Racial Tensions Posing A Threat For South African Stability

Over the past week, racial tensions have reignited across South Africa with nationwide #BlackMonday protests. The protestors, dressed in black and mobilized across motorways and major roads, protested the South African government’s response to “farm murders.” The protests, led by a group named “Genoeg is Genoeg” (“Enough is Enough”) are the new face of a not-so-new problem in South Africa: the rise of violent crime facing white commercial farmers in the country. The protests feature members carrying white crosses, holding placards reading “Don’t kill the hand that feeds you,” and waving apartheid-era South African flags.

The incredibly divisive issue has seen mixed responses from the South African community. The local white South African representative group Afriforum told Al Jazeera that the past weeks’ murders took the 2017 death toll of farmers to 71 and argued that “the frequency of the murders, the unique levels of brutality and the role farmers play in the country mean that they need more protection.”

On the other hand, however, Gareth Newham the head of the governance, crime and justice division at the South African Institute for Security Studies argues that there is a wider political issue at play here: the decline of faith in the countries criminal justice system. Newham argued that “they [White South African farmers] think it’s only them and this is a mistake. Their concerns are serious but they need to appreciate it is a national issue…If you want to ascertain through statistics who are the most likely to be murdered in South Africa, then those are young black males.” This opinion was seconded by Zwakele Mncwango, a leader of local group DA KZN, who told the South African paper IOL that “the problem starts when we classify issues across racial lines. Farm employees are also affected by farm attacks so the focus should not be on farm owners alone. Crime affects everyone.”

The raising of the apartheid-era South African flag, an act that has since been condemned as “despicable and racist” by the African National Congress, poses a larger threat both to the countries peace and stability. The threat of enflaming racial tensions, by calling upon symbols of oppression not only threatens the countries social stability, but also circumvents the finding of a solution to the real issue at play here. A wider lack of faith in government’s ability to protect its citizens regardless of their colour.

This notion of disillusionment with the South African government and criminal justice system has plagued the country for all of its democratic history. In 2012, public confidence in the system was significantly impacted when, following a labour uprising, the police shot and killed 34 strikers at a platinum mine. Following that, a report released in 2014 found that reports of police brutality had increased by 313 percent since 2004. In 2016, the South African Reconciliation Barometer Survey indicated that 6 out of 10 South Africans saw their government as corrupt.

The recent protests pose a very serious threat to stability. The inflammation of racial tensions threatens the peace and well being of the countries citizens regardless of their colour. The country is crippled by police brutality, corruption and disillusionment. To view the rising murders of farmers in isolation prevents the South Africans working together to demand government reform.

Montana Vaisey

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