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Explained: The ‘satirical’ white genocide tweet that caused all the trouble

Explained: The ‘satirical’ white genocide tweet that caused all the trouble
EEF leader Julius Malema and deputy Floyd Shivambu at the party’s 10th anniversary celebration at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 29 July, 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Recently, I tweeted (X’ed?) a piece of satire that has upset a number of people. It requires context.

Since the beginning of my career, my mandate has been to provide “fact-checked satire” on the South African condition, the vast majority of which has focused on the ANC (and deservedly so). 

The country the ANC has governed for 30 years is traumatised and deeply violent. The statistics are there for all to see: the murder rates in big cities like Johannesburg (where I live) and Cape Town, mimic a war zone. 

As for the victims of this orgy of blood, again the statistics are widely available: those who bear the brunt of the violence are largely poor and black.

That said, violence in SA is so widespread that it becomes arbitrary. Like all of us, I fear for my family’s safety.

The ANC and their ancillaries own this problem. In some cases — xenophobic attacks on black foreign nationals, political battles within the organisation, “protests” for services they should provide — ANC members either actively or tacitly promote the violence.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the assassination campaign against members of the shack dwellers’ association Abahlali baseMjondolo has resulted in over 20 deaths. Based on the available evidence, almost all of those could be classified as political murders.

But there is no evidence — zero, nada, bupkes — for an ethnic cleansing campaign in South Africa targeting the white minority.

Such accusations are libellous and obscene and deserve to be treated with contempt.

Hence the tweet.

There is, of course, a cynical conflation at work here: to deny “white genocide” is to deny or minimise the brutal violence experienced on the country’s farms.

Long before this narrative took shape, I would go on assignment in rural SA and think: this is not good.

Lonely plots surrounded by oceans of poverty. Ancient patterns of hatred and resentment. A total absence of rule of law — worse, a corrupt, uninterested and under-resourced police service.

This was and remains a recipe for social discontent and violence. And it’s tragic.

Reams of academic research have been written about farm murders; millions of words of journalism have contributed to our understanding of this phenomenon. The violence in flyover country is gothic and, no doubt, often retributive. It is totally, totally unacceptable and should have been addressed long ago by the only people who could do something about it: the damn government.

But they address nothing.

They haven’t addressed violence in townships. They haven’t addressed violence in “secure” housing estates. They haven’t addressed violence on the N3. They haven’t addressed domestic violence, violence targeting the LGBTQ community or xenophobic violence.

We’re all in this together

In other words, we are all in this together. No one is exempt. Everyone is vulnerable. The statistics, again widely available, suggest some are more vulnerable than others: the poor in urban and peri-urban areas.

Which is all to say, there is no campaign of white genocide. That’s a conspiracy theory, one that clicks in very neatly with narratives of white victimhood elsewhere in the world.

This discourse has re-emerged from a predictable source: the Economic Freedom Fighters, and their 10th anniversary hoedown. The party’s leader, Julius Malema is a flip-flopping shyster, funded in part by white gangsters, who has reignited the white genocide narrative in order to cause a media shitstorm. Well done to him. He’s played everyone he hoped to play.

The EFF leadership are after two things: money and power (which are actually the same thing). The party has no interest in governing, but intends to act as kingmaker as we slip into the coalition era. Their aim: slurp the fat from state and municipal contracts, while running protection rackets on the ground. This approach depends on an absence of the rule of law and a prevalence of chaos. People always get hurt in such a process, and having reported on the EFF for its 10-year existence, the injured parties are very rarely white.

Singing “Kill the Boer” while wearing Gucci loafers is just cosplay by a racketeer masquerading as a politician.

He gets to do this because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

His actions deserve to be tested in court — the Democratic Alliance and others have already initiated suits to this effect — and they will be. If nothing else, this country has a functioning (but not perfect) judicial system.

