So according to ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, the reason the ANC did so badly amongst minority voters in the recent local government elections was to put it in two words: Julius Malema. According to this logic the ANC would have won more minority votes if there was no Julius Malema. How true is this though? An objective analysis of the facts will reveal that minorities have never supported the ANC anyway, even in the heady days of Nelson Mandela and his Rainbow Nation project. So it would appear to be disingenuous for the ANC to blame Malema for its lack of support amongst minorities. South African society is still divided along racial lines when it comes to the big issues, so whether Malema was there or not, the ANC would still not have had much success amongst minority groups. The statement by Mantashe is in line with the stance that has been taken by many who blame Malema for the racial polarisation of South African society and make it seem like everything would be hunky dory if Malema did not exist. Yet again this is completely flawed reasoning. Malema is neither the cause nor the instigator of racial tensions in South Africa. He is merely a reflection of it. All that Malema does with his admittedly unwise and unhelpful statements and conduct, is bring to the fore a tension which is brewing in South African society and which has been kept hidden by the pretense of reconciliation and unity that we have been living under. In fact one could argue, without supporting Malema in any way, that Malema is a necessary evil in South African society because he exposes our hypocrisy. Whilst he makes statements that are openly racist and inflammatory, the truth is that South Africans across the colour line often hold prejudiced views of each other which they only reveal in private conversations whilst pretending to be open-minded and reconciled in public. Malema on the other hand is very open and transparent about his prejudices and what he does is he forces us to confront the reality of our own prejudice. This can be seen whenever there are debates on the different public forums in South Africa, because there you realise how much prejudice there still is in the views that people hold and what informs those views. So it seems like it has become a copout to blame Malema for racial tensions and race issues in South Africa because it allows us to get away with not being introspective, not examining ourselves to see whether we are also not part of the problem. It keeps us from asking the hard questions about the kind of society we truly are. Whether or not Malema existed, we would still be divided and polarised as a society. If it wasn’t Malema it would be someone else we would be blaming whenever racial tensions escalated. I do not dispute that Malema’s actions do not make reconciliation any easier but it is too simplistic to blame him for the escalation of tensions in the past few years. There are many soul-searching questions we need to ask ourselves as individuals and as a country if we are going to truly defeat the demon of racism and race classification. Let’s cut Juju some slack on this one. We assign too much power to him and are unfair to him when we lay the blame at his door for the constant racial tensions and divisions that characterise present-day South African society.
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