You can play it down as much as you like, but there’s a kind of nervousness associated with being a white person in this country that goes through palpable peaks and troughs depending on the current social or political climate.
Generally though, I think we’ve learned to just let it be. There’s very little we can actually do to effect political change in this country except stand on the sidelines and shout the odds at no one, and so we go on with our lives and try to make the best of them because it’s easier to live in the moment than it is to live in fear of a future that may or may not come.
‘This country is going to the dogs’ is a sentence I’ve heard more times than I’d care to admit, and yet somehow this country hasn’t gone to the dogs.
The doomsayers have gotten egg on their faces more than once and it is for this reason that I generally steer away from South African politics and try to remain as positive as possible about the future of our beautiful country.
And yet, I couldn’t help but feel a fresh swell of anxiety when my aunt told me yesterday morning that Eugene Terreblanche had been murdered by his farm workers on the outskirts of Ventersdorp on Saturday evening.
The official story is that two of his labourers killed Terreblanche over a wage dispute and that his murder was not politically motivated, but try telling that to the right wing extremists that followed Terreblanche their whole lives and I’d wager you’ll be met with more than a healthy dose of skepticism.
The major problem here is that Terreblanche’s murder follows close on the heels of the charges laid against Julius Malema for leading students at the University of Johannesburg in singing the words, “Shoot the boere [farmers], they are rapists.”
At the time Malema sang those words, I admit I thought very little of them. To me, it was just another ploy on his part to get a few more front page headlines, something which he’s proven alarmingly good at.
But now that Terreblanche is dead, hacked to death by his farm workers, a very powerful message has been sent across South Africa, whether it was intended or not, and the repercussions of that message are what’s making me nervous.
More than anything, I hope this doesn’t escalate. We forget that there are still people that would give their lives for the AWB. They may have been under the woodwork for a long time, but they are still there, armed to the teeth and waiting for an excuse, any excuse, to fight for what they believe in.
It’s a tense situation though because if they don’t fight back in some way, what’s to stop Malema from spreading more hate speech and inciting another incident like this one?
I wish it hadn’t come to this. Sure, Terreblanche was a wretched bigot and was the cause of a lot of racial atrocities and tension in this country, but until now the most overriding public image most of ol’ ET was of him falling off his horse during a parade in Pretoria.
It was a seminal moment in his life because in it he was reduced from the feared and respected leader of one of the most extreme organisations this country has ever seen to a doddering old fart who couldn’t ride a horse if his life depended on it.
And that’s how he should have died, in his sleep, alone on his farm in the middle of nowhere and largely forgotten by the country he sought to control.
Instead, his violent death has instantly elevated him to the status of a martyr for a group of people who are the very worst examples of the old and bigoted mindset that caused this country untold damage in the past.
I strongly believe that South Africa has a rich abundance of intelligent and benevolent people who want nothing more than the very best for this country and everyone living in it, regardless of their colour or creed.
It is them, and not the Malemas of this world, who should be leading us, but they aren’t and who knows if they ever will.
At that same rally where Malema sang “shoot the boerre”, he also told students that Mandela had convinced blacks to forgive, but they should never forget what was done to them.
How sad it is to have the legacy of the greatest political figure this country has ever seen eroded by a careless individual whose words encourage everything Mandela has fought his whole life to prevent.
I don’t have all the answers, I wish I did, but I know one thing for sure, for as long as Malema is allowed to get away with inciting violent and hateful behaviour, we’re playing a political game of Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.
And the first casualty just fell.