And look, I understand why many white South Africans feel vulnerable. I AM one. Contrary to the belief of Twitter trolls, white saffas can’t magically go “back” to Europe, or go live with Tucker Carlson on his ranch in Buttfuck, Maine.

Home is home.

This is why promoting the “white genocide” narrative, and why conflating it with ghastly farm murders, is so unconscionable. It is dragging the dead into a propaganda project — one that, like all propaganda, has the potential to lead to the exact opposite of its intended outcome.

The only thing that will save South Africa is solidarity — across class, across race, across geography.

The sooner we begin that process, the better. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Well said,work together or sink together

    • Terence Dowdall says:

      What wasn’t clear from Malema’s “Kill the Boer” (ie white people) rant was which model he was espousing. Does he want to go the Nazi holocaust route? Or the Indian post-independence partition route, where all the people of the wrong race group are herded into a specific geographic area – presumably the Western Cape? Presumably he would not be going in for such namby-pamby solutions as the Indian route. But he also remembers the humiliation of EFF ‘fighters’ demonstrating outside an Afrikaans-speaking school in the Western Cape, and having their noses pulled and their “fighter” red berets taken away by burly working-class parents. Hence his other rallying cry – “We are Putin and Putin is us!” – basically meaning “We are Wagner, and Wagner is us”. If there’s any real fighting to do, that’s who’ll end up doing it, not EFF cadres.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    Damn son, that’s well written.
    Bravo Richard.

  • Martin Neethling says:

    Pollack is absolutely out of line on this, way off sides, and this unfunny attempt to explain ‘context’, simply risible. The tweet ‘What wine pairs best with white genocide’ is just not appropriate, ever. From this article today it is clear that he was/is mocking those who ‘buy into the propaganda project’, but while he is perfectly entitled to argue this, trying to satirically make fun of this point of view is in terribly poor judgement. There may be ‘nada’ evidence that there is an ethnic cleaning campaign loading in SA, but there IS a very influential member of parliament who sings about it, chants it, defends it in court, who generates column inches around the world when he does so, and a veritable army of haters who follow in his wake with anti white, ‘go back to Europe’ bile. At the same time the killing of Boers/farmers indeed continues, ever more brutal in its describing, and so obviously, clearly not ‘just crime’ when acts of torture, vengeance, often over protracted hours, are common features of these attacks.
    And then there is the ever so small point, respectfully, that genocides aren’t usually, commonly identifiable before they occur. You know, like on past occasions – Dafur, Rwanda, Bosnia, The Holocaust come to mind – when it was all very clear and obvious and public beforehand, and satirical writers thought ‘ok, maybe we shouldn’t joke about this subject any more’.
    Which means really, that this tweet is wrong, and this weak ‘context’ piece fail. Completely.

    • Nicol Mentz says:

      There is an underreporting of what is occurring on the white farm murders, frequently associated with brutal torture. This is not from someone who is hungry but hell bent on revenge.
      There is no doubt that black communities are affected but hey then I am not the minister of police.
      The genocide in Rwanda started by creating and stating differences in communities. Beware the narrative! And it will not stop South Africa is still Tribal, so once the Whites are gone who is next?

      • Jane Crankshaw says:

        Spot on!

      • Hans Wendt says:

        I agree with Martin. It kind of shows the true colours of the authors of those tweets. (Richard and the Prof) Those tweets would generate a gauffaw in fascist, countries like Russia, China, Nazi Germany, North Korea
        “No ethnic cleansing against the White Minority….”……..I beg to differ. Check out the laws, the farm murders, the tweets,

    • Dhasagan Pillay says:

      It’s actually rather important to get people talking. And even more important to get people who don’t talk about things, except in the echo chambers of their own laagers over lagers while burning or braaing meat. That’s what the tweet did. Allow me to quote myself, “The most intelligent comment so far in the Elon x Juju shitstorm”

  • dbanks976 says:

    Well said, that man. We have to work together and not wait for others – like politicians – to begin the process.

