Updated: Jul 12, 2021
The founder of the #ImStaying and Move ONE Million is known for his philanthropy and good-works attitude, but his ignorance regarding deeper systemic issues, alliances with elements of the far-right and promotion of conspiracy theories makes him more a part of the problem than the solution.
In September 2019, South Africa was reeling from the brutal murder of Uyinene Mrethwa. The online space had become a very depressing place as other violent attacks against women and children were also being thrust into the spotlight. This culminated in many anti-GBV protests across South Africa and a pervasive feeling that our country was irretrievably broken. But then, amidst the darkness of endless sadness and gloom a star of hope appeared. Someone on Facebook dared to find hope in the darkness and left a comment under one of the many depressing posts, stating that they still believed in this country and that they were not going to abandon ship. It was this post which introduced the now well-known hashtag #ImStaying.
This hashtag suddenly became very popular among those who were convinced that there was no hope for this country. Rather than relocating to either Australia, New Zealand or the UK, many (mostly white) South Africans saw this hashtag as an embodiment of the hope they were eager to find in their country. Then out of nowhere, a Facebook group burst onto the scene with the hashtag #ImStaying as its name. The man behind this group was an bright-eyed, seemingly well-meaning property agent named Jarette Petzer. Noticing the dearth in optimism on social media and the deep hunger for positivity, the #ImStaying group encouraged South Africans from all walks of life to share stories of the things they loved about South Africa. Jarette stated on the page that he was seeking to unite all South Africans from all race and all religions through positive vibes and inspirational stories.
This proved to be an instant hit! During September and October 2019, Jarette’s #ImStaying group grew by thousands of members everyday. For many mostly well-off South Africans who were fed up all the negativity in our country, Jarette’s overly simplistic message and blind optimism became very attractive. After #ImStaying went past 100k members, Jarette begun to appear on national TV talking about his vision of unity and hope for South Africa. His desire to build bridges in an increasingly divided South Africa and bring hope to our country through #ImStaying resulted in a strictly enforced “GOOD VIBES ONLY” policy on the group.
Jarette took this "Good Vibes Only" policy very seriously. On his #ImStaying Facebook page, he and his admins would immediately remove any person who brought up anything that challenged their overly optimistic message of unity and positivity. Many criticized this policy, including the page’s draconian tendency to delete any comments that tried to point out the subtle racism and ignorance from the predominantly white members of the group. It quickly became apparent that #ImStaying was doing more to help mostly white well-off people ignore pressing problems like racism, GBV and racial inequality than initiating any constructive dialogue with other race groups that would address them.
For a deep analysis of the #ImStaying phenomenon, we recommend a balanced and informative blogpost by local blogger Brett Anderson. There was also a radio podcast on 702 Capetalk in which Brett Anderson and a local woman had an insightful discussion on their experiences in the #ImStaying Online Movement. The Mail & Guardian also published a great opinion piece on the limits of the #ImStaying movement's "good feels" idealism.
The Rise of Move ONE Million
Following his increased popularity and influence through the #ImStaying Facebook movement, Jarette decided to start a new movement called Move ONE Million in mid-2020. Unlike #ImStaying which was more about sharing inspiring stories, Move ONE Million was going to be explicitly political. In this new initiative, Jarette was able to move past his seemingly apolitical stance in #ImStaying and become more vocal about the real issues he believed in.
As expected, the same bigotry and ignorance that was allowed to flourish in #ImStaying was carried on to Move ONE Million. We have been following Move ONE Million since it was started and have noticed this disturbing trend. In fact, some of our first posts on our sister Facebook page Busting Bad Myths detailed our concerns about this movement. We watched how Move ONE Million began to promote more pro-white political issues and were not surprised to see the problematic alliances Jarette later begun to make with some of the people on the far-right political fringes.
Many people from Move ONE Million and #ImStaying were critical of our posts about the movement. Some of them had even been followers of our page. However, we are more concerned with fighting misinformation online than the number of people who follow us. We also believe no one should be above criticism, especially when they have a significant following and are seeking to impact the lives of millions of people.
Stop Farm Murders and the White Genocide Movement
The first thing we noted about Move ONE Million was their strong dislike for the ANC government and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement. We saw Move ONE Million admins allowing many people on their group to share racially charged posts about Farm Murders while any talk about BLM (or the mere mention of the slogan) was banned. As Move ONE Million organized their official public protests, we begun to see “Stop Farm Murders” signs (above) pop up at their gatherings alongside anti-government and anti-lockdown signs.
As Move ONE Million grew closer to the “Stop Farm Murders” movement, the sentiments on their group moved closer to those of the White Genocide conspiracy theory. These being that the current South African government is complicit in the attacks on white farmers. This is an unfounded conspiracy theory typically associated with far-right organizations like Afriforum. One alliance that emerged was the close association of Move ONE Million with the “Stop Farm Murders” Movement. This was between Jarette and the well known conspiracy theorist & "activist" Debbie Els. We have detailed many of the problematic conspiracy theories that Debbie has been pushing here .
