Editor's note: Briefly.co.za editor Laura Slyer takes a look at the tweets posted on Human Rights Day calling for the arrest of F. W. de Klerk, specifically for his involvement in the Sharpeville Massacre.
Social media is a wonderful tool to reach out to people, share your thoughts and opinions and even educate them.
Unfortunately, it's also a platform for trolls who use it to spew hateful rhetoric that is based more on their own prejudices than any valid facts.
Even more unfortunately, some of these trolls are considered community leaders, people who have a platform on social media to reach thousands of people.
One such person is Andile Mngxitama, the founder and leader of the Black First Land First party, whose account has 78 000 followers, but who doesn't fact check or corroborate statements before retweeting them.
On Wednesday, while South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day with a series of protests about land claims and service delivery, Mngxitama retweeted a post by one of his BLF members, @briantloubatla.
His profile says he is "Head of Communications at the Black First Land First (BLF). Pan-African Propagandist and Media Strategist."
This is the tweet he posted, which was retweeted by Mngxitama:
The true history of the Sharpeville Massacre:
- The protest march took place on 21 March, 1960.
- It was organised by the Pan African Congress, who ordered their members and residents of Sharpeville to leave their passes at home and go to the police station to surrender themselves for arrest.
- The march was peaceful, and reporters of the event at the time even said that the protesters seemed to be more festive than belligerent.
- At about 13h15, a scuffle began near the front of the 5000-strong crowd of protesters and a policeman was accidentally knocked over.
- When the crowd began to push forward to see what had happened, the police say the protestors began to stone them. One policeman panicked and opened fire, and his colleagues followed suit.
- 69 people died, while 180 were left seriously wounded.
- In 1960, F. W. de Klerk was 28 years old, and had not even joined government. He began working as an attorney in Vereeniging in 1961, and would only become president of South Africa in 1989, 29 years after the Sharpeville Massacre.
From the facts, you can see that associating De Klerk with the Sharpeville Massacre is not only absurd, retweeting what are basically half-truths and mis-associations in order to further your own hateful rhetoric is laziness and discrediting in your capacity as a public figure.
The history of South Africa is fraught with racial tension, prejudice and violence, where both whites and blacks were killed. Apartheid was a terrible injustice, and the effects of it need to be urgently corrected, without a doubt.
However, the past cannot be changed, and living in hatred and anger destroys any chance of creating a positive future in unity with the people who call South Africa home, regardless of race.
While you're campaigning with racist prejudice against whites, please try to remember that most of whites do not want to go back to an apartheid system, and in fact, would like to help correct the imbalances of the past as much as you do.
They're just not allowed to when they're constantly met with hatred and anger inspired by "leaders" who call themselves revolutionary.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official position of Briefly.co.za
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