  • francolorenzani says:

    Excellent piece,aptly summed up objectively the bigger SA ” shitstorm” we going thru thnx to a spineless leader & corrupt Anc

  • Dave Jacobs says:

    Your article definitely provides a thorough critique of South Africa’s current socio-political climate and the pervasive violence under ANC rule. However, I think it’s essential to distinguish between satire that seeks to provoke thought and songs or statements that incite violence or propagate harmful stereotypes. Satire, when done correctly, can highlight issues and promote discussions that may otherwise be ignored. However, it’s crucial to approach such a sensitive topic with care and respect for the trauma experienced by individuals and communities. There’s a delicate balance to maintain, and perhaps, in this case, that equilibrium was disrupted.

  • Elizabeth Lightfoot says:

    Let’s make sure the EFF becomes irrelevant in the next election. Working together and breaking down barriers between us is the only way to unity and rebuilding our country. Just the words “white genocide” bring fear and loathing. Words are powerful and we need to resist concepts that divide and conquer. Thank you for setting the record straight Mr. Poplak.

  • Bert Kir says:

    “X’ed” ?

    If you MUST try to be cute, at least TRY to get it right …

    “Xsê’d”…. Dêmmit

  • Jennifer D says:

    Solidarity across class, race etc has happened where?

  • louis viljee says:

    Viva Richard! Viva! It’s way past time that we all recognise the opportunists and failures and recognise that it’s only us ourselves who can lift ourselves out of the mess.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I agree with the writer in general terms. However, as a white person, I have NO right to create a song that would suggest “Kill the blacks, kill the natives, the same should apply to Malema and his xenophobic followers. The tension in this country is high enough and does not need any further acceleration.

  • Alley Cat says:

    Richard you say “The ANC and their ancillaries own this problem.” REALLY? I think not, You should have said The ANC and their ancillaries SHOULD own this problem.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Who is funding the EFF. When we know that answer, we will know everything!

  • Niki Moore says:

    What is the point of this? A mea culpa? Just imagine if Poplak had been flippant about the murders of black people. He would have been summarily fired, his home address published on social media, the HRC would be investigating, the EFF would be marching towards his house with the intention of burning it down, and not even the most craven apology would have been accepted….. yep – attack white people, they are, after all, fair game. And while black people are murdered in greater numbers than whites (which is a statistical tragedy), the brutality of torture against white victims is disproportionate. That is why I found his, and de Vos’s, flippancy so hard to stomach.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Great article. Great lack of forced satire. One thought… Count the articles in DM, N24 and others on the EFF and count the articles on the other opposition parties. The EFF get way more in proportion. The DA do not make racial threats so do not get the votes?? When last did Poplak write a positive article on one of the main opposition parties? He comes across as anti DA and ignores the rest, is that satire?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Great article.
    It appears that one thing Apartheid did was give solidarity to the disenfranchised even though “faction fights” did occasionally enter the fray!
    “ Killing the Boer” with a grain embargo from one of the worlds biggest supplier is not the answer, so may I suggest jm comes up with another slogan for his hate speech!
    As for solidarity across the board – a lovely ambition but I fear unobtainable…I have yet to see any country on the planet without internal conflict in one form or another be it race, religion, culture or economic. We all thought that Madeba had the answer to solidarity and repair which was great whilst it lasted but never was or is sustainable due to the human condition!
    The best we can hope for is a stable, incorruptible economy that can create jobs, feed the people and give the disenfranchised ( of all races, religions and cultures) some dignity and something to fight for.

  • Bruce Q says:

    Perhaps it’s way past time that the good, long-suffering people of this beautiful country compose a song that calls for the corrupt, hypocritical, immoral and simply greedy politicians of South Africa to be hung, drawn and quartered, their heads placed gently on stakes and their body parts used to encourage the return of the great white sharks.
    It should be a happy little ditty with a catchy tune.
    Something we could all happily hum while putting our children to sleep.
    These miscreants have turned this silk purse of South Africa into a rotting sow’s ear (with apologies to the pigs). It’s time they had the tables turned on them.
    The ANC must go!

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    As someone who helped clean up after Rwanda, Burundi, Darfur, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, I have to say there is no wine or taste that has ever gone well with genocide. Those who have lived or worked through the impact of genocide never forget its putrid smell, the acrid taste, and the sting of eyes from deathly pire fumes permeating the air. Don’t mock, Richard, what some amongst your readership know, up close and personal, and who drink wine in order to forget. To forget mainly the horrors inflicted by previous little fat men in uniforms, with wealth and half a following to milk the vulnerabilities of the isolated and fragile with damning rhetoric that may one day be condemned for the porn that it is. I pray so. And I wish you, Richard and your crew at DM wisdom and strength and tact as you skillfully wield words that provoke, stir, and lampoon the ridiculous. For that is seemingly what we and our beloved country, with the help of some senior politicians, have become: Ridiculous!

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      THIS IS probably the most powerful comment that I have seen on DM.

    • Ritey roo roo says:

      Yes, I cannot comprehend any of these commentators who think this is acceptable in ANY circumstances and actually applauding this miserable sort-of apology

    • Ritey roo roo says:

      Too late, Dick. That Tweet is not in the least bit humorous. Shocking that you should even have thought it was. I see you’re getting destroyed on Twitter just as you deserve.

    • Johnny Kessel says:

      Bravo!

    • Karin Swart says:

      The tweet reminds me of the thoughtless sentence that the Out To Lunch columnist of the Sunday Times (I forget his name) made years ago, which caused his column to be cancelled very soon after. It went something along the lines of “Blacks don’t feel the loss of a child as badly, they just make another one”. Although I was a big fan of this columnist’s writing, I could not stomach such casual callousness.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Richard, you make fine points, but violence, and our national propensity to violence, the treasonous violence of July 2021, fuelled, managed and driven by the RET ANC faction, aided by the EFF, are very real, and your satirical comment, whilst clever, is decidedly unhelpful, even though you would counter that black humour is better than no humour at all..

    What we can agree on is that we are living in bleak and dangerous times, with every social and economic indicator, trending and pointing in the wrong direction.

  • Ritchie Morris says:

    Well said and the last 2 sentences are 100% spot on. And absolutely – home is home. We need less moaning and negativity and more efforts made to build bridges across the various divides that exist in our country.

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    Multiparty democracies include extreme views on the right and on the left. You do not have to like what others say nor others have to like what you say, that does not detract from the fact that freedom of expression is the underlying common denominator. The EFF is a necessity in SA politics and whilst their discourse is sterile of plausible arguments they do play a balancing act and remind us of what lies ahead if the extension of economic benefits is not accelerated. SA has lost focus and sometimes a strong jolt is required to bring matters back on point. If the boat is sinking it matters not who made the holes, what matters is that all bail otherwise everyone sinks. Unfortunately opposition politics is way too focused on apportioning blame rather than finding solutions and whilst they continue to focus on this they will but remain in opposition and not in government.

  • Greg Deegan says:

    Poplak loves to shock and/or elicit titters from the politically naive.
    This time he’s come unstuck.
    Methinks the insensitive so called “satirist” protesteth too much!

  • Graeme J says:

    @Richard: Can you just imagine if instead of tweeting, “What wine pairs best with white genocide?”, you had posted “What wine pairs best with black genocide?” You wouldn’t do it, would you?

    You can explain it any way you want to. What you said wasn’t satyrical, it was just crass.

    • Vas K says:

      Quite agree. It would be interesting to see what would happen if he had the guts to do it. If not jail time, he would be cancelled and probably torn to pieces by offendees.

  • Johan Buys says:

    the fastest way to loadshed the negative effect of Malema and Mbalula is to slash their media coverage.

