This Article is From Aug 07, 2023

Outrage Over South African Politician Julius Malema's Racist Comments

South Africa's Julius Malema used a decades old song that dates back to the struggle against apartheid.

Outrage Over South African Politician Julius Malema's Racist Comments

Julis Malema, leader of South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters, addressing party workers.

A South African politician's racist comments have sparked a huge uproar online as well as in several parts of the world. Julis Malema, the leader of far-left South African political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), called for killing the white farmers - with the chant "Kill the Boer" - while celebrating its 10th anniversary. The video of Mr Malema, dressed in his trademark red beret, appeared on social media and reignited debate about a controversial decades-old song that dates back to the struggle against apartheid.

What happened at the EFF rally?

Mr Malema, 42, addressed the jubilant workers of EFF at the rally on July 29. Party workers, in a show of force, packed the venue - a stadium in Johannesburg - with 90,000 supporters all dressed in the party's red colour to mark its 10th anniversary.

Mr Malema received rock-star treatment from jubilant fans who delivered the address amid a blast of red and gold confetti.

The remarks were made as South African parties position themselves for national elections in 2024.

Polls suggest the ruling African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of white rule in 1994, could see its vote drop below 50 per cent, battered by discontent at corruption, power cuts and entrenched unemployment, according to news agency AFP.

Mr Malema has said that EFF, South Africa's third largest party, was open to joining a coalition with the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa's biggest opposition party, which is captaining a grouping including six smaller parties.

The history of the song

Forbes said in a report that "Kill the Boer" song dates back to racially divided South Africa's apartheid system of race-based segregation under white minority rule, which ended in the early 1990s.

The "Boer" in the song is a reference to white South African farmers who are descendants of European colonists.

In the current context, University of Johannesburg political instructor Bongani Ngqulunga and Nelson Mandela University historian Nomalanga Mkhize told New York Times (NYT) that the song is not intended to incite violence against the country's largely-white landowners, but rather to mobilise support against apartheid and discrimination.

However, it has generated controversy in the past.

The reactions

The DA has slammed Mr Malema, accusing him of inciting ethnic violence. "This is a man who is determined to ignite... civil war," said party leader John Steenhuisen.

He described the firebrand politician as a "bloodthirsty tyrant" bent on inciting "mass murder".

The DA would file a complaint against him with the UN Human Rights Council and was considering further legal action.

Mr Malema's comments also attracted the attention of some Americans on the far right, who said it was a call to violence. The US reactions in the US started after Elon Musk, South Africa-born billionaire, expressed his concern.

"They are openly pushing for genocide of white people in South Africa," Mr Musk, who is white, said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Julius Malema defends his remarks

The South African politician - who is black - defended the song in a press conference and attacked Mr Musk, saying he "looks like an illiterate" and the "only thing that protects him is his white skin".

Singing "Kill the Boer" has long been a thorny issue in South Africa.

One of a number of struggle songs, political anthems that were an important part of the fight to end white-rule, it is considered inflammatory by some due to its violent lyrics.

However, The EFF denies the chant constitutes a direct call for violence.