Whose Story Must Be History?

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Whose Story Must Be History?

Ever since Julius Malema was elected president of the ANC Youth League in Mangaung in 2008, he has, through his pronouncements, managed to get the nation talking. Whether he was saying they, the youth of the ANC, would kill for president Jacob Zuma, then the governing party’s deputy, or when he was reported to have said that the lady in the rape trial of Zuma had enjoyed herself because people who are victims of rape don’t ask for taxi fare, something the lady did. So, when Malema sang “Dubul’ ibhunu” while addressing students at the University of Johannesburg, he sure ‘kicked’ the hornet’s nest and prompted Afrikaner civil rights organisation, AfriForum to file a hate speech case against Malema because of his refusal to accede to their requests that the firebrand leader stop singing  the Struggle song.

The case places our Courts in a precarious position because the courts will have to ascertain who of the two opposing parties should be allowed to have ‘their’ way. The fact that the matter at hand deals with the history of the Struggle is accentuates the case. AfriForum says the singing of the song incites violence, one of the limitations set out in the right to Freedom of Expression as contained in Bill of Rights, and cites farm murders as evidence of the dangers of allowing songs like “Dubul’ Ibunu” to be sung. That’s a problematic assertion by AfriForum because they only heard Malema sing the song last year. Let’s say, hypothetically, there’s a link between the singing of “Dubul’ Ibunu” and the killing of farmers, what about all the others years in which farmers were murdered, who takes the blame for that? This case brings to the fore the ignorance of AfriForum’s constituency regarding the history of black people’s struggle for betterment. A struggle that didn’t begin in 1948 when the National Party came into office but one that goes a few centuries deeper. Malema contends that the “bunu” (boer/farmer) in the song isn’t a reference to Afrikaners in a literal sense but rather the political system that guaranteed that they, Afrikaners, were placed in an economically favourable position so as to catch up to their English rivals but that came at the brutal expense of Africans, coloureds and Indians. The ANC also feels that the banning of the song is essentially an attempt at erasing the conditions that inspired the composition of liberation songs. Wouldn’t that amount to historical amnesia, they ask?

It must also be borne in mind that Apartheid was recognized as a crime against humanity. So, any force that served as an antithesis to such a crime can’t be expected to sit by and watch as its legitimate cause, as contained in song and others means, is invalidated and discredited all because a minority of the minority of the population feels uncomfortable. The fact that the song is labelled a struggle song clearly states the era in which was composed and that ought to allay any gripe that ‘aggrieved’ Afrikaners may have because the political struggle that gave rise to those songs is no more. Today the song is a musical repository of sorts. Why didn’t AfriForum request a meeting so that it could be explained to them what the song is about before they ran to the courts? Why seek that a song be banned, will that rescue that social cohesion project that the singing of the song supposedly undermines? Historian and executive director at the South African Democratic Education Trust, Dr Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu says:”These debates (about commemoration) highlight the centrality and importance of History and historical consciousness in our daily discourse as life cannot be lived without a consciousness of a personal past. Also, the commemoration of vivid turning points in our history, including the preservation of liberation struggle songs as part of our oral traditions, cannot be compromised, for these define our social memory in a democratic South Africa.”  Another point that has to be appreciated by AfriForum and company is that regardless of how popular the ANCYL president may be, his words aren’t the gospel truth to the ears of the African people. African people actually have the mental capacity to ascertain right from wrong and aren’t a monolith of people who dress, think, act and look alike regardless of how historical narrative may have (mis)represented them. I’d like to think that not every Afrikaner person is swayed by the right wing separatist thinking of the ‘citizens’ of Orania or that of the late AWB leader, Eugene Terreblance. So, why can’t such a benefit of doubt be extended those who listen to Malema? If there’s anyone who ought to fear for their lives it’s the people living in the most crime ridden sections of South Africa: the townships. Violent crimes don’t only affect white farmers, whose murder statistics are eloquently cited by AfriForum and the Steve Horfmeyers of the world. The innocent killing of any person ought to receive as much outcry and publicity as that of the farmer but it would seem in South Africa the farmer’s life is a synonym for sacrosanct.

What is to be remembered and how it’s to be remembered of any people’s history has never been determined by historical victimizers. Imagine the people of post-Holocaust Germany dictating what’s to be remembered by Jewish people, would Jews still commemorate their historical ordeal even today? Or if it was the British who told the Afrikaner to ban their songs from the Anglo-Boer War, would that be appropriate? I wonder if AfriForum has ever thought how Africans feel about the unchanged streets names like D.F Malan, H.F Verwoerd and John Vorster. As offensive as the names of these streets and buildings may be, they are there to remind us not to dare take the democratic project for granted and then end up with leaders like Verwoerd. We have to visit the Voortreker Monuments, Apartheid Museums, the Robben Islands and various Struggle Heritage Routes and stop presenting occasional laughters at Soccer City/FNB Stadium as reconciliation at work. Politicians being politicians can use any situation to suit their desired end and Malema is no different. We ought to be mindful of such tactics especially since it’s election season. Any party on either side of this debate are capable of using this case as a vote collecting exercise more so because of its sensitivity. The legacy of the Struggle isn’t that of the governing party alone and ought to be guarded by all South Africans. To the writers and poets and artists in general, would you agree that the post-1994 struggle also requires “Dubul’ Ibunu” of its own? The poet Don Mattera is right in saying “memory is the weapon”.

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  • Thank you Khaya!!

    I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of my friends. I think your point about the courts needing to decide who’s history is worth preserving is so important and will set a precedence. I don’t believe the context in which Malema sung the song was as intellectual as you outline but I do think it was a deliberate attempt to hold black south africans as ANC/struggle politics’ hostages and make us feel more loyal towards the ANC. The same goes with Mshini wam. That being said, who is to say they’re not allowed to do that? It is politics after all. The Afriforums of this country are also using this as aa way to get people to move away from struggle politics because it doesn’t serve them in the slightest to have a majority of people who remember. That “Let’s move on” mentality is what they’re tryna push. Politics has never been pretty or transparent (it just tries to appear that way).

    I honestly think it would be a very sad day for our judiciary if the song was banned. And it would have a disastrous ripple effect on what parts of our

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  • nux

    History is indeed a weapon, we find our selves in this compromised position as race for we know very lrss about our history which is been written by the same offended white man well no offence taken for it wouldn’t make a difference at this point.
    But we all know in what context malema sang the song and with all sanity sat forth we know we should not embrace his pespective. He has said a lot of very unintellectual staff for the word interlectual to even thrown aeound in both of you’s verbatim.
    My mom died 4 years back from some kind of internal bleeding h occured somewhere around her bullet wound was which she had june 16 1976, as much as can claim to be healed I can never ignore the imotional phsychological stain it left me with.
    Point is history is never to be forgoten, but well documented by its owners and not to be used to throw empty brained weight with because one can.
    We have much more pressing issues that need our interllect. One can only imagine how the name Julius Malema will go down both the african and afrikanner history books since they exist in duality and struggle for validation

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  • Matt

    K, m not trying to make a righteous point here, but wat’s that saying about 2wrongs? Pls, don’t even try separating Malema, the personality, from that song. U have heard his utterances on white ppl ryt, it would be euphemistic to say they border on racism. I merely made the comparison to show that, HISTORY does not justify WRONG. That song was not written in stone as some gospel truth. Kill for WHAT? So apartheid was overthrown, that validates the song in a democratic context how? If u say it’s freedom of speech, then u have no ryt to be offended by being called a kaffir, if they say they offended, they offended, sing it at your gatherings then. So it’s freedom of speech until u r the offended one? Because kaffir does not mean black, does it? Anyone can justify wrong khaya, sometimes we stand for things spoken by man like they where written by God (not like we respect His words either) Cast in stone. In fact, we r were we r because we’ve been bought by our “Liberaters.”

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  • Khaya

    Gambit,I,obviously,disagree with your assertion.the song has always been there and being sung in the anc circles.just because Julius Malema sang the song it becomes controversial?lets bare in mind that the apartheid state was an illegitimate and inhumane goverment and the Struggle songs by liberation movements cant be compared to the “only good kaffir is a dead kaffir” songs whose source is hatred.the liberation movements sought to give the country a more human face,whether or not thats been achieved is something else.why do afriforum want to ban the song?this is the same afriforum that threatened to stop banking with absa,who sponsor club and national rugby,dared too question the lack of transformation in rugby.what inspired Malema to sing the song is unknown to us and perhaps he had his own agendas but that song doesnt belong to him alone.so dialogue would have been a better route not running to the courts.

