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Rebel with a cause: U2's Bono snubs South African farmers

Anissa Ford's picture

There is no telling whether U2 rock man Bono made a facetious blunder in South Africa this week, or if he simply didn’t care about inciting the ire of white South African farmers.

In a South African newspaper, U2’s front man compared the lyrics of the South African ‘shoot the Boer’ song to rebellious folk songs that he sang as a child about the IRA in his native Ireland.

That Bono did not shun the song entirely has a number of white South Africans, especially farmers, really upset with the singer. Many white South Africans ironically feel the singer should stick to singing, not politics.

Ironic because U2’s claim to fame are the many songs and lyrics they’ve produced over the decades with lyrics that support racial, creative, sexual, and economic freedom of people all over the world.

U2 opened its South African tour on Sunday night with legendary trumpeter and anti-apartheid activist Hugh Masekela. Masekela, in a guest and surprise appearance, delivered a “unique African jazz vibe” to “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

And while Bono’s, perhaps ever so slightly facetious remarks made to South African media have caused an uproar, the singer and his band are not retracting. The singer spoke on the issue twice. A second comment Bono made on the ‘shoot the boer’ lyrics was that it obviously is not a good idea to sing such a song in front of a certain crowd.

White South African farmers are especially incensed with that remark because many feel that ‘shoot the boer’ lyrics contributed to the death of a well known South African farmer and former politician. Boer means farmer in South Africa, but is also a derogatory misnomer for whites.

‘Shoot the boer’ lyrics have been banned by South African courts as hate speech and unconstitutional. In March of 2010, Julius Malema, the young president of the African National Congress Youth League, sang ‘shoot the boer’ lyrics at a university rally.

The government intervened and convicted Malema of hate speech and forbade him to sing those words again citing the lyrics could potentially instigate violence.

The next month, April of 2010, a white farmer, Eugene Terre’Blanche was murdered on his farm, allegedly by two of his employees, over a wage dispute. Terre'Blanche was hacked.

Nevertheless, Malema vowed to continue singing the lyrics and he also criticized Terre'Blanche, the murdered farmer. In 1996, Terre'Blanche was sentenced to three years in prison for assault of a black oil driver and for attempted murder of a black security guard.

TerreBlanche was also a member of a South African political party with a strenuous platform to retain white apartheid rule. When apartheid was dismantled in 1990, TerreBlanche called for an Afrikaner homeland.

‘Shoot the boer’ lyrics are relatively short and simple. " The cowards are scared, shoot, shoot. Shoot the Boer. Mother leave me be, oh mother. Shoot the Boer. These dogs are raping, shoot shoot.".

But the song is more than sixty lines and 'Shoot the Boer' is repeated more than forty times in the song. White South Africans are sickened by the song because the attacks and murders of white farmers in the country has been rampant over the past decade.

U2 rearranged the words of “Pride” to reflect South Africa’s freedom from apartheid’s rule at the Johannesburg concert:

'February 13 1990
Words rings out in a Jo'burg sky.
Free at last to live your life
The Lion of Africa and his pride... '

U2 has not toured or appeared in South Africa since 1998.

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