EFF feeding romantic myths of violent revolution to youth is dangerous

EFF supporters protest outside the Sandton City Clicks store, in Johannesburg, causing it to close. Clicks caused an outcry across the country on Friday after posting an advert on its website depicting black women's hair as dry and damaged, and white women's hair as fine and flat.
EFF supporters protest outside the Sandton City Clicks store, in Johannesburg, causing it to close. Clicks caused an outcry across the country on Friday after posting an advert on its website depicting black women's hair as dry and damaged, and white women's hair as fine and flat.
Image: THULANE MBELE

There is a paradox in the human condition that I have noticed.

Under conditions of oppression and hardship, human beings are incredibly resilient.

However, under conditions of freedom and comfort, human beings seem to be more fragile and prone to easy grievance.

I say this in the aftermath of the violent rhetoric of the EFF in its response to the Clicks hair racism saga.

The leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, instructed members of his party via social media to “Attack!” and to be prepared to fight to the death over the racist hair advert.

Really? Commanding young black people to be prepared to die over the offence caused by a hair advert? Isimanga! (shocking).

Young EFF followers, who are deeply socialised and connected into the world of social media, defended their leader, the alleged petrol bombing and vandalism of some shops and also tried to explain away the shoving around of a female journalist by male EFF members — all in the name of “black hair dignity”.

As this unfolded, I thought about how reluctantly and thoughtfully the liberation movements took up violence when they faced the highly militarised apartheid regime.

Within the ANC-led liberation movements, it was understood that the option of violence required the utmost discipline and ethics.

Late ANC president Oliver Tambo was a strong moral guiding force, who kept watch over the soul of the movement as it undertook the armed struggle.

This was by no means an easy task, but for Tambo, it was imperative that those fighting for freedom not be transformed into monsters themselves by the violence of their freedom fight.

He is often quoted as saying: “We do not take our morality from the enemy.”

This is one of the reasons why the liberation forces had to call the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to order when she began to openly call for necklacing of collaborators as the apartheid regime’s assaults intensified in townships.

Holding together the soul of the movement under those extraordinarily difficult moments made the ANC what it was then, and gave the struggle of black South Africans a huge moral authority across the world.

Two decades into democracy, however, we see a younger generation, which while rightly angered by racism, is unable to weigh up the consequences of its tactics for both society and political movements.

Really? Commanding young black people to be prepared to die over the offence caused by a hair advert? Isimanga! (shocking)

Even though they are not living under the jackboot conditions of repression, EFF members posted online about ending racism by “any means necessary”.

Really? Any means? Who shall carry out those “any means” and who shall be held accountable when things go wrong because of those means?

But who can blame the young?  

Perhaps it is because too many EFF members do not have a working memory of the kind of civil war that unfolded in KwaZulu-Natal and hostels and townships of Johannesburg in the early 1990s when predominantly members of the IFP and ANC were engaged in deadly battles.

Many people died in the process and others were severely injured.

Anyone who lived through the hell that was the 1990s civil war, will know how easy it is to call for violence and how hard it is to call it off.

The late former president Nelson Mandela realised this. It was one of his most courageous acts of leadership to call on young militants to throw their weapons into the sea.

Today, we need to impress upon this new generation of young black people that something can be offensive without being oppressive. Our responses need to be proportionate to the act.

Protest yes, attack, no.

As black people we must also stop feeding romantic myths of violent revolution to our young.

Any grown adult who has lived long enough on this planet knows that violence begets violence.

For all the fighting talk, the EFF delivered a Pyrrhic victory. The capitalists who own Clicks will just adjust their adverts and keep their stock options.

But we, we have taught our young people absolutely nothing about how to develop thick skins, discipline and mental fortitude required to build our own lasting economic freedom.



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