going to even kill people who are part of your struggle if you want to kill farmers, so you are actually pushing away the potential supporters of your struggle when you say “Kill the farmer”.
Mr. Chairperson, please let that sink in for a moment. What he said was that they were instructed not to sing “Kill the farmer” because not all farmers are white. Effectively, what he said was that killing white people (or at the very least promoting the killing of white people) was alright, but that killing your own potential supporters was unacceptable.
5. Church Street vs. Zondo Street
We have been told repeatedly that the names of towns and streets that are offensive need to be changed. So what we have seen in recent years is that the name of Church Street in Pretoria has been changed, presumably because the name “Church Street” is offensive, while the name of Kingsway Street in Amanzimtoti has been changed to Andrew Zondo Street. Now, Andrew Zondo was really only known for one thing: On 23 December 1985, this ANC operative planted a bomb in the street’s Sanlam Shopping Centre.
Three women and two children were killed and 40 people injured. He is now venerated as a hero, while the families of some of his murdered victims still live in Amanzimtoti. He has been honoured by having the street renamed after him. So please tell me, which is more offensive: The name “Kingsway” or driving to work every day in a street that was renamed after the man who had murdered your child?
When I asked a representative from the Department of Arts and Culture what the criteria for offensiveness was, he responded that whatever the majority, in other words, black people, regard as offensive woud be treated as such.
Now these are all examples of double standards, and I can really keep going. But we also find that these double standards manifest in the media, where, for example, white on black crime is almost always reported as racist crime, whereas black on white crime is almost always reported as “normal” crime, even when the evidence clearly suggests that the crime was motivated by anti-white racism. There are examples of –
- White farmers being murdered while the attackers scream “Viva Malema!” or “Apartheid is over!”; and of
- Murderers stating that they have murdered white people only because they were white and that they were influenced by the song “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer”.
In South Africa, telling a black school girl that she is not allowed to wear her hair in an afro is exponentially more newsworthy, and according to the media more deplorable, than a black person murdering four white people and then publicly stating that he did so because they had been white.
As a matter of fact, in the same week in which the so-called racist hair policy scandal hit the news, a student council member at the University of Pretoria, just across the street from Pretoria Girls High, publicly expressed his wish to murder white people with a bazooka. AfriForum issued a press statement about the matter, but it seems that most of the media were too preoccupied with the atrocity of a black girl being told that her hair hadn’t complied with school policy, than to write bothersome stories about a student leader inciting the murder of white people.
In November 2016, Marlene Hurford and Grant Short were severely assaulted by three black people in Rustenburg. They were threatened with the words: “Vandag vrek julle, wit bliksems” (Today you white bastards will die). After Hurford had blocked her stolen tablet, one of the attackers called the last number that she had dialled and threatened: “You white bitch, I’m coming for you.”
I am aware of only one newspaper that reported on this incident, suggesting that it was a racist act. Now, just imagine if a white person had kidnapped a black woman and said: “You black bastards are going to die!”. The reality is that violent crimes in which white people are the victims and black people the offenders are not condemned with the same enthusiasm as cases where black people are the victims and white people the offenders.
About two years ago, I was personally threatened with murder on twitter, because of the colour of my skin. I went to the police station to file charges. The next day, I was called by the investigative officer who literally told me that he didn’t know what Twitter was, that he didn’t know how to investigate the matter, that he was not going to investigate the issue and that I could expect never again to hear from him on this matter.
We heard from the representative of Facebook yesterday. I can tell you that we have reported many people who openly encourage the slaughter of whites on Facebook. In one case, Lindsay Maasdorp, a leader of Black First, Land First was openly calling for the murder of white people. In another case, he posted:
“black god needs servants in CT: wind + matches + white owned farms”
This man was reported to Facebook and Facebook’s response was this didn’t violate their community standards and that they would not take it down.
Now, Mr. Chairperson, in conclusion, the Nelson Mandela and Achmed Kathrada Foundations sat here yesterday, speaking at length about an unknown white person who used the words “those people”. I so wish that I could sit here and complain to you about people describing white people as “those people”.
Our reality is that our members are threatened on social media with rape, assault, arson and even genocide, almost on a daily basis. There is nothing that I would like more than to live in a society where I had the luxury of complaining about words like “those people”. Our reality is one in which –
- The state president says in Parliament that we must accept that we have less rights because we are a minority;
- The ruling party is prepared to go to court to defend their so-called right to sing about how my community are rapist dogs that must be shot; and
- The worst thing that a government employee who publicly calls for a white genocide can apparently expect is that he would be reprimanded at an internal investigation;
Only in the last two weeks, eleven white farmers were murdered on their farms, some of them tortured to death. But according to Government policy, the theft of copper cables seems to be a higher priority than the torture of white farmers.
Mr. Chairperson, we will continue to engage in public discussions about racism, but I have to be honest with you: We have lost faith in the public discourse on racism.
Thank you very much.