Opinion: Political leaders risk diluting the seriousness of racism by using the term on everything

Opinion: Political leaders risk diluting the seriousness of racism by using the term on everything

Editor’s note: Andre is an editor at Briefly.co.za and tries to unpack the following Twitter statement: Gerrie Nel was a national hero to black people when he was tearing Oscar Pistorius apart five years ago, but now his a racist for going after Julius Malema for tender fraud. We use the word "racist" like hot sauce, it gets put on everything. This delusional behaviour must stop.

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The Oscar Case

Advocate Gerrie Nel was probably the most feared public prosecutor in South Africa and earned himself the nickname of the pit-bull, because he refused to let go of a case once he started working on it.

Nel’s most famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) case was probably when he prosecuting Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

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Oscar shot and killed Reeva on 14 February 2013 and while he admitted to the shooting he always maintained he had mistaken her for an intruder. Nel didn’t buy Oscar’s versions of events and went after the then darling of the sporting world.

Nel famously told Oscar that his emotions in court were fake and that the former Olympic athlete was tailoring his testimony to fit his own needs. Nel eventually won the case and in doing so he became the hero of millions of South Africans regardless of their race or political affiliation.

Black people celebrated the successful prosecution of a famous, wealthy and privileged white male for a crime which many thought he might escape punishment.

Gerrie Nel quits as a public prosecutor

Nel has on many occasions publicly stated that he never has and never will have a political agenda in choosing who he prosecutes, he says his main concern is that all people in the country are viewed as equal before the law.

Yet the country was shocked when Nel announced he would quit as a public prosecutor to head up a private prosecutions department at civil rights organisation AfriForum. The stated goal of this new department was to go after cases which the NPA either refused to prosecute or failed to adequately prosecute.

AfriForum is perceived (again this depends on where you stand) rightfully or wrongfully as a right-wing white Afrikaner group.

AfriForum goes after Julius Malema

Last week Nel announced he would be leading his team in prosecuting the leader of a well-known political party. This set tongues wagging and many wondered if Nel would go after former president Zuma, Ace Magashule or someone else.

On Thursday Nel and his team announced he would be prosecuting EFF leader Julius Malema for fraud and tender corruption.

The charges relate to Malema-owned On-Point Engineering and are based in part on a report by the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela which found the following:

The Limpopo government had paid On-Point Engineering a total of R43 million.

• On-Point paid R2.17-million through R100 000 per month dividends into Malema's Ratanang Family Trust over 17 months.

• The trust also received R200 000 in unspecified loans.

• Five days after one of the alleged "kickbacks" to the trust was made‚ R1-million was withdrawn and paid towards the purchase of a farm.

• Amounts of R160‚000 and R100‚000 were paid from the trust to Sandton Property and Sandowns Property respectively.

• There was evidence that the trust was possibly being used as a vehicle for the transfer of funds obtained through an unlawful process.

Despite the body of evidence Nel was immediately slammed as a racist by Malema and his supporters.

Logic dictates that if Malema is innocent as he claims he should have no concerns about proving that fact in court.

The term racist gets used like hot sauce in South Africa right now

We live in volatile times and tensions in the country remain high because of government’s proposed land expropriation without compensation policy. Not many people will argue that land reform needs to happen and happen quickly.

The biggest problem most landowners have with this policy is the lack of concrete information from the government about how it will be implemented. This void of information has led to speculation, rumour and false truths becoming the order of the day.

None of those things is helping tensions in South Africa.

Added to this is the Vicki Momberg case. Momberg made history by becoming the first person to receive jail time for using racial slurs.

It has become somewhat fashionable for political leaders and society, in general, to slap the term racist onto anything which they don’t like. Like in this case saying Gerrie Nel is going after Malema because he is a racist.

This can be applied to another case, some people want to know why white people are not making a fuss about the massive irregularities going on at Steinhoff, yet they get upset about state capture and irregularities at state-owned enterprises.

The answer is simple and has nothing to do with race, SOE’s and the government are funded by public money, in other words, tax money. That tax comes from all of us, whether you pay income tax or not, while Steinhoff is a private entity and is not funded by the taxpayer.

Racism is a deplorable crime and should be treated as such, politicians and ordinary people using the term loosely and for their own gain risk diluting how serious the general public should take actual instances of racism.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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