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    Yeah and this is all the same rhetoric that was trotted out about Hitler and Mussolini.

  • Donald bemax says:

    I disagree with the comment that Malema has” nothing to lose and everything to gain”. well documented and flagrant breaking of the law..i.e. looting of VBS, Tax evasion et etc should, by now have lost him his freedom by gaining him some jail time.

  • William Dryden says:

    Good article, really puts things in perspective.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Some introspection required before you publish your articles Richard? The cross section of comments you have elicited would indicate that your balancing act needs some polishing. However, the freedom to say what is important is essential to counteract the utter lack of honesty and ethical behaviour in the our disastrous ANC government. As for Malema and his mob, we should never forget that a deranged lunatic like Idi Amin was actually able (via a coup) to ascend the seat of ultimate power in Uganda and remain there some 8 years.

  • J dW says:

    Richard, love your work, your wit, and your contribution to journalism. But “that” tweet does not require context, it requires an unreserved apology.

    • Henry Henry says:

      Poplak mocked farm murders. And wanted to celebrate it with wine.
      That’s how the tweet was read and received. As disgusting.

      Yet lo and behold – in this piece he calls for unity…(ironically, and belatedly.)
      WTAF? He actually really thinks people are stupid. They’ve seen through him.

  • André Pelser says:

    I agree with the “not white genocide” view, but Malema’s hate speech is unacceptable, no satire can ignore this fundamental trampling of a race that, despite apartheid, makes an invaluable contribution to Mzansi.
    Let’s for a moment ignore race and focus on the importance of the farming community for the wellbeing of all South Africans.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    I agree with what you’ve written here, but that tweet… It was stupid to crack that one on Twitter. You made a rod for your own back.

  • Gail Kelly says:

    Two intellectuals in their tweets mocking the deeply painful experience of others disgusts me. Labelling their own twitter hunt for “likes” as satire or dark humour is dishonest. They should reflect and have the honesty to recognize their poorly judged self indulgence.

  • Arved von Oettingen says:

    I watched a video clip, on JJ Thabane’s show, of Mbeki at pains to make logic out of the illogical explanation that “Kill the Boer” is just a harmless traditional chant that no one would ever take literally, let alone act upon, with JJ in full agreement. Well, a pretty ugly insurrection in July 2021 was sparked by a handful of arbitrary people on Twitter, let alone a prominent politician in front of a 100,000 of his ardent followers. Perhaps jm is not as influential as he thinks if no one is going to act on his rhetoric. That would fit in with his “much said but little done” m o.

  • Theresa Avenant says:

    Brilliant as usual Richard, and thank you. You are a tonic!

  • Chris Berens says:

    The best pairing, well evidenced here, has to be a little white w(h)ine. Thank you for the can of worms on the side.

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    Ismael Lagardien’s “choreographed rise of Julius Malema and the politics of hate, violence and exhortations to kill” is much more relevant. This view should be compared to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler — which lead to WW2 and the death of millions

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Louis XVIII Said much the same as you in 1789! Look what happened then. Tsar Nicholas also?
    Never is one hell of a long time and, in my personal experience, July 21 could very easily have erupted had leadership and planning been more effective.
    Keep your weapons handy and your morale high, WE SHALL OVERCOME

  • Nwabisa Muthige says:

    Thank you! This has been so well said!!

  • Jonathan Hemson says:

    Well said Richard – the criticisms in the main come from those who want something other than the only viable approach – which is that we all look after all of us.

  • Jo Vander says:

    Your initial response should rather have been along the lines of your apology blog, and not an effort to be hurtful to those who have been affected by excessive cruelty and violence in our rural areas. Your initial flippant response has, once again, left me with a suspicion that you have more bigotries hidden behind the commercial imperatives of your publication. These days it seems to me that you like many other journalists are deliberately avoiding balanced reporting on issues in fear of it tainting your politically correct profile. A little honest up-stream swimming on many of the topical issues of the day will do wonders for your credibility, and that of your publication.

