13 May 2019

South Africa: Trevor Noah Under Fire for His Comments On Julius Malema

Photo: Screenshot/YouTube
Trevor Noah under fire for his comments on Julius Malema

The Daily Show host is facing criticism for his portrayal of the South African opposition politician, comparing the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters to Donald Trump.

South African-born comedian Trevor Noah, the host of the talk and news satire television programme The Daily Show, has come under fire from many on the continent after he labelled politician Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a "white genocidaire". Noah showed clips of Malema, positioning them in relation to US President Donald Trump, including clips of Malema's treatment of journalists.

"If you are one of those people thinking right now, 'You know what, Trevor, this doesn't seem too extreme. He just hates the press.' Well, you might want to buckle up for this one," Noah said on his show. He then proceeded to show incomplete clips of utterances made by Malema, taking them out of context, including a clip that was doctored to show that Malema had "not called for the killing of white people. At least for now. I cannot guarantee the future."

All these clips, basically nothing but the demonisation of Malema, led to many Africans and South Africans on social media expressing their deep resentment and anger at Noah. They had expected that he would know better when it came to the representation of black people to white audiences. The Daily Show tweeted, "If you think Trump is bad, meet South Africa's anti-establishment politician."

Noah further said, "He (Malema) speaks about genocide like he's talking about remodeling his kitchen." Malema and his party have been vocal about land repatriation, causing President Donald Trump to tweet the following on 22 August 2018: "I have asked Secretary Pompeo to closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. South Africa is now seizing land from farmers."

While everyone - or almost everyone - understands Trump's ignorance and his tendency to not think his statements through, the opposite applies to Trevor Noah, whom many consider brilliant and well rooted in the struggles of South Africans. With such a powerful platform as Comedy Central, the negative tropes about the continent which Noah is dishing out reinforces certain long-held myths about Africans. Referring to Malema as a white genocidaire serves to reinforce Trump's statement about the killing of white farmers. In fact, in the edited video that Noah referenced, Malema raised the question of blacks also being killed on farms in South Africa and everyone turning a deaf ear.

While some people have stated that Noah should be pardoned because his is a comedy show, one understands too well that beyond comedy, a narrative is being rewritten - and South Africans will not take it.

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