The Move One Million Facebook group has organised a nationwide march today, on the 5th of September 2020.

Why is the 2020 significant, you may ask? Well, South Africa and the world happens to be in the throes of a global pandemic that to date has killed more than eight hundred thousand people [including fourteen thousand in South Africa]. That alone should be cause for concern. But tuning in to watch a maskless Move One Million organiser Jarette Petzer walking around the crowds hugging people doesn’t provide feelings of comfort.

Jarette Petzer is the same person who in September last year started the #ImStaying group on Facebook which became one of the fastest-growing groups in Africa which was in some ways surprising as anyone who tried to start honest conversations around issues like race or gender-based violence were immediately silenced or thrown out of the group, while posts on farm murders were more than welcomed and encouraged.  i wrote enough on #ImStaying at the time and some of my deep concerns and sadnesses around the group over here and here and even inspired a poem over here.

For a Facebook group with 19000 likes claiming around 20000 followers the idea that they are going to be able to mobilise a million people in the first place is pretty interesting. The make up of the people advertising the move in this article and some of the statements on some of the posters perhaps even more so: ‘Stop complaining, start doing’ [a march against corruption fits into this how?], ‘The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything’ and of course ‘Hoot for change’ [another idea would be to change for change and allow and invite the necessary conversations and work needed]. Three slogans which all imply doing connected to an organisation and movement that actively prevent movement in necessary spaces and conversations.

re: Move One Million

Why the clever title? Well, it plays on so many levels. 

[1] The Pandemic effect: Seriously, the idea of gathering so many people in so many crowded spaces for long periods of time without apparently being strict on social distancing issues could very well remove one million people from the equation. Exaggeration for effect but it feels so dangerous and ill-advised and although being against corruption is a much advised stance to take, this doesn’t feel like the best way to see any tangible results there.

[2] Misdirection: As one of the above poster statements suggests, one of the best ways to let evil carry on with its merry way is to do nothing. Another way of achieving this is to give people the appearance and feeling of doing something while not really doing anything of significance. The #ImStaying group organised various moments of charity but refused to do the work of justice. The problem with that is that charity is never an end in itself. Charity is a little boy sticking his finger into the leak in the dam wall, knowing that new leaks are going to emerge and need to be plugged. Justice would involve fixing the wall or building a new one so that the boy is free to live his life.

Yes, race conversations are messy [especially on social media] and trying to figure out gender-based-violence or any of the other pandemic-sized struggles that South Africa faces as it still fights the legacies of colonialism and apartheid which honestly haven’t been all that much owned or wrestled with, in the twenty-five years of our democracy. But to refuse to allow them and to actively dismiss countless people who are seeing to hold honest conversations in those spaces is deeply problematic. Especially when coupled with a number of offensive stereotype-enforcing threads in the #ImStaying group such as pictures of the people who clean white people’s houses with patronising or fetishing type remarks.

So remove one million people from feeling any kind of responsibility or conviction while at the same time injecting them with the euphoria of believing they are the solution, is a master plan. And if we’re talking critical thinking – which i love to do – we have to at some stage get to the question, “Why?” – the way i am writing it here may seem like i think there is a malicious plot to keep people from bringing about change and i don’t really believe that at all. i am, however, deeply curious as to what would happen if we follow the money. And what kind of benefit Jarette and others are getting out of this. From reports it seems as if he quit his job and is being paid full-time to run these ‘movements’ but i could be wrong on that? However, there is merch being sold and an apparent refusal to open the books to the public when Graeme Codrington and others have asked him about it.

[3] As a bit more of a stretch to this point, you have the Removed One Million. No surprise that a whole lot of support seems to be happening for both #ImStaying and now Move One Million from white people who have left South Africa and moved to the UK or Australia. Just this morning i saw Springbok colours wearing families from those countries and Cyprus and Canada and more. Which adds fuel to why these groups would not be interested in doing the necessary work on race and class and gender-based violence and other issues and why the white-genocide fuelled narratives of farm murders are allowed to roam free in there.

Literally just watched the first few minutes of Jarette’s speech in Cape Town where among other things he says “San and Khoi people, we see you” and “To the parents of every child who has ever died in a pit latrine, we see you” – now this is where i want to be wrong, because hearing him say things like that when he has showed absolutely no inclination to even allow [never mind have himself] any conversations that are needed in those two areas and others and it feels like he is using tragedy to get the support of the people.

i must stop now, cos this is making me mad. He just said “It’s not government’s problem, it’s our problem.” But censor any helpful talk that might lead to understanding and acknowledgement and change?

While there are definitely black and coloured people in the crowd and on the pages, when i look at who is gathered there it is predominantly white. The faces and voices you see leading this group are predominantly white [well, predominantly Jarette, to be fair] – if this group is concerned about changing South Africa then surely we should be hearing the voices and seeing the faces of the other 91% of people who make up this country?

Let me finish by echoing what i said in my status this morning on Facebook. Being against corruption is a good and necessary and praiseworthy thing. Holding government accountable is a good thing. Not settling for all the obstacles South Africa currently faces is all good. But in the wake of the horrific legacies of both colonialism and apartheid which rage on 25 years later as they were mostly not seriously faced or addressed in 1994, refusing to sit in the uncomfortable and messy spaces that are going to allow us to move forwards together as a nation, and where we start working seriously to move away from being one of the most unequal nations in the world, has to happen. Without that it is just a lot of hot air. Which is largely what i feel any time i see or hear anything from this group or groups.

It starts with me. i must be doing the work in my life. i must be unlearning and dismantling and reading and listening and trying to understand and do and be better. As a white person i need to be doing the work of which some of it is mentioned here[which i will need to be doing for the rest of my life!]. As a South African i need to probably be doing a bit more of this, in terms of recognising, admitting and owning mistakes and committing to the process of growth and change.

It cannot be feel good. It cannot be comfortable. It will come with a cost. And it has to be all of us. 

How is is possible that something that claims to be so uniting has in actual fact caused so much disunity? And how can we ever move forward if we are encouraged not to ask questions of ‘Why?’ and ‘How’ and ‘When?’ and ‘Where?’