A little logic can sometimes go a long way. On about 8 March Malema is reported as singing a song in front of an audience of University of Johannesburg students which includes the words ‘Dubul’ ibhunu’ (or ‘Kill the boer’). On 3 April AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche is murdered on his farm. According to police, this crime is committed by two farm workers and is the result of a disagreement over wages. The Independent Newspaper group conducts an online poll, and of the 772 respondents, 73% think that there is a direct causal link between these two events. This seems to be a classic case of a well-known logical fallacy known as ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’ (‘After this, therefore because of this.’) Simply put, it is to assume that sequence in time indicates causality. ‘Roosters crow just before the sun rises. Therefore they cause the sun to rise.’ This kind of argument is often linked to superstition or an inability to accept that some events are coincidental. In this case, fear, antipathy or prejudice seem to have led most of the IOL respondents to assume a causal link where none has been shown to exist. Farm murders are terrible crimes, but they take place without any prior singing of this particular song – by Malema or anyone else.
This does not of course exculpate Malema. Whether or not his words constitute hate speech, they certainly contribute to increased levels of fear and intolerance, and promote racial polarisation. The question is, can or will the ANC reign him in? At what point does he become a liability?