Why white South Africans should fear Donald Trump and why Malema supporters should celebrate him
Much has been said and digested about Donald Trump amongst South Africans both black and white. It comes without surprise: Donald Trump is the President of the world’s largest economy and the most culturally influential nation on the planet, despite China’s relentless growth and colonial-like infiltration in Africa. As such, dissecting Trump and aligning him with South African politics is a whole lot of opinionated fun and has revealed a set of political and racial hypocrisies that are too obvious not to write about.
Without going unnoticed, there are some white South Africans who have celebrated the arrival of Donald Trump in this our racially volatile, transformation-obsessed and power-vacuum-post-rainbow-nation era. Inversely, if “black twitter” is anything to judge by and of course it can be, black South Africa has bemoaned his arrival – especially Malema supporters – on the foundation that Donald Trump is a white Westerner with racist ideologies. Which he is.
No doubt, despite his most recent speech that insisted America is a place for all, any right-minded individual who has followed his extraordinary rise will know that Donald prefers white America and believes it to be the natural father of their nation. In his world, the white American family is the truest family. Despite those colonial ironies and of course the presence of a large African American population that has been as present and influential in the formation of the US as its whites have been, Trump still believes in the natural “white right” to America. His supporters believe the same and as such Donald John Trump was voted into power in the context of emigration everywhere, the refugee crisis and what is generally the growing fear and distaste for foreigners, felt everywhere, from Brexit to KwaZulu Natal.
No doubt, some white South Africans who feel increasingly marginalised in the context of their own country have clung to Trump’s ideas and the saviour in his anti-liberal whiteness. Black South Africans, of course, have largely been against it and condemned his ideas, but this has taken on an especially strong stance amongst Malema’s supporters. But why? Those white South Africans should fear Donald Trump and those who support Malema should be celebrating.
Trump’s ideological universe is precisely what Julius Malema is fighting for. Despite their vastly different economic ideals for a successful world, Malema believes in Trump’s identity politics, which is a huge part of what he sells as a politician. He believes that there is a natural and “real” type of South African and that that South African is uncompromisingly black and “indigeonous”. His supporters believe that too and that is part of the reason why white South Africans have, over the past two years, increasingly been referred to as “settlers”, “visitors”, “foreigners” and “1652s”. If Trump had his way, every citizen of the world would be returned to their rightful “genetic motherland” and be assured – as he often explicitly and implicitly proclaims it – Julius Malema would be part of that revolution!
In Julius’ world, whites in South Africa are no doubt the “Mexicans” of America because they also “steal jobs” (or as as Malema labels it, monopolise capital) in a country that “does not belong to them”. Ignore for a moment the obvious economic differences between white South Africans and Mexicans and the reasons they live in South Africa and America respectively; on an identity-politics-level, Malema’s and Trump’s understandings of the world are both embedded in a type of racial, patriotic science: Both Julius and Donald believe that there are locals and there are foreigners based broadly on the colour of skin (or language or religion or nationality) and that foreigners should return to where they came from.
As such, you cannot unsee the hypocrisy in the white South African who supports Trump and hates Malema, nor can you unsee the hypocrisy in the black South African who loves Malema and hates Trump. Because both leaders are the same. Both have identified with a large and angry majority by exploiting racial ideals and understandings of the world. Both are Xenophobic. Both perpetuate ignorance. And certainly both will do their utmost to install what they believe is a level of purity as the trudge-on buried in the most dangerous politics of them all – the identity type. As such, both should not be leaders!
So if you are a white South African who supports Trump, you should consider this: Just like Julius he ignores the belonging of “outsiders” and their right to belong “inside” – and ultimately increases that feeling of marginalisation that you have been feeling more and more as a white South African in your own home. Inversely, if you are black South African who supports Julius Malema and hates Trump, you should reconsider. Trump is an ally: His victory is a victory of the politics you believe in and a re-enforcement of the way you see the world.