FF+ growth a sign land won’t be returned without a fight

The writer reckons the rise of FF+ caught many of us off guard and left us regretting for not voting.
The writer reckons the rise of FF+ caught many of us off guard and left us regretting for not voting.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

South Africa’s sixth democratic election soap opera has finally concluded. The SMS’s have stopped, the rural visits are a distant memory and the political mid slinging is simmering down.

Probably one of the most contested general elections we’ve had; opposition parties were certain that they’ve garnered enough support to unseat the ANC, if not nationally then at least provincially.

The sensible among us predicted that the ANC would retain control by slimmer margins, but nevertheless retained. We are vindicated.

The EFF seems to be the only party which achieved significant growth, while the DA basically turned out to be that kid who brags about his Dad’s imaginary big muscles that never see the light of day.

The bickering and politicking got quite ugly this year and let us not forget the callous move to publish the names of murdered Marikana miners. In fact, let us not forget Marikana and Life Esidimeni, which many believed would be the demise of the ANC.

As much as we dare not forget, this election has forced us to remember something we didn’t see coming.

The rise of VF+ caught many of us off guard with some even exclaiming despair and regret for note voting. Although voter apathy may have helped this along, I am reluctant to place responsibility solely at the feet of those who chose to abstain.

With an election campaign named “Slaan Terug” the VF+ unassumingly stirred up white anxieties akin to those which birthed Orania and the mass emigration at the time.

White anxieties of course feed off of the threat of the “swaart gevaar” – a masterpiece of Apartheid propaganda. This response to land reform framed land expropriation without compensation as an attacked which must be retaliated against.

This sentiment is evident in the metaphor of striking back, which requires an original strike to respond to. At the 11th hour they diversified their ethno-nationalist propaganda machine through political gymnast Peter Marais, to appeal to another imaginary siege among who they call “Brown” people and essentially blackwashed Apartheid tactics.

Some have stated that the VF+ managed to attract extremists in the DA who were fed up with their softness regarding land reform. Whatever the case, this series of unfortunate events has taught us one lesson: stolen land will not be returned without a fight.

Vapid arguments about the semantics of how land came to be dispossessed and what constitutes theft have been raging among the like of VF+ acolytes Ernst Roets and Kallie Kriel for years. All of this in an attempt to frustrate and prolong the process of expropriation. We have been kept busy with debates, while ethno-nationalism has been mobilising white people to fight back at attempts to restore equality. We took none of it seriously because we’ve become comfortable without ability to clap back at racists and liberals on Twitter for trolling us. This, however, is real life.

Voter disillusionment led many to stay at home of May 8 and still, that decision remains understandable and valid. It is terribly unfair that after 25 years of democracy we should have to vote to protect ourselves from the resurgence of extremism, affectionately called conservatism.

White people are quick to gaslight claims of extremism with their carefully crafted illusions of how VF+ aims to serve all South Africans but won’t see them own them own even a portion of the means of production.

We should also not misrecognise the role that self-proclaimed liberals and moderates who oppose reform on the grounds of maintaining the status quo to appease western powers. These are all different sides of the same coin that serves to keep the machine of white privilege going.

There is much to be disappointed in with this election the least of which is voter apathy – they did not motivate the resurgence of an ideology that was always walking among us.

One realisation we can take to heart, seriously, is that we find ourselves in a place where Black South Africans who truly value freedom have nearly nobody to vote for, while white South Africans who want their privilege and collective wealth to remain untouched have the electoral ballot at their feet.

A scary reality for those of us who had hoped for better with time, but this is democratic South Africa. A post-Apartheid scam.

Jamil F. Khan is a PhD Critical Diversity Studies Candidate.

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