Act now to save us and our South Africa

IN LINGUISTICS the question is asked: When is a question a question and when is it a command? To answer, take context, audience and tone into account.

The political rally in which Julius Malema sang Kill the Boer, the audience and triumphalist tone combine to indicate clearly that the song has now found a new context, audience and goal. It is not the context where Gwede Mantashe and Jacob Zuma are trying to place it.

In this context and audience of angry men it is attracting, its tone is extremely menacing and the specificity of the words cannot leave any doubt about the singer's intention. New battle lines are being drawn and Nelson Mandela's brave effort of reconciliation will soon be a forlorn dream.

Malema has been a harbinger of things to come in our politics and if the alarm bells are not ringing, we will be deep in the turmoil by sheer default.

The singing in Zimbabwe confirms that a new tide is rising, a new militant ANC different from Mandela's. A new period of conflict is being ushered in while politicians make weak and useless protests. Mantashe, Mathews Phosa and others are no longer effective bulwarks against this tide. In all likelihood, they will be the first victims to be swept aside. After that, it will be the rest of us.

Ironically, it is the callous murder of unapologetic racist Eugène Terre'Blanche that is forcing us to confront the hard realities of present day politics .

Our age of political innocence is dead. If we linger in past glory, our future will be in the hands of those who understand very little and care even less what happens to us or the country. Act now to save our democracy.

Farouk Cassim, Cape Town