Election Watch

Dangerous mix of race, land and business issues will dominate


Over the past weekend it became clear that the ANC and President Jacob Zuma have swallowed a dangerously emotive cocktail of issues, mixed by the EFF, for this year’s crucial municipal elections.

Late last year Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters, in gearing up for the elections, have:

  • Told the ANC it has “protected (the) white minority for far too long” and said it wanted “a state that is not scared of white minority” – “white minority, you have been warned”;
  • Accused the whites of stealing the land: “…the land owned by white people is stolen property  ... it might have been land which they inherited, but that their grandfathers had killed black men for,” Malema said; and
  • Threatened to shut down “racist” Absa Bank. Malema again: “There is a huge debate going within the EFF about detailed practical programmes of attacks on white capital”.

Then, speaking this past weekend at an event hosted at his official residence by the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, President Zuma said that unless the ongoing issue of land ownership is resolved, South Africa will battle to tackle poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

He also again opened the door to move the negotiated date of 1913 for land claims back, saying he did not believe black South Africans were dispossessed of their land only since 1913.

He also played the race card by accusing the media of never criticising whites who did not have the required qualifications. “There was one person who was given a position with just a matric to act as a CEO, and it was not a big deal. If it was a black person, there would have been a lot of noise,” he said.

At the same event the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mzwandile Masina, turned the illegal erection of a massive “Zuma must fall” billboard into a race issue. Although there is no reference whatsoever to race on the billboard and the name of the individual who allegedly funded its erection is not publically known, Masina accused those responsible for putting up the massive banner of being racists.

Interestingly enough, the “Zuma must fall” slogan first surfaced last year during the student protests over university fees.

Racial tenterhooks

While the country has been on tenterhooks after a recent war of words over racism on social media platforms, Masina said: “To those racists in Cape Town erecting boards, undermining the democracy we fought for, I want to say that the anger of South Africans is building up to boiling point.

“And if they [racists] are not careful, they will go down in history having caused unnecessary tensions because the ANC-led government fought for a non-racial country and we will continue to do that.

“But [there are] those few individuals who continue to be racist to the point that they have money, but instead of supporting students, they insult the leader of the republic. We want to warn them that our patience is running out.”

While the municipal authorities in Cape Town, which according to an official spokesperson know who the responsible individual is, has handed the matter over to prosecutors on the basis, not of its content, but the fact that it was bigger than both local by-laws and national legislation allowed, the ANC took the law into its own hands. A group of ANC supporters tore the banner down,

The ANC’s Cape metro chair, Xolani Sotashe, took a threatening stance on the matter, demanding that the building’s management remove the remainder of the banner. “We are giving you 24 hours to clear this thing here. Next time when we come here it’s not going to be nice,” she said.

Taking a cue from Julius

In the meantime, the ANC’s Youth League, also during the weekend, took another cue from the EFF’s Julius Malema. In a statement it laid the blame for South Africa’s weak currency at the feet of Absa and its parent company, Barclays Bank. It accused the bank of being responsible for the recent sharp drop in the value of the rand by “excessively and aggressively” selling the local currency for the past few months.

It seems to be an attempt to deflect the blame being put on President Zuma by economists and commentators for his contribution, besides global economic conditions, to the dismal performance of the rand in recent times.

Local elections

It is becoming clear that this year’s municipal election campaign will be dominated by national issues, often very explosive ones, while it is widely expected to be a scene-setter for the next round of national elections in three years’ time.

It comes at a time that the governing ANC alliance appears to be at its most vulnerable since the first democratic elections of 1994, President Zuma’s grip on power appears tenuous and unity in the alliance increasingly under threat.

Especially on the front of race relations tensions are escalating. There is an urgent need to cool down temperatures on this front.

The country is in serious danger that an incident caused by irresponsible individuals or groups could tip the country into a highly destructive racial conflict.

 Also read: Student protests to continue and “dark forces” return

by Piet Coetzer

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