Poll on DA MP Renaldo Gouws tells a story

Political leaders have applauded the suspension of DA MP Renaldo Gouws after a short clip emerged of him repeatedly using the k-word and seemingly called for black people to be killed
PRESSURE MOUNTS: Political leaders have applauded the suspension of DA MP Renaldo Gouws after a short clip emerged of him repeatedly using the k-word and seemingly called for black people to be killed
Image: X/@RenaldoGouws

On June 18 HeraldLIVE published an article titled “POLL: Should DA MP Renaldo Gouws be removed from parliament?”

The poll came just days after Gouws was sworn in as an MP for the DA.

Gouws, who previously served as a ward councillor in Nelson Mandela Bay,  is in hot water after a 2009 video of him making racially charged statements surfaced on social media.

In the video Gouws speaks of the irrelevance of black Africans, arguing that if they were to be removed from the face of the earth, no-one would “f*****g* notice.

He goes on to argue that there is “reverse apartheid” against white people in SA — an argument that is often used by white extremist and right-wing organisations who oppose measures that the government is taking to redress injustices of the past, including legislative interventions such as affirmative action.

Such measures have been implemented in many post-colonial societies across the world and have alleviated structural and generational poverty among indigenous and colonised populations.

Just days after the video resurfaced, and with Gouws having publicly apologised for it, another video of him making racist statements was posted on social media.

This particular video was made in 2010 in response to former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president and now leader of the EFF (EFF) Julius Malema singing the struggle song Kill the Boer.

This particular song, often presented by the white community and supremacist organisations as a directive to wage an attack on Afrikaners, has been painted as a threat on the lives of Afrikaner farmers.

This has no basis in fact and such analysis is ahistoric and apolitical.

It denies the apartheid context in which the song emerged, and the fact that the lyrics are not intended to be taken literally.

African languages are known to employ metaphorical imagery to convey messages, and this song is no different.

This argument has been made by cultural scholars, lawyers and activists alike, and as of 2024, the Equality Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) have both ruled that the song is not hate speech.

Gouws’s video, distorting the meaning of the song and using such distortion to advance an idea that the previous year’s video on the sub-humanness of Black people had planted, states in the second video: “Kill the f****g k*****s...kill all the f****g k*****s”.

The derogatory word “Kaffir” was used under apartheid to refer to black people and is not only deemed hate speech but is also punishable by law in SA.

In a landmark ruling in 2018, the high court in Johannesburg found Vicki Momberg guilty of verbal racial abuse for using the term, and she was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, with one year suspended.

By the morning of June 24, six days after the HeraldLIVE poll was published, the results stood as follows: 49.06% of respondents said Gouws should be removed from parliament as he is an extremist; 45.07% said he shouldn’t be removed as he has apologised; and 5.87% said they do not care about politics.

These results, though not final, reflect the discomfort that a significant number of South Africans have with racism.

However, they also reflect the reality that for the majority, the effects of racism are not adequately understood.

For people to argue that an apology should be enough for a lawmaker and public official who uses hate speech, as well as to argue that these videos are from over a decade ago and thus should not matter, indicates that many do not understand the devastating and long-lasting effects of dehumanisation and degradation that racism has on black people.

And for people to not care about the issue because they do not care about politics is just as bad.

Whether Gouws is removed from parliament or not, South Africans need to talk about the impact and legacy of racism.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was important, but it was not enough.

And the fact that in 2024, people do not think racism matters enough to necessitate some degree of sanctions on racist individuals is the evidence.



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