The African National Congress has been South Africa’s governing party since the Presidency of Nelson Mandela 17 years ago, following the end of white minority rule and apartheid. In the years under apartheid, hate speech was used by both supporters and opponents of the apartheid system to stir up their followers. When racial tensions in South Africa ran high, the song “Kill the Farmer, Shoot the Boer” was a revolutionary song of the anti-apartheid movement. However, it is an illustration of the long-term impact that such de-humanizing language can have.
After many years when such songs were no longer sung, in 2010, prominent members of the ANC Youth League, in particular Julius Malema, President of the ANC Youth League, openly sang the “Shoot the Boer” song at ANC Youth League rallies. Not only did revival of the song strike fear into the hearts of Boer farmers, but it has actually been sung during attacks on white farmers. It is an incitement to murder white Afrikaner farmers.
Over 3000 white farmers have been murdered since 1994. The South African police have not made investigation and prosecution of these farm murders a priority, dismissing them as crimes by common criminals. The government has disbanded the commando units of white farmers that once protected their farms, and has passed laws to confiscate the farmers’ weapons. Disarmament of a targeted group is one of the surest early warning signs of future genocidal killings.
A recent outbreak of violent farm invasions has led to casualties among white South Africans. The farm invasions are direct results of calls by Julius Malema and his Deputy, Ronald Lamola for whites to give up their land without compensation, or face violence by angry black youths “flooding their farms.”
In response to Julius Malema, the Freedom Front (FF) cited Section 16.2c of the South African Constitution, which restricts freedom of speech rights by excluding as unprotected speech “advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion and incitement to cause harm.” The FF contended that Malema’s singing of the “Shoot the Boer” song was hate speech and therefore a human rights violation. Acting Judge of the South Gauteng High Court, Leon Halgryn declared that the song is hate speech, and it is unconstitutional to either utter or sing “dubul’ibhunu” (“shoot the Boer.”) He issued an injunction against Malema, ordering him to no longer sing the song. The phrase is now considered hate speech.
Julius Malema was shortly thereafter removed as President of the ANC Youth League, and ejected from the ANC. However, Malema’s followers have defied the judgment and continue to sing the song. Even
President Jacob Zuma sang “Shoot the Boer” at the ANC Centenary Celebration event in January of 2012. He claimed that its use at the ANC Centenary was not intended as hate speech, but rather to commemorate the struggle against apartheid.
Despite President Zuma’s proclaimed intent, his singing of the song may be contributing to an increasingly hostile environment that threatens the safety of white South Africans. The number of murders of Boer farmers has increased each month in 2012.
For ten years, Genocide Watch has been the only international human rights group willing to declare an Alert about the high murder rate of Boer farmers, perhaps because it is not “politically correct” to defend the rights of people who once supported apartheid. Genocide Watch is opposed to all forms of racism, from whatever the source. The President of Genocide Watch actively supported the anti-apartheid movement in constitutional consultations with the United Democratic Front when he was a Fulbright Professor of Law in Swaziland. He has visited South Africa several times since and will soon visit again.
According to the Genocide Watch 8 stages of Genocide, South Africa remains at stage 5: Polarization.
Genocide Watch is the Coordinator of Alliance Against Genocide. Founded in 1999, the Alliance is made up of over 50 organizations from around the world and was the first coalition of organizations focused completely on preventing genocide.