However, as Jarette became more political, Move ONE Million begun to steal Debbie’s thunder. The crowd of people who usually supported Debbie were moving to Move ONE Million. This sparked a series of "turf wars" between Debbie and Jarette for control over the "persecuted minority" protest scene. Debbie then made some post on her Facebook group that were critical of Move ONE Million. We’ve seen Debbie get a bit feisty whenever anyone tried to take the Farm Murders "limelight" from her. An example was a falling out with Devon Hofmeyr’s Stop Farm Murders rally in late 2020, which was a disaster. On April the 8th 2021, Debbie was forced to bite the bullet and apologize to Jarette for the unsavory things she said about Move ONE Million. She even had to post it publicly;
Instead of commenting directly on the issue, we decided to crop Jarette's smug face from Debbie's apology post and make a meme about how condescending white guys get during discussions over race.
As soon as we posted this meme of Jarette’s face, the comments section was suddenly filled with responses from some of Jarette's most devout supporters. They complained that the post was mean and unacceptable. Some insisted that we should take the post down and that we as Busting The Myth admins had "lost our way". We’re used to being labelled as haters or liars so this wasn’t new.
Granted Jarette may not have explicitly brought up any race issues recently, but that doesn't mean he's "not a racist". We saw this picture as a great place to start our criticism because like the Democratic Alliance (DA) and many racists out there, Jarette is also colorblind.
In fact, Jarette is so colorblind that he only sees the corruption and mismanagement of the ANC. He has never criticized the DA and their appalling record of corruption and mismanagement. Because of his colorblindness, he has refused to support #BlackLivesMatter because it's a "divisive issue". This while giving his support to Stop Farm Murders protests and Afrikaner self determination - which are some of the most divisive racial issues in South Africa today (remember Senekal?). These are not the only contentious and divisive issues Jarette has promoted.
Covid Denial and PANDA
Recently, Jarette endorsed a group of Covid-19 deniers called PANDA  who have been working against the government's efforts to control the spread of Covid-19.
Pandata was founded by an actuary named Nick Hudson (not someone from any medical field) and a group of influential South African lobbyists, Panda have been dangerously amplifying discredited and unscientific views and voices. Nick Hudson has a long list of infamously bad takes regarding Covid19:
“Countries that imposed no lockdown performed precisely as well as those that did.” – September 2020
“What you’d expect is in fact what’s observed: no resurgence [of case numbers] after the end of lockdown.” – May 2020
“[Dr Antony Fauci] turned into the biggest panic porn artist in the world and he’s famous for it.” – August 2020
“For 40,000 people in South Africa to die of Covid-19 would put us in line with the very worst experiences in the world. That makes no sense” – June 2020
“Second waves are badly misrepresented, even nonexistent.” – October 2020
“driving a car is more dangerous to me than Covid” - December 2020
“Masks on kids kill Granny” - Jan 2021
This has pushed Jarette Petzer closer to anti-lockdown movements which are both very closely aligned with far-right groups and white supremacists in South Africa. These racist anti-lockdown groups tend to bring together staunchly anti-government individuals who will see anything the government does as "Communism". Jarette has echoed these same conspiracy theories and Covid misinformation; Association with Herman Mashaba Jarette has also associated himself with Herman Mashaba who now leads the Action SA Party. Mashaba was the former DA mayor of Johannesburg who has been criticized for his xenophobic views . These have been linked to some of the more recent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng. Mashaba is unapologetic about his xenophobic sentiments, something which doesn't seem to bother Jarette at all .
Mashaba has on multiple occasions made wild and false claims about the number of undocumented foreigners in the country. For example, he claimed in a newspaper article that there are 15 million ‘undocumented foreigners’ in South Africa. He also claimed that 80% of Johannesburg’s inner city residents were undocumented migrants. Both claims are false.
QAnons at Move ONE Million protests
QAnon Supporters were seen carrying signs at a Move ONE Million March in Cape town on 5 September 2020 The most notable sign of Jarette and Move ONE Million's aligning with problematic far-right movements wasn't just the many farm murders & white genocide placards at their protest last year. It was the presence of South African QAnon supporters at his Move ONE Million protests. QAnon is a far-right conspiracy cult whose followers believe that a secret group of satan-worshiping, child-kidnapping pedophilic elites are trying to control our politics and media. QAnon pushes a mix of conspiracy theories from anti-semitism, anti-science, anti-BLM and anti-government. It’s no mystery how they ended up joining Move ONE Million. QAnon followers in the US have been reported to plan violent attacks and many participated in the US Capitol riots. They have currently been classified as a terrorist threat by the FBI .
Jarette has never condemned this far-right conspiracy cult that is publicly associating itself with Move ONE Million. Like Donald Trump, he's far more interested in the support his movement gets than the crazy people who are actually coming to his marches.
