President Jacob Zuma’s appeal to political leaders to think first before making statements that could inflame racial tensions included ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, the presidency has said.
Presidential spokesman Vincent Magwenya said yesterday that Zuma’s call for “responsible leadership” in the wake of the murder of Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging leader Eugene Terre’Blanche applied “to everyone, to Julius Malema and the AWB alike”. In an interview recorded at his Nkandla homestead and broadcast during prime-time on SABC TV last night, Zuma appealed to political leaders of all formations, including civil society bodies, to refrain from making inflammatory statements.
His call came as political parties and Afrikaner civil groups warned of spiralling racial tensions. All political leaders needed to be responsible for the statements they made in a country that was “working hard to reconcile”, Zuma said.
“This happening must indeed say to us as leaders we need to think before we make statements in public that might be misunderstood to be encouraging the opposite of what we are trying to do – build our new nation. “It is important that all leaders, from political formations and non-governmental organisations – unite for the call for calm in this country.” Expressing his condolences to the Terre’Blanche family, his friends and AWB comrades, Zuma said the killing was “shocking” and “a sad moment for the country”. “Those who have been close to Mr Terre’Blanche must be feeling pain, but we have to exercise our leadership responsibility to make this country unite in calling for a stop (to) violence,” he said.
“Violent crime must be fought and defeated by all of us,” he said, condemning the murder as a “cowardly act”. Terre’Blanche’s murder was “not acceptable”. The legal process should be allowed to run its course and those responsible for “this terrible act must face the law and the punishment that they deserve”. “We all should unite against violent crime and in due course we will know what is it that led to this terrible action,” Zuma said.
Earlier yesterday, Zuma personally conveyed his condolences to Terre’Blanche’s daughter Beya and said he also wanted to speak to her mother, Martie. “It’s a moment for us to call for calm and allow the police and other organs of state to investigate what caused this, so that the perpetrators of this act will be taken to court,” Zuma said. Magwenya said Zuma’s appeal was directed at all leaders, including ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who has been accused of stoking racial tension by repeatedly singing the struggle-era song, Shoot the Boer.
Magwenya said there was no evidence linking the song to the murder of Terre’Blanche. “As a country we need to come together to say ‘nothing will take us back.’ We should not allow this thing to divide and polarise us,” said Magwenya. ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party was “extremely shocked” at the murder and condemned the attack on Terre’Blanche.
“What we heard is that this was a wage dispute (with his two farm workers). People should speak the truth and not be opportunistic on the death of a leader. We were never opportunistic in the death of our leaders,” said Mthembu, referring to the murder by right-wingers of SACP leader Chris Hani on the Easter weekend of April 10, 1993.
Former state president FW de Klerk also called for calm, saying he was shocked and outraged at the AWB leader’s killing. De Klerk last month wrote to Zuma urging him to step in and moderate the “increasingly inflammatory tone of the national debate”. In his letter De Klerk singled out the role he believed the Shoot the Boer song was playing, warning that the actions and statements of the party’s youth league were being exploited by right-wing extremists to heighten inter-racial tensions.
This was beginning to create a volatile atmosphere in which any “intemperate statement or action might spark an unfortunate incident”. “It remains to be seen whether the Shoot the Boer song played a role in Mr Terre’Blanche’s murder.
“However, at the very least it may have contributed to an atmosphere in which impressionable young black farm workers might have felt that their actions were somehow justified,” De Klerk said. Malema had promised to continue to sing the Shoot the Boer song in defiance of the courts and was further exacerbating tensions “by openly supporting the anti-white racism of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF”. De Klerk supported calls by Zuma and other leaders for calm and said the law should now be allowed to take its course. DA leader Helen Zille said this incident would “inevitably polarise and inflame passions in South Africa at a time when tensions are already running high”. Leaders needed to stand together to hold the middle ground, she said.
“The singing of songs such as Shoot the Boer creates a climate in which violence is seen as an appropriate response to problems, whether personal or collective. These words have been correctly described by the courts as hate speech,” said Zille. Zille urged South Africans to reject incitement to and threats of violence. Cope spokesman Phillip Dexter called for an end to speculation over the motive for the murder. “We call on all political leaders to refrain from making inflammatory statements that may lead to undesirable responses to this incident,” he said.
He called on the ANC to reflect on statements made by its leaders, which “rolled back progress made in building racial reconciliation and political tolerance.” IFP general secretary Musa Zondi urged the ANC to abandon the Shoot the Boer song “in the name of peace”. “Whether the murder of Mr Terre’Blanche is connected to this song or not, it makes it all the more urgent for Mr Malema and the ANC to abandon it. “Some mindless people could take it literally and escalate intra-racial hatred and murder of farmers,” said Zondi. Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald urged Zuma to condemn the singing of the song because it incited violence.
The law should be allowed to take its course in dealing with the suspects arrested in connection with the murder, he said. PAC general secretary Mfanelo Skwatsha said the party had been scheduled to share a platform with Terre’Blanche on April 20 in a seminar on land restitution. He said the AWB leader had spent his entire life fuelling racial hatred in the country. “It’s unfortunate that the life of white people is valued more than black people.
Any death is unfortunate,” he said. ID secretary-general Haniff Hoosen said it seemed unlikely that there was a connection between the ANC song Ayesaba Amagwala, Dubul’ ibhunu (the cowards are afraid, shoot the boer) and Terre’Blanche’s murder. He said the party was not surprised by the AWB’s threat to avenge their leader’s slaying because the organisation had a long history of racial violence.
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