First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Quo vadis, South Africa? Let’s retire hate and embrac...

Defend Truth


Quo vadis, South Africa? Let’s retire hate and embrace a new social paradigm


Luzuko Jacobs is a PhD candidate at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

The AfriForum litigation against Julius Malema is not about a song, a dance or a spent cartridge. What we are seeing at the courts is a misappropriation of the legitimacy of the institution to ballast a well-thought-out strategy for mind management of a narrative. Malema is repurposing the platform for his own populist agenda, pushing the continuing relegation of black people to the zones of endless, daily violence through dispossession and economic oppression as tactical response. We need a different conversation and a new social paradigm.

In the past few years I have undertaken a heart-wrenching study of the floundering national project to exorcise South Africa’s dual demons of inequality and interracial hatred that have rendered it a gruesome crime scene for most of its citizens for centuries.

I analysed different discourses, including AfriForum’s, on land expropriation without compensation, probing various understandings of what land and land theft mean to different South Africans. I sought to understand what their place is in the creation of another “new” South Africa, a humane South Africa for all.

Discourse has real social and economic consequences. It shapes attitudes and actions and can be an important indicator of a people’s psyche and a nation’s impulse to free itself or not, from man-made hate and social strife such as that which shapes South Africa’s core being.

The study’s findings are disturbing and ominous. They reveal strong and hidden nuts and bolts that hold in place the country’s anti-ethical economic and political structures in which most people’s lives continue to resemble an incomplete death.

This is what colonialism and apartheid designed. This is what the liberation project was meant, and dismally failed, to remedy.

Numerous indices in many reports warn that inequality is out of control. The damnation of black people that was instantiated through colonisation has worsened under democracy. Only 10% of the country’s wealth is in the hands of members of the black majority, mainly held by the tiny, elitist, corrupt and interconnected black economic empowerment society.

My research travails came flooding back as the staged ideological zero-sum gamesmanship continued at the courts starting at the High Court in Johannesburg, where AfriForum sought to compel EFF leader Julius Malema to apologise for singing the song, Dubul’iBhunu. The charade is now in East London, ostensibly about Malema’s firing of live ammunition at a political rally.

This is not about the song, dance or a spent cartridge. This is about a people, a country and their futures. This is about (in)equality.

What we are seeing at the courts is a misappropriation of the legitimacy of the institution to ballast a well thought-out strategy for mind management of a narrative.

The genesis of the strategy is the strong notion that AfriForum proposed on local and global platforms that framed the land expropriation policy as a criminal act of vengeance and extermination authored by Malema and the EFF.

The contrived court platform is meant to support this framing and to generate more explanatory concepts to deepen the understanding of what is “wrong” with land expropriation (criminality), identify who is to blame (Malema and radicalism), and what needs to be done (laagering, for resistance).

Crime as a social phenomenon is eminently political. Its presentation outside of any framework of a social process appeals to established historical understandings. A sedimented mind-set precasts black people as inchoate criminals.

Mind management worked perfectly to justify apartheid, where weighty contextual factors that shaped the daily social and economic stresses of black people were effaced from dominant discourses. That is why the venerated Madiba was once persona non grata in the land of his birth.

AfriForum and Malema know this.

AfriForum seeks to highlight a criminal emergency wrought upon white people, and white farmers in particular, by so-called marauding black savages intent on framing the possibility of reordering the country’s social and economic institutions though land expropriation without compensation.

Malema is repurposing their platform for his own populist agenda, pushing the continuing relegation of black people to the zones of endless, daily violence through dispossession and economic oppression as tactical response.

He is recasting AfriForum as immoral actors at the scene of their historic and continuing crime.

Both are winning at their own game and South Africa is losing, badly.

Fear-mongering is at the heart of AfriForum’s emergent and opportunistic strategy against equality between black and white. It relies on the production and reproduction of racial anxieties and antagonisms to create a climate of fear and moral panic.

This provides contours for AfriForum’s discourse of hate and racial superiority that is based on eroding empathy between people who are fragmented through ongoing differentiation.

Fearmongering in AfriForum’s narratives is reflected in alarmist themes and schemas such as “anti-white agenda”, “present danger”, “calamity”, “rooigevaar”, “Afro-pessimism” and “farm murders”, with Malema as the rallier to unsettle white people at a gut level.

In the frame, land expropriation is de-linked from economic redistribution and firmly connected to race-inspired and polarising understandings of social circumstances.

The crime of murder attracts wide visibility and resonates with “public opinion” to establish a climate of local and global opinion that justifies urgent action by government and international capital. Afriforum’s strategists are not unaware of the multiple, dynamic axes of power in the New World.