Alliance with the National Conservative Party (NKP)
Jarette Petzer and his Move ONE Million movement worked together with the NKP, a far-right nationalist party. The NKP was founded by members of the Conservative Party (KP) which is infamous opposing constitutional reforms to end Apartheid in the 1990s. In November 2016, the NKP, marched into Pretoria carrying the old South African flag (among others) demanding land for the Boer people. The current leader of the NKP, Schalk van der Merwe, told The Citizen “We are tired of Malema, tired of crime and tired of the killing of white people, and most importantly we want our land back,”
On their official Facebook page, the NKP declared that they had supported Jarette's movement since it was founded. They also stated that their NKP leadership and Move ONE Million are "on very good terms" adding that their leader Schalk Van der Merwe developed the concept for the Move ONE Million manifesto.
Van der Merwe confirmed this claim by posting that he was working to prepare a manifesto and develop policies for Jarette's movement. This (above) was posted on Move ONE Million's Facebook page with Jarette Petzer being mentioned on the post. So its very likely that Jarette saw Schalk's post and allowed it.
If Jarette is so committed to uniting South Africans, why would he have a white nationalist movement committed to Afrikaner separatism developing his movement's policies and manifesto?
We cannot confirm that Jarette personally holds the same far-right and xenophobic views that his associates have. However the real problem is that his association with people like Debbie, QAnon and far-right political parties like the NKP creates a sewer pipe from the extreme right to the political center. This makes Jarette's supporters (like those who rushed to defend him on our page) vulnerable to accepting extreme political views without realizing it.
That is how Trump brought extremist views from America's far-right into the political mainstream. This culminated in a normalization of far-right politics and an increase in polarization, hate crimes and the rise of cults like QAnon.
Jarette’s views about our Page
After posting about Jarette and Debbie Els, Jarette came to our Facebook page and accused us of "pushing propaganda since inception". We are a group of anti-racist activist whose work in debunking the myth of white genocide in South Africa has been recognized in the press ,  and by many South Africans.
What Jarette said about our page doesn't bother us. In fact, what it does show is the extent of his ignorance to real world problems like racism, misinformation and radicalization. This explains why he has become such a useful tool for the far-right and conspiracy theorists alike.
We've had a racism problem in South Africa for hundreds of years. Jarette and his Move ONE Million don't need to be explicitly racist to be part of this problem.
We know that many people are inspired by Jarette because he gives them hope. He speaks of building a better world without racism. He has also been encouraging people take the initiative in their own communities instead of relying on the incompetent leaders, some of whom think they're above scrutiny. We can agree with a lot of these ideals, but we know that to make any of this work we have to be realistic. We first need to acknowledge the real problems we're facing, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable.
The reason we strongly disagree with Move ONE Million and Jarette's colorblind approach in #ImStaying is that it does more to comfort the privileged than aid the disenfranchised. We cannot hope to fix our country's long, continuous history of racial inequality by either ignoring it or denying its existence.
We also cannot fix the problems in our society by endorsing far-right radicals who oppose our multicultural democracy and whose movements promote hatred and unfounded, dangerous conspiracy theories.
We are among the millions of people in this country who want to live in peace and prosperity with all people. Whether Jarette knows it or not, his ignorance is pandering to (and encouraging) that same racist bigotry which had historically divided us in the past and still divides us today.
It is clear that Jarette Petzer's movement and the conspiracy theorists he harbors makes him more a part of the problem than the solution, no matter how many black friends he has or what they say about him being such a great oke.
After posting a shorter version of this piece on our Facebook page discussing Jarette’s problematic alliances, Jarette decided to leave another childish rant in the comments. He didn’t address any of the points we had made and instead continued with his name-calling. He said that there are “so many lies and inaccuracies” in what we’ve written about him yet he couldn’t provide us any proof or clarity for how we misrepresented him and his organization. We would be happy to correct anything we've said about anything we have written here and issue an apology if Jarette Petzer can send us anything that that proves that we were wrong about him. To date, no such proof has been presented.
We’ve also been on his group multiple times but have never found this truth that has been put on the line for all to see. Maybe he’s referring to all the anti-vax, anti-government, far-right and Covid denial post scattered around his page. Is that what Jarette means when he speaks about put[ing] it all on the line for everyone to see?
Links to Sources:
1. Debbie Els' problematic posts
2. Our video on Jarette Petzer pushing co**d misinformation
3. Herman Mashaba insighting xenophobia
4. Herman Mashaba meeting with Jarette Petzer https://www.facebook.com/817419378298114/posts/4936901913016486/
5. What is QAnon https://www.nytimes.com/article/what-is-qanon.html
6. Busting on the Sunday Times: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-05-10-genocide-myth-busters-vow-to-separate-white-from-wrong/
7. Busting on the Mail & Guardian: https://mg.co.za/news/2020-02-28-the-facebook-group-taking-on-south-africas-white-right/