Pontsho Pilane looks at the recent Red October campaign.
To many South Africans, October 10th has indefinitely changed and the colour red has a new found meaning; 10 October 2013 was declared Red October. Red October is “Worldwide protest against the oppression of and violence against White South Africans!” as stated on their website . The press release further states that “No longer will we be silent about the oppression of the White South African Ethnic Minority! No longer will we silently endure the killing of our people on our farms and in our towns and cities!” The “we” that is being referred to here is the “white ethnic minority” in the country. The organisers of the march believe that the violent crimes (being committed by the black majority) that are happening in South Africa are targeted at the white minority and it is has become a systematic white genocide.
When I first saw tweets about #RedOctober that progressively became the trending topic throughout Thursday and some of Friday morning; I was in disbelief and shock at the absurdity of the idea; however, things were put in perspective when I came to the knowledge that one of the prominent voices of this campaign was Afrikaans Pop Singer, Steve Hofmeyr. Steve is not only known for his music, but also for his many controversies in connection to South African politics: After Julius Malema (former ANC Youth League President) publicly sang the song “Dubula Ibhunu” (loosely translated into “Shoot the Boer”), Hofmeyr threatened to include the word “k-word” in one of his songs. It was only fitting that one of the faces of the Red October March be a right-wing extremist such as Hofmeyr.
I was offended with this initiative and as it was evident on various media texts on Thursday, I was not the only one who found Red October wrong (on many levels). My offense, or rather concern, is varied. The campaign raises various sensitive topics with concern to this country’s history. Firstly, the use of words such as “oppression” and “genocide” is simply sensational and it insults our intelligence. The Oxford Online Dictionary defines oppression as “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority” and genocide as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group”. Crime is a generic problem for every South African- of all race groups. Therefore, for Red October supporters to single out white people as the victims of crime, as if they are systematically being targeted is ridiculous. Subsequently, the South African Police Services reported that for every one white person that is murdered, 33 blacks are murdered as per their crime statistical report. I fail to see where the oppression lies in this. Using words such as genocide is therefore not necessary.
My second concern is the manipulative use of Christianity and “God’s Word” to fuel this campaign. I think it is very selfish and careless to use God as a justifier of this, simply because there were extensive efforts from Christian (and other religious) leaders during apartheid and post-1994 that were dedicated to making this a better country. To take those efforts and reduce them to their (Red October supporters) fundamentalist ideas about what the Bible says about your agenda is reckless- given the history of how Christianity was brought into South Africa and also used as a tool of oppression during apartheid (Immorality Act). That offends me, as a devout Christian!
Protest is an integral part of South Africa; according to The South African website; we are the protest capital of the world, so it is not a surprise when a group of people with the same objective decide on a protest, as a way of making their voices be heard. Remarks from Hofmeyr about their “peaceful” and “orderly” protests showing how people really get a point across- not throwing excrement at politicians’ cars or holding an illegal strike demanding wage increments or blocking roads or even looting a whole town to get one’s point across is barbaric. I am concerned with how drunk and disillusioned Red October supporters are with their own white privilege; to actually think that people would do all these things in the name of fun or just to prove a point. The South African discusses how protests are not just about service delivery or wage increments, but it is the rebellion of the poor; poor people are tired of being poor and being marginalised by a country that they know they also have a right to reap benefits for. When your voice has been ignored for so long that all you can do is through a tantrum to get the attention of the media, government or private companies- that is what people will do. A friend of mine volunteers at an orphanage and for one of her birthdays, she decided we would celebrate by spending time at the orphanage. As we were playing with the children, we realised how attached they get to each of us; to a point that we could not put them down without them crying and getting hysterical. My point is that poor (black) South Africans are tired of being neglected- they were neglected during apartheid and now in a new South Africa, they are also being neglected? Like the children at the orphanage, I would also get hysterical. Their protest methods are as a result of desperation and hopelessness- not intent to harm. It is not until the shooting that the Marikana miners were heard; even though the strike had begun days before.
My last concern is with the idea that there was something good about apartheid; the audacity to justify it is shocking. In a twitter interaction with Hofmeyr, I asked him what is it about apartheid that was good as he and his fellow Red October supporters seem to be somewhat nostalgic over a system that is synonymous for the institutionalisation of racism and the (real) oppression of non-whites in South Africa. He replied; saying healthcare, crime rate, education system, the rand, the murder rate of farmers and a list of other things that were exclusively and legally better for the same white minority, that is now supposedly oppressed. So Red October supporters are saying that they would rather have a government that is oppressive to every other racial group but their own in order for them to be happy? That to me does not sound right at all, in fact, it is scary to even think of finding a positive perspective of thousands of unjust murders of Black South Africans for almost a century. Without the intention of insinuating that every white person in South Africa is responsible for apartheid, it was a systematic intention to empower the white minority at the expense of everyone else who would get in their way (in which most, if not all, white South Africans directly and indirectly benefitted).
May the souls of those whose lives have been lost to violent crimes rest in peace; may their loved be comforted. Violent crimes are not exclusive to white farmers and their families- every race is affected. Black men are not just raping white women- men of all races are raping women and children in this country. The education system is in shambles! More children of colour’s chance of going to university (and leaving with a qualification) are being lessened by the year. Our country, South Africa, is in a state of emergency in many different ways; it is the responsibility of all of us to fix ourselves and our country; initiatives such as Red October only serve as a divisive instrument to the efforts of many individuals to get the country to where it is.
“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:
that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people …”- The Freedom Charter. As adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on 26 June 1955.