AfriForum’s understanding of “farm killings” is however very narrow, varying significantly from that of the South African Police Service, and is adapted to its agenda of racialisation.  

The lobby group opportunistically “creates” the court platform to foment South Africa’s racist consciousness and to polarise people to sustain itself ideologically and financially. The productive fear market that it operates positions it as the protective shield for terrified white people against the threat posed by black people.

Without the negative ethno-nationalism, and an impenetrable laager mentality about the vulnerability of white people and the evil ways of a black enemy, its hegemony immediately ceases, opening new possibilities for a people trapped in hate and deepening social strife.

Racism is bad faith. It requires constant erosion of the humanity of the victim, and valorisation of the perpetrator through discourses that maintain ongoing racist socialisation.

Racism in AfriForum’s discourse manifests as both moral and identity performance, an identifying, explanatory and mobilising form of action that is performed by its leaders, and engaged by discourse-hypnotised followers.

By constructing themselves, their followers, and their enemy in racist terms, AfriForum reinforces the solidarity of the white community, and the “black criminals” stand out as identifiable objects of disdain in social conversations.

The strategy allows AfriForum to claim, on behalf of all white people, the moral high-ground and membership of a moral community of the “unprejudiced” and “oppressed”, in a country of anti-white racial brutality and injustice.

Fear might have begun with colonially constructed discourses about the so-called black savage, but over time, with enough repetition and expansion in discourses such as AfriForum’s, it has become a way of looking at life, carried through generations.

But the spiralling social, economic and moral degeneration in the country is a huge threat to each one of us. We need a different conversation and a new social paradigm. Racism, hate, greed, corruption, and incompetence cannot be part of the urgent re-imagination of our battered humanity. Time is against all of us.

The end-justifies-the-means, utilitarian (un)ethical political culture will bring about an irreversible catastrophe upon our country and condemn us all, and our children, to poverty and strife.

African Christian philosopher, John Mbiti’s classic phrase, “I am, because we are, and since we are therefore I am”, captures a key feature of a new way that puts communitarian good before individual good.

The ashes upon which the AfriForum phoenix is rising, to strengthen the moorings of apartheid past in the present, are still warm.

We have to recalibrate our collective mind-set, maybe stop thinking about what we are against, and start thinking more about what we are for, and how to achieve it. Universal ideals can be created and achieved. Now is the time to develop a new way based on true human solidarity and ethics. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 3

  • South Africa’s history is one of power abuse to benefit the few and abandon the rest. Imperialism and colonialism started it, Apartheid took it up a few levels and the ANC have taken it to new heights with State Capture and cadre deployment. The consequence is mass poverty and steady decline into anarchy where even the privileged few will lose their way of life. The glue that holds society together has been removed. To rescue South Africa, two broad strategies need to be adopted. The first is to deepen democracy throughout political and economic institutions. Changing the electoral system to link people to their representatives and remove control of the President from the inner sanctum of the ruling party is the absolute ‘must’ first step. The second broad strategy is to steer investment into the underdeveloped people and areas of South Africa and convert the burden on South Africa of the mass of people dependent on welfare to a mass of released human energy. Continued focus on trying to attract investment to the developed sector will fail and is already failing. Political parties have failed. The future now lies either in the hands of populism (read anarchy) or the main institutions outside the political arena – business, trade unions, NGO’s and faith groups. They have the power to make it happen.

  • And yet again we have an overly verbose, flowery-worded obfuscation of what is really at the heart of inequality and poverty. Two words: population explosion. Look it up. It’s not that hard.

    Luzuko Jacobs is clearly not a journalist. Just one more propagandist bombarding us with useless rhetoric of failed idealism with the aim of silencing dissent by implying that we should feel guilty about something we have no control over. Pathetic.

  • @Luzuko, I really think the commenters are missing the point of your article, which for me is summed up by your closing paragraph:

    We have to recalibrate our collective mind-set, maybe stop thinking about what we are against, and start thinking more about what we are for, and how to achieve it. Universal ideals can be created and achieved. Now is the time to develop a new way based on true human solidarity and ethics.

    If I am understanding correctly then I completely 100% agree with you.

    I would also like to add that healing begins with introspection, and I would like to issue the following challenges:

    White people
    Stand up and say, hand on heart: I don’t understand at all why people my forebears have condemned to grinding poverty and hopelessness might hate what I represent.

    Black people
    Stand up and say, hand of heart: I know with 100% certainty that our people would have treated white people kindly and with compassion if we had beaten the colonialists. We would never have done the same to them as they did to us.

    It is only if we can accept that we are all fallible and that ultimately we are all people that we can create a platform on which this country – and this world – can grow and prosper.

    Thanks, I hope I got it.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted