Is Steve Hofmeyr really as racist as he seems?
Steve Hofmeyr has made a movie about farm murders. Yolisa Mkele sat down with the right-winger last week, and heard a voice that struck him as more sad than dangerous
Is Steve Hofmeyr really as racist as he seems? The answer to this would seem obvious but often the words that come out of people's mouths are different from the words in their hearts.
Perhaps he is just scared. After all, his people are the apparent victims of a silent genocide.
As I chat to him in a hotel in Centurion, he explains how the white farming population is being systematically murdered at a rate far higher than that of the rest of the population, something that, he says, cannot be tolerated.
This is where Treurgrond, Hofmeyr's new movie, comes in (watch the trailer below). The film is part of an awareness campaign about farm murders. In it, he plays a benevolent farmer whose way of life is under siege from land claimants and killers.
"I never knew that South Africans were murdering our commercial farmers at a rate of 130 out of 100 000 per year. That's genocidal and I can't live in society like that," he says. "When I first started quoting those stats I was immediately sketched as either racist or radical, but today everybody is quoting them."
Hofmeyr has become one of South Africa's favourite sound-bite machines. Virtually every time he opens his mouth in public, words tumble out that would send most PR officers into stress-induced epileptic shock. A prime example came last year when he tweeted that black people were "the architects of apartheid".
"What I meant by that is that black people did not inspire integration. You must ask yourself why the world is legislating away from us. Why did Israel put all the African citizens on trains and send them back? Why don't they want those boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe?"
Before that, he told the world, "I cannot for the life of me find an example of any white kids who scale the fences of black people and rape their grandmothers. Now I'm not a scientist but I think that is a pretty good stat. I know it's more complex than it seems."
block_quotes_start I'm being called a racist every time I distinguish between races but I see it as being racial. We made it taboo to even distinguish between white and black - Hofmeyr block_quotes_end
Despite what the evidence suggests, Hofmeyr still may not be a foaming-at-the-mouth racist. Often in order to highlight an issue, one must be a little outrageous. After all, in the current South African climate, who is really interested in reasonable, well-thought-out statements? What people really want is to be inflamed, especially by something with a nice juicy kernel of distorted truth.
"That the murderers (in the movie) are black and the farmers are white, even though 96% of the farmers are white, will be seen as racist. But that's not what I find racial about it. What is racial about it is the black people in this country are keeping a government in power that is doing nothing about it," he says.
But perhaps Hofmeyr is really just labouring under the heel of political correctness. Like the rest of us, he cannot speak his mind because liberals shed crocodile tears when you frankly discuss things such as race and gender. Apparently the problem with this is that important issues that need discussing end up being shoddily buried like land mines.
"I'm being called a racist every time I distinguish between races but I see it as being racial. We made it taboo to even distinguish between white and black," says Hofmeyr.
One of the distinctions he makes is this: "It is the collective habit of black people to keep in power the worst government in our history and probably the world."
He also claims that while Afrikaans people march for their language and culture, the country's melanin-heavy citizenry march only for their incomes. This has led him to believe that voting in favour of the new South Africa may have been a mistake.
"I started seeing that my 'Yes' vote was a dagger in the heart of my own culture and certainly of my own race. Everything I know about distinguishing between races I learnt form the ANC post '94, when I was a young student who didn't give a shit about race," he said.
The ANC and its "socialist leanings" are particularly stressful for him. It is these he blames for most of life's problems, especially the happy-clappy attitude espoused during the Mandela era.
"One of the great failures of transformation and harmony and all that is that you can't fake it. You can hate nationalism for its awful reputation but years later you realise you can do nothing about it. You don't want to repeat that old form of nationalism but you want to incorporate it into your new idea," he said.
It is at this point that a very small pang of sympathy afflicts me. Sitting across from me is no longer a charming and significantly likeable racist but a dodo, whose environment has changed faster than he could adapt. Instead of going gently into that good night, Hofmeyr, being the voice of the dodos, is choosing to fight for his way of life - even if that way of life has gone the way of telegrams, cheque books and smoking adverts.
Is Steve Hofmeyr a racist? Unquestionably. But in all honesty he is not more racist than most people you bump into drinking alone in a bar. Despite the faux surprise most people like to show, people do think like this in 2015 - and Steve Hofmeyr represents a group of them.
The fact that we don't like what he has to say doesn't mean we should not hear him say it. Hofmeyr is not going to hurt anything more than feelings with his rhetoric. And if you emotionally disinvest, it's actually rather funny.
Instead of having an meltdown, perhaps we should just see these as the grumblings of a flock of dodos and move on.
Besides, dodos are kind of cute, aren't they?
'Treurgrond' is on circuit.