African National Congress (ANC) Issues Caution in Singing Polarizing SongsBy BARRY BEARAK

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The governing African National Congress on Wednesday told its members to be “circumspect” in singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle, retreating from its earlier defense of a contentious song — “Shoot the Boer” — that in recent days has become associated with the killing of a white supremacist leader.

The song has enjoyed a resurgence since it became a part of the public appearances of Julius Malema, the president of the A.N.C. Youth League.

Boer means farmer in Afrikaans, the language spoken by the descendants of Dutch settlers. It is sometimes used as a term for Afrikaners. The lyrics include the words “shoot the Boer” and “shoot them with a gun.”

Last week, two judges, in independent proceedings, banned the song. The A.N.C. called these decisions unreasonable, contending that the lyrics were metaphorical and needed to be viewed in a historical context. It said it would try to get the rulings reversed.

For his part, Mr. Malema, an extremely difficult man to silence, vowed to continue his renditions of “Shoot the Boer.” This persistence took on new meaning when the white supremacist leader, Eugene TerreBlanche, was killed on Saturday. The police attributed the crime to a dispute with two farmhands over pay. But some of Mr. TerreBlanche’s followers blamed the song.

There were calls for revenge, but these have been retracted.

Mr. TerreBlanche, 69, the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, was a prominent newsmaker in the early 1990s. But his influence had waned since then.

On Tuesday, there was a confrontation when the accused first appeared in court. People mourning Mr. TerreBlanche waved flags that signified white rule and sang a racist song. Meanwhile, blacks chanted “hero, hero, hero” as the accused passed by.

The shouting between the groups ended in a standoff. Indeed, though passions run high in Ventersdorp, where Mr. TerreBlanche lived, the events seem merely a matter of conversation around the rest of the nation.

Nevertheless, the statement of the A.N.C. leadership, citing “the environment currently prevailing in our country,” asked its members to “restrain themselves” lest they be used as scapegoats by right-wing troublemakers.

That especially applied to “liberation songs” that can be seen as “contributing to racial polarization of society,” it said.

The statement said the A.N.C.’s executive committee would discuss the appropriate use of liberation songs at a meeting in May.

No mention was made of “Shoot the Boer,” just the euphemism “the song that is hotly debated currently.” Nor was there mention of the song used at rallies by President Jacob Zuma, “Bring Me My Machine Gun.”


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