Over the last week, Black First Land First (BLF) has issued multiple threats of violence, including calls for the murder of white people by its leader Andile Mngxitama over the weekend, and threats yesterday that it will wage an “arm struggle” if action is taken against it by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
On Wednesday 5 December, members of the BLF political party staged a protest outside the Johannesburg High Court. According to the Johannesburg Bar Council, a group of BLF supporters followed a female advocate into the court building after she had an argument with a court security guard about the protest. They cornered her and punched her repeatedly in the face. They noted that “white blood would be spilt”. The BLF leadership subsequently claimed responsibility for the assault, noting its support for the incident which was described as a defence against racism. They were unable to furnish details of the incident.
Sonke strongly condemns this violent attack and racial incitement, particularly against the background of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and the threat posed to the legal profession. Sonke supports the Johannesburg Bar Association’s call for accountability and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Media reports indicate that over the weekend BLF leader Mngxitama urged BLF supporters at a rally in Potchefstroom to kill five white people for every black person that dies because of taxi violence. Mngxitama is reported to have said “You kill one of us, we will kill five of you. We will kill their children, we will kill their women, we will kill anything that we find on our way”.
Media reports indicate that yesterday BLF ratcheted up the rhetoric yet again and threatened “arm struggle” if the Independent Electoral Commission deregisters the party because of its incitements to violence and its use of hate speech. To date the IEC has not acted on Section 16(1)(c) of the Electoral Commission Act prohibition of political party incitement of violence or discrimination and has not yet prohibited the BLF from participating in campaigning for the 2019 elections.
Sonke also expresses its growing concern about the escalation of violent political rhetoric and posturing more generally, including reported calls and threats of violence by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Julius Malema against Minister Pravin Gordhan at the Zondo Commission, threats and intimidation of the media by the EFF, and the use of actual violence within Parliament.
Sonke’s complaints to the Parliamentary Ethics Commission about threats of violence by Julius Malema, Corne Mulder and Collen Maine during the 2017 Local Government Elections have still not lead to any action.
In a country with alarmingly high rates of interpersonal violence and levels of sexual and domestic violence that are amongst the highest of any country in the world, public officials and political leaders must convey through their words and actions that violence is unacceptable. Our political institutions – including the IEC and the Parliamentary Ethics Committee – must similarly act on their mandates to sanction the use of violence by political parties and their leadership.