Former president Thabo Mbeki has questioned why Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema insists on singing Struggle chant “kill the Boer, kill the farmer”, saying there was no political context for singing it in current day South Africa.
Mbeki was speaking during a conversation with students at the University of South Africa, where he serves as Chancellor.
Malema shouted the chant in the presence of almost 100,000 supporters during the EFF’s 10th birthday rally at the FNB Stadium last month.
The Freedom Front Plus has since opened a case of intimidation against Malema and the EFF for singing the song, which they said provoked farm murders, while the Democratic Alliance has said it would approach the United Nations to file a complaint against the EFF and the African National Congress.
AfriForum, who took the EFF to the Equality Court and lost arguing that the song was hate speech, have taken the matter on appeal. The matter will be heard before the Supreme Court of Appeals in September.
Mbeki said the chant was made popular by former ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba in the early 1990s, but he explained that there was no ANC policy calling for the slaughter of white people or Boers.
The Equality Court heard and accepted that “Boer” referred to in “kill the Boer” was the oppressive state system of apartheid, and not necessarily white people or farmers.
“It was there in the movement, but you would hardly hear of it. It was Peter who liked this thing. There was no ANC policy to kill the Boer. There was no anti-white policy.
“You could understand why Peter would say ‘kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ then. When I saw Julius (Malema) the other day on TV saying this thing, I was asking myself why is it necessary?” Mbeki asked.
The former president said there were Struggle songs sang during funerals, such as Hamba Kahle Mkhonto (rest in peace soldier), which had an ending part of the song which said Thina bantu bomkhonto sizimisele ukubulala lamabhunu (we soldiers of Mkhonto Wesizwe, are prepared to kill the Boer).
“We can’t be singing it now. There’s no MK that’s going to be killing anyone, so why do we sing it? I was saying to myself why does he say it?
“The slogans have a context. They were shouting it in 1952, but by 1962 it was irrelevant,” said Mbeki.
Mbeki also explained that the chant was not to be taken literally, but that it was a mobilisation tactic.
“It does not mean when Peter Mokaba says ‘kill the Boer, kill the farmer’, people must leave the FNB Stadium and go hunting farmers, it does not mean that at all. It is a mobilisation thing.
“Even in that context, if I started my speech and said ‘kill the Boer’, you will say what’s wrong with him. It’s completely irrelevant to use it here,” said Mbeki.
Meanwhile, Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie said he believed the chant should be banned as there was no place for it in a democratic post-apartheid South Africa.
Malema has also vowed he will not stop singing the chant.