NB: What started out as just a blog article turned into a letter I posted to the South African Human Rights Commission.
This letter seeks to raise several concerns over the sentiments and recent actions of the Black First Land First (BLF) organization. This letter is also not intended to shut down ideas, views, and discussion, as I will show below. I also believe I represent a good number of fellow South Africans, both Black and White, that I feel obligated to pen this letter. It is my hope that the SAHRC engage the views of this letter.
Common Ground with BLF.
Let me begin in explaining where I have common ground with BLF.
I believe, as a White South African, that we need to dialogue about racism as well as Whiteness and White privilege in this country, the land issue, especially given the legacy of Apartheid. We need to identify how Apartheid continues to play a massive role in the lives of both White and Black South Africans. I have also examined the BLF “Anti-Racism Bill of 2017” found on their website which appears to be a set of rather radical new laws and regulations that they hope to put into place should they be in the position to do so (1). I respect BLF’s right to free speech and expression. Although I question the logic of much of what they have included there, as will become more apparent below, there are some items I commend them on for bringing up. Let me mention a few.
Under the “discrimination” section they have the noble idea of implementing “anti-racism educational content” on television stations, radio stations, in magazines and newspapers, and so on. Moreover, under their “public education section” they argue we should implement such educational content in primary to tertiary level education. I am against racism and I believe that these might be necessary measures that the BLF brings to the table of discussion, though we’d no doubt need to debate and discuss their ideas far more. For example, what would such educational content look like? Could we implement such material in an inclusive manner that strives to be fair and objective? And would it be a good idea to put such content in tertiary institutions? Would airing such content on all our media outlets become intrusive or even depressing? These, and other questions would need to be entertained. So, we really need open and honest discussion.
But these aside, I would like to point out some of my concerns with the BLF.
Bully Tactics & BLF Deliberately Targeting White People.
It is no secret that the BLF resorts to bully tactics and intimidation as a means to forward their agenda.
Recently, controversy surrounded a BLF member who allegedly sent a politician a death threat (2). BLF leader Mngxitama, however, denied this and instead blamed in on White people, saying “Our movement defends all blacks‚ even those we disagree with. So there must be a white person trying to cause s**t for BLF.” Blaming White people for nearly everything is a feature very inherent in the BLF organization, and Mngxitama’s seeing everything as a Black vs. White scenario, even when it isn’t, is damaging to racial relations in this country. Recent events further demonstrate their bully tactics.
BLF vows that they will never “attack” Black people. The obvious concern is then over who they intend to attack. The answer is White people who they perceive challenge them on any ideological front. However, they still did attack a Black person. They allegedly assaulted investigative journalist Micah Reddy in Braamfontein (3). A White journalist, Tim Cohen, was also reportedly assaulted as he attempted to take a picture of BLF supporters who had gathered outside a fellow journalist’s home.
As we are all aware, these attacks and threats prompted legal action by the South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) of whom sought an urgent interdict against the organization. However, shockingly, BLF made it clear that they were targeting White journalists specifically (4). They even remarked that Reddy was lucky that he was a Black journalist, “If it was [a] white journalist, we would have dealt with it by any means necessary” (5). This is threatening and unlawful and, I believe, represents the heart of the organization. It is my belief that such values are contrary to the SAHRC as is stipulated within your own Anti-Racism Pledge. BLF had also made a Whites only target list with media journalists Stephen Grootes, Barry Bateman, Alec Hogg, Adriaan Basson, Sam Sole, and Max du Preez on it (6), of whom they accuse of perpetuating “racism, fake news and the covering up of white corruption under the guise of journalism” (7). However, to my knowledge none of these journalists have been charged with saying or doing anything that is racist by their organizations or by the public. Rather, BLF objects to these journalists writing on the suspicious links between the controversial Gupta family and the BLF organisaztion (8). Leaked emails have implicated the Gupta family with senior government officials, and they have also implicated Mngxitama and the BLF in dealings with the family (9). Whether the allegations are true is immaterial, what it material is the BLF’s racist bullying of White journalists whom are exercising their freedom of speech.
BLF also has measures in place to treat White and Black opponents differently. For the Black journalists who have highlighted these same concerns, BLF instructs them to repent, “We will not treat black people the way we treat white people. We, however, call upon them to repent and stop being useful agents of the white agenda” (10). However, 20 BLF members went on and vandalized a White journalist’s house, writing “land or death” on his garage door. They then demanded that he go back to Europe so they could occupy his home of which they claim is “built on stolen land” (11). The court interdicted BLF from intimidating journalists but even after this ruling BLF members attacked journalists outside of the court. One BLF member was even heard saying that “White people are going to die with you” (12). Thankfully the BLF and its leader has decided to obey the court and not pursue further violence, at least for now.
Nonetheless, it is clear from these scenes that BLF is openly an anti-White organisation. I view this as dangerous for those of whom they have threatened, and for racial relations in this country, and surely this is of concern to the SAHRC.
The Claim that Black People Can’t Be Racist.
Having read through the entire Anti-Racism Bill on the BLF website, some of which I think brings to the forefront some important topics in need of discussion and exposure, a number of things become clear.