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  • Matt

    I’m not saying the past should remain in the past, coz we’d jus repeat the errors of the past (which we actually are) History taught Afrikaner’s slogans such as,”the only good kaffir is a dead kaffir,” should that history be used in their nostalgia? would blacks be comfortable? No where in that slogan do they say blak, but we’d know it was meant for us. So y try be intellectual about the contents of our song wen we know malema neva uses such.. How many young blak africans singing this song are taught that the song is not intended in a bad way or to the aggrieved victims?
    Two faced, thats wat many ppl pro many of our politicians utterances are. While we complian about wat our politicians r doing/saying… Let us not forget, we watered this tree… Seemingly, “the apple…”

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Khaya Sibeko

Football.Bookworm.Cinematic Music. "The greatest contribution from Africans will be to give the world a more human face" Bantu S. Biko,

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  • Thank you Khaya!!

    I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of my friends. I think your point about the courts needing to decide who’s history is worth preserving is so important and will set a precedence. I don’t believe the context in which Malema sung the song was as intellectual as you outline but I do think it was a deliberate attempt to hold black south africans as ANC/struggle politics’ hostages and make us feel more loyal towards the ANC. The same goes with Mshini wam. That being said, who is to say they’re not allowed to do that? It is politics after all. The Afriforums of this country are also using this as aa way to get people to move away from struggle politics because it doesn’t serve them in the slightest to have a majority of people who remember. That “Let’s move on” mentality is what they’re tryna push. Politics has never been pretty or transparent (it just tries to appear that way).

    I honestly think it would be a very sad day for our judiciary if the song was banned. And it would have a disastrous ripple effect on what parts of our

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • nux

    History is indeed a weapon, we find our selves in this compromised position as race for we know very lrss about our history which is been written by the same offended white man well no offence taken for it wouldn’t make a difference at this point.
    But we all know in what context malema sang the song and with all sanity sat forth we know we should not embrace his pespective. He has said a lot of very unintellectual staff for the word interlectual to even thrown aeound in both of you’s verbatim.
    My mom died 4 years back from some kind of internal bleeding h occured somewhere around her bullet wound was which she had june 16 1976, as much as can claim to be healed I can never ignore the imotional phsychological stain it left me with.
    Point is history is never to be forgoten, but well documented by its owners and not to be used to throw empty brained weight with because one can.
    We have much more pressing issues that need our interllect. One can only imagine how the name Julius Malema will go down both the african and afrikanner history books since they exist in duality and struggle for validation

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Matt

    K, m not trying to make a righteous point here, but wat’s that saying about 2wrongs? Pls, don’t even try separating Malema, the personality, from that song. U have heard his utterances on white ppl ryt, it would be euphemistic to say they border on racism. I merely made the comparison to show that, HISTORY does not justify WRONG. That song was not written in stone as some gospel truth. Kill for WHAT? So apartheid was overthrown, that validates the song in a democratic context how? If u say it’s freedom of speech, then u have no ryt to be offended by being called a kaffir, if they say they offended, they offended, sing it at your gatherings then. So it’s freedom of speech until u r the offended one? Because kaffir does not mean black, does it? Anyone can justify wrong khaya, sometimes we stand for things spoken by man like they where written by God (not like we respect His words either) Cast in stone. In fact, we r were we r because we’ve been bought by our “Liberaters.”

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Khaya

    Gambit,I,obviously,disagree with your assertion.the song has always been there and being sung in the anc circles.just because Julius Malema sang the song it becomes controversial?lets bare in mind that the apartheid state was an illegitimate and inhumane goverment and the Struggle songs by liberation movements cant be compared to the “only good kaffir is a dead kaffir” songs whose source is hatred.the liberation movements sought to give the country a more human face,whether or not thats been achieved is something else.why do afriforum want to ban the song?this is the same afriforum that threatened to stop banking with absa,who sponsor club and national rugby,dared too question the lack of transformation in rugby.what inspired Malema to sing the song is unknown to us and perhaps he had his own agendas but that song doesnt belong to him alone.so dialogue would have been a better route not running to the courts.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Matt

    I’m not saying the past should remain in the past, coz we’d jus repeat the errors of the past (which we actually are) History taught Afrikaner’s slogans such as,”the only good kaffir is a dead kaffir,” should that history be used in their nostalgia? would blacks be comfortable? No where in that slogan do they say blak, but we’d know it was meant for us. So y try be intellectual about the contents of our song wen we know malema neva uses such.. How many young blak africans singing this song are taught that the song is not intended in a bad way or to the aggrieved victims?
    Two faced, thats wat many ppl pro many of our politicians utterances are. While we complian about wat our politicians r doing/saying… Let us not forget, we watered this tree… Seemingly, “the apple…”

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