The New York Times, also known as those wonderful people who brought you Walter Duranty and his minor omission while slobbering over Joseph Stalin in the 1930s of mentioning how Stalin was systematically mass murdering four million Ukrainians via forced starvation, has come up with another pearl of wisdom for we the peasantry. Did you know that when a radical South African political group demanding the country’s white farmers give up their land by any means necessary, including murder, sings a song at their rallies featuring “Kill the Boer,” Boer meaning any white person living in South Africa, they don’t literally mean it? It’s only a line in a song, you see. No big. Nothing literal. How can it be when some other songs aren’t literal?
Despite the words, the song should not be taken as a literal call to violence, according to (Economic Freedom Fighters leader) Mr. (Julius) Malema and veterans and historians of the anti-apartheid struggle. It has been around for decades, one of many battle cries of the anti-apartheid movement that remain a defining feature of the country’s political culture.
But in the past year he (Malema) has come to be viewed as the enfant terrible of South African politics, calling for mines to be nationalized and even at one point calling for the overthrow of the government of Botswana.
Such positions made him popular with certain sections of South Africa’s impoverished and jobless youth, but the A.N.C.’s leaders, wary that such talk could dent the country’s economy and reputation, sought to quiet him.
In tone and style, Mr. Malema tried to transform the A.N.C., which was formed as an explicitly nonracial organization, into a party espousing a muscular black nationalism. He was accused of hate speech for his revival of the anti-apartheid anthem “Shoot the Boer,” though the party defended his right to sing the song.
Ah, but fast forward to the present day when you can’t take song lyrics literally. Well, unless Jason Aldean sings them. But I digress.
Bongani Ngqulunga, who teaches politics at the University of Johannesburg, recalled struggle songs from the apartheid days in which people proclaimed they were going to march to Pretoria, the capital city, or that Nelson Mandela would be released from prison the next morning. The people singing those songs were not actually planning to march to Pretoria, nor did they really think that Mr. Mandela was about to be released, he said.
Similarly, he said, the phrase “kill the Boer” — the word means farmer in Dutch and Afrikaans — is not meant to promote violence against individual farmers. “It was a call to mobilize against an oppressive system,” Mr. Ngqulunga said.
Nomalanga Mkhize, a historian at Nelson Mandela University, said of the chant: “Young people feel that it rouses them up when they sing it today. I don’t think that they intend it to mean any harm.”
Right. And surely not everyone was kung fu fighting.
Elsewhere in the New York Times article, we find this classic moment of journalisming:
“They are openly pushing for genocide of white people in South Africa,” Mr. Musk, who is white, wrote on Monday on Twitter, the platform he now controls.
In recent years, people on the right in South Africa and the United States, including former President Donald J. Trump, have seized on attacks on white farmers to make the false claim that there have been mass killings.
While even the proggiest progressive admits there are multiple cases per year of white South African farmers murdered by blacks, an exact number is impossible to deduce. In a lengthy 2021 study by Dr. Adeoye O. Akinola, a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg, he lists the following statistics:
After the 1998 peak period during which 153 farmers died, there was a steady decline in the rate of farm attacks/murders until 2011. The table below presents the rate of farm murders in the country.
Year Farm Murders 2003‒2011 About 80 at average 2015/2016 64 2016/2017 71 2017/2018 68
Sources: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 2018; The Guardian 2018.
Others tell a far more deadly story. When discussing a recent murder of a farmer, Southern African Agri Initiative chairperson Theo de Jager stated:
[T]here had been a country-wide spike in farm murders over the last month, and at one period, there had been eight murders in five days.
“Over the last 20 years, on average, there has been one farm attack every two days and a farm murder every five days. On average, there are 72 farm murders and 185 attacks every year,” he said.
According to the latest crime statistics, as of the fourth quarter of 2022/23, from January to March this year, there had been 77 murders, 62 attempted murders, and 317 cases of assault GBH on either agricultural land, farms, plots, or small holdings.
Later in the story, De Jager added:
“Some of the most brutal scenes involve farmers who are not white. There was a brutal murder of an Indian woman farmer – she was pregnant. Last year, there were six murders of black farmers, and this year the targets seem to be farm workers or livestock herders.”
But singing a song about killing whites is totally not provocative, y’all. Ah well. One expects such pretentious puffery from the New York Times, which in 2019 tried to convince one and all that the O.K. sign was no longer acceptable because of racist honkies or something. So take heart, South African farmers. The people singing how they want to kill you? They don’t mean it literally.
Until they do.