Lance Witten — Beware the rise of Fascism

In depressed times, it could be enticing to hear what comes out of these politicians’ mouths. But listen carefully to what they are actually saying, writes Lance Witten.

In depressed times, it could be enticing to hear what comes out of these politicians’ mouths. But listen carefully to what they are actually saying, writes Lance Witten.

Published May 16, 2024


The global economy is depressed. Markets are in trouble. Individuals around the world are struggling to make ends meet.

There is violence, wars rage, injustice is rife, and the inequality gap ever-widening.

South Africa, much like elsewhere in the world, is becoming more polarised. Populations focus on what divides them, rather than what unites them.

This powder keg of influences is the dank breeding ground where fascism festers.

Fascism is the ultra-right wing political belief in a totalitarian state, one in which foreigners are shut out, where politicians, orators and analysts are able to play on insecurities so we fear the “other”.

In Nazi Germany, the “other” was the Jews. Germans were turned against their Jewish neighbours and friends using fear — they’re coming for your homes, your businesses, your jobs...

We see it in Palestine, where the Zionist Israeli government wants to wipe Palestinians off the face of the earth, and is doing so in an ongoing genocide.

We see it in South Africa too, where some politicians choose to scapegoat African immigrants for the ills of crime and unemployment. Xenophobia is a very real threat to our democracy, and can easily be ignited by a politician’s forked tongue.

In our recent series of Elections Panel Discussions, some politicians vehemently claimed children of foreign nationals born in South Africa should have none of the same rights as South Africans. Others claimed certain racial groups were being ignored in favour of others.

Fascism fights for the closure of borders. Fascism advocates that we “look after our own”; our own race, gender, culture, claiming it is under threat.

Fascism under apartheid used the “swaart gevaar” as a mechanism to drive fear into the hearts of white people. “The blacks are coming to take your jobs! The blacks are coming to take your privilege”. The natives are revolting!

You don’t have to look far to see the signs in today’s times.

Former American president Donald Trump wanted to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out. One of our political parties contesting the May 29 elections wants to send foreigners home. The official opposition has painted “the corrupt ANC” and “violent EFF” as the swart gevaar threatening South Africa...

In depressed times, where there is growing inequality and rampant unemployment it could be enticing to hear what comes out of these politicians’ mouths. A job in every home? Good. Jobs reserved for South Africans? Better. Jobs reserved for South Africans who look like me? Even better!

But this is a slippery slope.

The watershed 1994 elections proved that we as South Africans wanted a united society, even if internet and social media trolls in all their racist rancour prove contrary to this.

Those same racists will take pot shots at quotas and B-BBEE, but the reality is that these policies are in place to address at least some of the gross inequality centuries of colonialism and oppression and exclusion people of colour suffered in this country.

Are they working perfectly? No. Should they be scrapped entirely? Absolutely not.

I believe we still have it in us, at the dawn of this new era, 30 years into our democracy, on the doorstep of our next general elections to elect the right leadership that can build a truly united South Africa geared for growth and prosperity.

But we can’t do it by preaching nationalism and patriotism at the exclusion and expense of those with a different skin colour, language or culture.

As we head to the polls on May 29, listen to what your political leaders are saying. Are they preaching unity and development, or sowing division and hatred?

Beware of fascists masquerading as right-wing conservatives. They’ll lead us down a dark path.

* Lance Witten is the Editor of IOL.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.