On this day last week, the Red October march grabbed world headlines and prompted many South Africans to ask significant questions about crime, the economy (wealth) and race relations in SA almost twenty years after 1994. The campaign has since gripped audiences and sparked heated debates all over the country over the past week. On Tuesday, UCT students Markus Trengrove, Leroy Nyarhi, Busi Mkhumbuzi, Nick Fitzhenry and members of the Amadoda organization helped organize the #standtogethercampaign, a youth dialogue at which students were invited to comment constructively on cultural identity, crime and wealth in the country. As a symbol of how this event was meant to address the issues for ALL South Africans, multi-coloured balloons were released into the air at the event. We kept the open, honest conversation about the state of the nation going when Live JHB Editor Lee Molefi spoke with one of the #standthogethercampaign organizers, Markus Trengrove.
Lee Molefi: Have you ever been mugged?
Markus Trengrove: Not in my person but there have been house-breakings at my home. Also, I think being affected by crime goes beyond being pickpocketed or held at gunpoint, there is a much deeper psychological impact that crime has on a society.
LM: Do you believe these break-ins were carried out by a black person or persons?
MT: I do happen to know their race in some of the instances, but that’s a loaded question that needs to be unpacked rather than answered at face value.
LM: Statistics prove that violent crime in the country is primarily undertaken by black people. Do you consider this a reflection of the innate violent tendency of an entire race or a reflection of the socio- economic dynamic in the country that forces most people (within the black race) into such acts?
MT: It is firmly a socio-economic issue. It would be silly to think that it is innate to a particular race to undertake such activity and that is the danger of campaigns such as #RedOctober. Such campaigns misrepresent the facts and paints the picture that black people inherently commit crime whereas one’s propensity to crime is constructed purely by one’s socio-economic circumstances.
LM: Many consider Julius Malema & Steve Hofmeyr two sides of a coin – proponents of radical political thought that could destabilise the country – can you draw a parallel between the two?
MT: I don’t think Red October and EFF are comparable, though they share a similarly inflammatory, divisive manner of presenting their rhetoric. I think Julius Malema could be a useful pressure valve in gauging the question of economic transformation in the country and voices a legitimate, statistically-backed discontent with SA’s economic condition that many people can relate to. Steve Hofmeyr, however, proposes a victim mentality based on a factually incoherent, misconstrued, false idea of the state of the nation.
LM: Are you going to vote next year and do you think Red October will have an impact on how people will vote next year?
MT: Yes – I will vote for the ANC. I am an ANC Youth League member.
I do not think it will have a radical effect on the outcome of the elections as a whole but I do think it will have a negative impact on how traditional “white” parties will campaign.
Because of Red October’s rash claims, it will be difficult for the DA to address issues such as crime & service delivery without appearing to be aligned to Red October or a watered-down version of it.
LM: With many white people (like yourself) publicly denouncing it, do you think Red October has increased racial tensions in the country or that it has brought about much-needed debate that may in fact soothe race relations?
MT: I think Red October voiced the sub-conscious notions of many white people living in the country at the moment and forced them to contend with the inanity of some of these ideas. It’s brought these ideas to the forefront of their minds and made the real state of the nation an important consideration. Though I wouldn’t hope for it to happen again, in some way, it may have had a mildly positive effect.
LM: Do you think young South Africans should talk more about race?
MT: Yes and No.
No, because I don’t think it’s wise for somebody like Steve Hofmeyr to comment insensitively on the issue as it could easily become inflammatory and divisive.
Yes, because race is something that affects much of our decision-making and so it’s important for us to deconstruct the social and historical implications of the subject. We just need to be wary to discuss it in the right way. There are many important, delicate conversations about race that must be had.
LM: Do you think young people are informed or concerned enough about South Africa’s economic condition?
MT: I don’t think young South Africans are well-informed enough about the country’s condition, though I don’t think anyone can be informed enough. What I think we should do to become better acquainted with the country’s true economic, political and social condition is to exercise our right to vote, encourage transparency at a governmental level and hold politicians accountable for all that they oversee.
Markus Trengrove is a 19 year-old second-year law student at UCT. He is the current President of the Black Law Students Forum and Former Chair of SASCO. He matriculated from St John’s College with 9 Distinctions and comes from an Afrikaans family that has always been involved in law and politics.
Photography by Nick Fitzhenry. Check out more of his great work on FB page, UCT Pictorial.