Reports from South Africa suggest that racial tensions are at their highest level since 1993. The sentiment comes as an understandable reaction in the context of the recent much-publicised murder of right-wing leader Eugene Terre’Blanche.
Evidence of increase tensions can be seen on both sides of the divide. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema stokes tension by singing apartheid-era songs at rallies, the latest of which is in a press conference that includes the lyrics ‘shoot the farmer’ or ‘boer’ while calls for revenge from the side of Terre’Blanche’s Afrikaner Resistant Movement (AWB) had also been made.
Crucially, a number of leaders have taken action to quell the polarised rhetoric. Some of the most effective calls to calm have come from the ANC’s top leadership, and from Church leaders. President Jacob Zuma, called the event a ‘tragedy’ and called for calm, and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, have banned the singing of the controversial ‘Dubhula Ibhuna (‘kill the boer’) song.
Church leaders such as Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Eddie Makue, have spoken out strongly on the issue. Makgoba made the most effective appeal, calling for ‘reconciling leadership’ to forestall the possible cycle of violence. Top AWB leaders have also renounced the initial call to violence.
The world sees South Africa as an example of reconciliation. If there are political conflicts between its people, those involved in making its politics must provide a positive example so that the country’s people can live up to this ideal.
Therefore, as Eugene Terre’Blanche is laid to rest today, Friday 9th April the country’s leaders should ensure the racial tensions following his death are laid to rest too, to allow South Africa to get on with its enviable role as beacon of reconciliation and hope.