  • John Stephens says:

    There is certainly no white genocide going on. Farm murders are terrible, but they form part of a greater pattern of extreme and extended violence in our broken society. Genocide is “the systematic and widespread extermination or attempted extermination of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group.” There is no system to these murders. There is no great political conspiracy. The “genocide” narrative only serves those who wish to gain some political advantage by raising group antagonisms. Same playbook as Julius.

  • Jan Malan says:

    I agree with Richard Poplak, what is wrong with satire. Sometimes I hate social media. You get lambasted for the slightest thing.

  • Chris VZ says:

    The fact that you had to follow up your Tweet (“What wine pairs best with white genocide?) with a lengthy explanation simply portrays your inability to read the room on this highly emotive subject. It was in extremely poor taste and does no favours to DM. As for Pierre de Vos’s response about “Allesverloren blanc de blanc”, he is simply a coward who doesn’t allow responses to his smarmy remarks.

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    LEST WE FORGET…

    Recent Black and white Occupants of South Africa made a very good attempt at committing genocide against the original, primevel, occupants of our land – the Koi-San (used to be called the derogitary names such as”Bushmen” or “Hottentots”). Black and white People were responsible. San people were shot or killed on sight and and preferably, murdered in totality at their modest isolated villages in the vastness of the veld or the desert. A fun sport in those days was to go out hunting San on horse back with rifles… Another sport was to go out and annialate a group San at a previously identified village with spears and shields – women and children were not spared. If they looked capable enough they were taken as slaves or concubines.

    History if full of tales of Mankind’s inhumanity to mankind. Oh, how ashamed I am for our ancesters. And how I feel we should all apologise to the Koi-San. Not that itwould bring them back again, but that this type attrocity should never happen again. Any attempt at committing genocide against anyone should never again be committed in this beautiful land.

  • william hofmeyr says:

    Why are there no, or very very few, intelligent people like this in government?

  • normfam42 says:

    Guys like Malema get off on riling up the whole country, and those minorities he and his grabastic ilk are so jealous of. So he likes to provoke you, until they bring out that ugly side, and then play the old victim/race card, when you go there.

  • James van der Westhuizen says:

    I’m not sure if this was meant as an apology or a further put down to the many folks in rural areas who live in constant fear of gruesome attack, but it’s truly callous and lacking in empathy. Every segment of our society have the right to be heard and for their lived experience to be acknowledged. Regardless of race many folks in the farming community feel threatened and the constant flow of horrific attacks should be sobering rather than the topic of sarcastic comments. I’m a loyal DM subscriber but this episode has left me feeling deeply ambivalent about continuing my support of you. Just like folks in townships bearing the brunt of violence and deprivation deserve our respect and protection so so hard working rural families who’s lived experience is one of terror. I am saddened and ashamed of this chapter in the proud history of DM.

  • glynis hyslop says:

    Cerebral article Richard.. far above the maddening crowd.

  • Ian McClure says:

    The tweet is deeply sociopathic in any bodies (pun) language.
    The usual obvious follow-up discourse is to save your job.
    I hope you don’t.

  • Darrin McComb says:

    Agreed there is no “white genocide” currently according to a strict definition of “genocide”. What I would say is that it would be highly irresponsible in a racially polarized society to in any way foster racialised thoughts and chants which will inevitably shape the psyche of the class embracing them. As Andrew Fletcher famously said, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” Ideas have consequences and the songs a nation or faction embrace will shape their view of reality.

    But to answer the question of wine cultivar, I would go with a fortified Chardonnay from Trump winery in Virginia. Implicit in the choice is the middle finger shown to the news media outlets but there would also be a subtle lingering flavour of the same populist retoric embraced my Malema and co left on the palate. If one were to close ones eyes in a blind tasting I suspect it would be hard to discern between the two.

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