He wanted to kill all white people. Then he had a life-changing ordeal
Former EFF youth wing member's punishment for racism was to work in a white squatter camp. It was an eye-opener
Three years ago, Luvuyo Menziwa, then a student leader at the University of Pretoria, threatened to kill all white South Africans with a bazooka.
Fast-forward to 2019: now the former member of the Economic Freedom Fighter’s youth wing is determined to try and help poor whites secure identity documents to qualify for social grants.
What had changed for the 29-year-old in the past three years? He lost an academic year, was taken to the Equality Court, ordered to apologise on social media for his offensive post and to do community work in a white informal settlement.
“I didn’t know there were poor white people living in informal settlements. I always thought when people spoke about poor whites, they meant white people owning a Toyota Tazz. But now I know that there are white people who are very poor,” Menziwa told Times Select from his home in Brakpan on Johannesburg’s East Rand.
“During my SRC days, I would be shocked at some of the things some of the white SRC would ask for. For instance, they would push for the price of coffee to be reduced while I would be concerned about accommodation. For me, coffee was a luxury, but those members would see it as a necessity. This is one of the things that made me to think white people know nothing about poverty.”
Menziwa spent December doing 30 hours of community service at informal white settlements in Pretoria, working with the Dutch Reformed Church and Solidarity union’s charity organisation Helpende Hand (Helping Hand) in Rooiwal, Sonskyn Hoekie, East Lynne, Jan Niemand Park and Derdepoort.
“It was an eye-opening experience. The people in those communities seem to be forgotten. They live very far from everything, and I asked myself if they chose to live far away from everything and everyone because they are ashamed and want to hide from the rest of the people,” Menziwa said.
He helped the church distribute food parcels to needy families.
“I was heartbroken to see people who basically have no food at all and where their next meal will come from. I really saw that poverty knows no colour. Poverty is poverty, irrespective of race,” Menziwa said.
He met a 23-year-old man in one of the informal settlements who had never set foot in a classroom in his entire life. He had to take care of his grandparents, and never had the opportunity or resources to go to school.
“Those people are far from everything. There are no schools, no electricity, no government offices or anything close by. I was really shattered to see how they lived. In my entire life, I never imagined that there are white people living under such horrendous conditions,” said Menziwa.
In 2016, Menziwa wrote a Facebook post that cost him his position on the students’ representative council and that the Equality Court last year ruled to be hate speech. He posted: “Reasons I hate white people: white privilege, white dominance, white arrogance, white monopoly capital and white superiority. Fuck white people, just get me a bazooka or AK47 so I can do the right thing and kill these demon possed [sic] humans.”
Menziwa ended his post by quoting Steve Biko: “The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.”
Looking back now, Menziwa just shakes his head in embarrassment.
“I regret that post. I still ask myself why I posted that at that moment. I shake so much when I think of what could have happened to white people in the country should anyone ever have done what I called to happen.”
Afriforum took him to the Equality Court.
“The whole experience was very traumatic for me. Firstly, I never knew anything about courts. Before this, I had never ever put my feet in a courtroom. I feared for my future. The fear of having a criminal record before I even complete my studies just left me broken,” he said.
He was expelled from the university for a year, and his friends and even political allies distanced themselves from him.
“It was really a tough time. I had disappointed so many people who looked up to and those that believed in me,” he said.
He spent 2017 looking for a job, but with no luck.
“I think the whole case against me had an impact, and no company wanted to be associated with someone who called for white people to be murdered.”
His pillar of strength at the time was his girlfriend, the mother of his now 11-month-old son.
“She is the only one who stood by me; everyone else just cut me out of their lives, but I understand. It is because I had disappointed them,” he said. In March last year, the Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech and incitement to violence.
The court ordered that he issue a public apology and do 30 hours of community service in a white informal settlement.
Last year, he went back to university to complete his degree in education. He said he planned to continue with his honours degree this year. “I lost funding because of the case, and now I have to fund my own studies. I’m hoping to find employment soon so that I can pay the university my outstanding fees and also have enough to register for my honours this year,” he said. For now, he is staying away from politics. He said he realised he could still make a change in people’s lives, even without joining a political party.
To this end, he wants to make a difference in the communities he visited.
“Some of the people that you see – they should be receiving social grants. But they don’t receive them. Some of them don’t even have identity documents. It’s really heartbreaking.”
He said he hoped to continue working with Helpende Hand and the church in the area to help the community members get their ID documents and help them apply for social grants. Menziwa, who is originally from Jouberton, Klerksdorp, in North West, said he understood suffering. He was the first in his family to go to university and was left an orphan at the age of seven.
“Even in my community, young people looked up to me as very few of the youngsters in our area to make it to university,” he said.
“Relatives took turns in taking care of me, and I remember I almost dropped out of matric because things were very tough.”
Now he plans to make a success of his life, and that will include helping the white people he once wished dead.
Helpende Hand spokesperson Phillip Bruwer said it had been an amazing experience to work with Menziwa.
“This is really great, and although I had never met Luvuyo before the court proceedings, he really seems like a nice person. He worked well with us and was eager to learn, and we also learned from him. A beautiful friendship was actually born out of this,” Bruwer said.