Who really is attempting to rewrite history?
Is the controversial song urging the killing of “Boers” truly part of the ANC’s liberation struggle heritage, or are such claims simply an ingenuous, or perhaps sinister, attempt by the ANC leadership to defend its Youth League leader Julius Malema by distorting the historical truth? Or is the ANC itself trying to rewrite history after it accused the courts of doing so when two successive court rulings found the song to incite racial hatred – findings in line with one already made by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) as long ago as 2003?
These are questions that come to the fore from an investigation into the origins of the controversial song, "Dubula iBhunu".
The truth seems to be that words to the same effect first were chanted in Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) circles in the early 1990s along with their infamous slogan of “one settler, one bullet”. Shortly thereafter, the late ANC youth leader Peter Mokaba borrowed the slogan and began chanting his “kill the Boer, kill the farmer” version in 1993 after the murder of ANC and Communist Party leader, Chris Hani.
In none of the sources on the origins of the song which could be identified, could any indication be found that the song has ever been part of the ANC repertoire of songs during the struggle days.
Although the controversial song sung by Malema is claimed now to be a historical liberation struggle song, it was not included in a 2-CD history and recording of 25 freedom songs released in 2002. Senior ANC and former Umkhonto we Sizwe leaders, including Ronnie Kasrils, Baleka Mbete and Pallo Jordan among others, had collaborated in the production of the collection.
At the time of its release, the CD set was described as a collection of field recordings of songs and chants used in the liberation struggle, complemented by a radio documentary providing an overview of the songs, their history and context in the struggle. These songs were sung in ANC camps, at meetings, mass rallies, demonstrations and other gatherings.
The set, it was said, was designed as an archival and historical document. Nowhere did it mention “kill the Boer, kill the farmer” or “shoot the Boer”.
All indications are that the slogan or chant and the song, or even songs that developed from it, originated with the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
In August 1999, Thomas Ramaila told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he had been a PAC operative and had been influenced by what he called a PAC slogan, namely “kill the farmer, kill the Boer” to kill a farmer, Neville Rudman. Most of Ramaila’s testimony and his amnesty application were rejected, but his reference to the slogan was not.
The slogan/song in any version was used first in circles associated with the PAC in the early 1990s, although the PAC never officially took ownership of it and, after the first democratic elections of 1994, distanced itself from it. At almost the same time, the ANC’s Mokaba began using the slogan in 1993 when the armed struggle for all intents and purposes was a thing of the past.
In that same year, a large crowd of PAC supporters marched through Cape Town’s Kenilworth and Claremont suburbs, demanding the release of PAC members who had been arrested in connection with the massacre of 11 churchgoers at the St. James Church and chanted “kill the Boer, kill the farmer”, “one settler, one bullet” and “one church, one bomb”.
Also in 1993, at a rally in Tembisa near Johannesburg, both Mokaba and a PAC representative used these or similar words in speeches to the large crowd. Mokaba reportedly also urged the crowd to direct their “bullets” at then president FW de Klerk, declaring that he hated De Klerk. To which the PAC representative added, “war against the enemy... kill them”.
In March this year, a former participant in an August 1993 march (called “Operation Barcelona”) against increased exam fees in Cape Town, wrote in a comment to an article on the Internet, that he was among PASO (PAC student wing) students in the march who chanted “kill the Boer, kill the farmer” immediately before American student Amy Biehl was killed by members of that mob.
In 2002, then president Thabo Mbeki, as president of the ANC, and in 2003 then ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe - who is now ANC deputy president - firmly and unambiguously distanced the ANC from any such song or slogan, saying it had never been, and would never be, a part of the ANC. No claim was made then that it – in any form - ever had been an ANC liberation struggle song.
That is until now, when, in March this year, Malema began singing a generic version of Mokaba’s chant. Suddenly senior ANC leaders, among them secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, are claiming this to be an old ANC liberation struggle song that apparently never was sung to incite violence against white farmers or whites in general, but was aimed against the apartheid regime.
Mcebisi Ndletyana, senior researcher at the Human Science Research Council - in another defence of the song and attack on the judges who ruled against its use in an article in "The Sunday Independent" - claims the song embodies black hatred of “whiteness”, but not of people of European descent... with a very wooly explaination of what the difference is intended to be.
No documentary or other evidence could be found that the chant or related songs were indeed ANC liberation songs before 1993, when the liberation struggle was practically over and constitutional negotiations in full swing.
The Mokaba chant of “kill the farmer, kill the Boer” was next heard in June 2002 at an ANC Youth League meeting in Kimberley, and at Mokaba’s funeral in Limpopo. The funeral was attended by prominent ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Mbeki, and the chanting was stopped immediately.
The Freedom Front lodged a complaint of hate speech with the HRC, which subsequently rejected it. However Mbeki, as president of the ANC and the country at the time, on 19 June of that year told Parliament: “Nobody in our country has a right to call for the killing of any South African, whatever the colour, race, ethnic origin, gender or health condition of the intended victim. Those farmers and boers are as much South African and African as I am...”
In June 2003, the HRC, chaired by Professor Karthy Govender, assisted by Professor Henk Botha and Mr Khashane Manamela, heard an appeal by the Freedom Front against the earlier HRC ruling. In their decision, delivered on 15 July, they overturned the earlier HRC ruling and found that the slogan "Kill the farmer, kill the boer" as chanted at the ANC youth rally in Kimberley and at the funeral of Mokaba constituted hate speech as defined in section 16(2)(c) of the Constitution.
What is even more interesting is that part of the record of submissions made to the HRC at the time contains a letter from Motlanthe, then ANC secretary-general, stating that the ‘’utterance has never been, cannot and will never be a slogan of the ANC, not used by the ANC at all.’’ The logical assumption then is that, according to Motlanthe, it was not part of the ANC’s liberation struggle heritage.
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 07:03