Firstly, BLF doesn’t believe Blacks can be racist. Racism, to them, is linked only to “white privilege,” and “white supremacy.” They also argue that the anti-racism struggle can “be led by blacks only.” Their argument, a weak one nonetheless, is that one can only be “racist if s/he has the institutional power to subjugate or to maintain the subjugation. Therefore, Blacks are ipso facto excluded from this definition.” The organization’s leader, Andile Mngxitama, has been quite clear about this saying that “Obviously black people cannot be racists… People who are still asking whether or not black people can be racist are still behind, the real question should be how to get justice” (13)
To most rational minded readers this is an absurd notion. As I have argued before, to say that Blacks can’t be racist is to elevate them above and beyond the standard that is applied to other races. To elevate one’s own race in such a way is to be racist. It is itself a manner of distinguishing Blacks as superior, or as “superhumans” to use Mokoena’s terminology (14). Further, another obvious issue with this belief is that racism is both an ideology and a practice espoused and conducted by a collective group of people or on the part of an individual. One needn’t wield power to be racist. We need to identify racists for who they are: racists, independent of their race.
It is my concern that if some Black people redefine racism in such a way as to exclude them from being racists then it will come to the detriment of much needed discussion in contemporary South Africa, and progress will not be made. We need honesty, and we need to be on a level playing field within debates. We can’t, as a country, have Blacks, Whites, or anyone else for that matter, distinguishing themselves as superior within the debates themselves.
Are Whites Even South African? & Examining the Bill.
There are further concerns with the Anti-Racism Bill on the BLF site. Firstly, it refers to contemporary White South Africans as a “minority settler population” (15). Their hope is to alter the laws of South African as to include the premise that “All the land held by whites in South Africa is stolen property,” and that “Land occupation by the landless is lawful.” Such rhetoric (“settler population,” “stolen property”) makes it clear that BLF do not see Whites as being South Africans, but as something other, unwelcome, and invasive. All Whites live on stolen land from which they must be forcibly removed. It is thus clear that if any of the proposed changes that BLF presents in its Anti-Racism Bill were to ever take place, Whites would quickly find themselves second class citizens and possibly frequent victims of anti-White racism and violence. This is not to mention that the “Land occupation” proposal is unlawful and runs contrary to the South African Constitution.
BLF also proposes the obscene law that racists, which could only ever be White people according to them, receive a jail sentence of a minimum of ten years, and possibly 20 years. Blacks, however, since they cannot be racist, can never been held accountable by this law. This would in turn put Whites in the position of second class citizens. Personally, I am all for exposing racists but dishing out a jail sentence the length sometimes given to convicted killers is just downright obscene. Even pedophiles have received lighter sentences. Surely the SAHRC agrees that we ought to critique bad logic where we find it.
Moreover, BFL equates hate speech with the “ridicule” and “insulting” of Black people. Again, this is absurd. If a White and Black man get into an argument in which both men ridicule and insult each other, then the White man is immediately guilty of hate speech and could face ten or 20 years in prison! The Black man, however, is incapable of hate speech or racism, and can simply walk away. This is a racist double standard of a big order, and is suggestive of what the BLF organization stands for. Moreover, this “law” would shut down all discussion since Whites could never represent themselves in debates and discussions on matters that they might find themselves invested in independent of which side of the debate they find themselves on, issues such as race based quotas, transformation, the land question, etc.
I felt it to be my moral obligation, as a South African, to write this letter. I know that the SAHRC has condemned BLF’s intimidation of journalists, however, I find little condemning the anti-white racism of the organization. I feel this way because I believe BLF undermines and violates the rights of South Africans trough spreading racial hate and intimidation, as I’ve argued in this letter. I find that there are many issues, issues that are often uncomfortable for White and Black South Africans, that we need to talk about, but BLF is being destructive to these efforts through their bully tactics, and their anti-White sentiments. It is a shame because there is so much they bring up that is worth discussing.
1. BLF. The Anti-Racism Bill of 2017. Available.
2. Times Live. 2017. ANC’s Makhosi Khoza warned ‘you have 21 days to live.’ Available.
3. Tandwa, L. 2017. ‘Lucky we don’t fight black people’ – BLF to amaBhungane journo after alleged assault. Available.
4. IOL. 2017. Human Rights Commission slams BLF for intimidating journalists. Available.
5. Tandwa, L. 2017. Ibid.
6. BLF. 2017. BLF warns white journalists. Available.
7. Selapisa, L. 2017. White journalists racist – BLF. Available.
8. Bruce, P. 2017. The price of writing about the Guptas. Available.
9. Tandwa, L. 2017. Ibid.
10. BLF. 2017. BLF warns white journalists.
11. Davies, M. 2017. Sanef Strongly Condemns Targeting Of Peter Bruce. Available.
12. News24. WATCH: ‘White people are going to die with you,’ shouts BLF after losing in court. Available.
13. The Daily Vox. 2017. So can black people be racist?
14. The Daily Vox. 2017. Ibid.
15. BLF. The Anti-Racism Bill of 2017.