- Australia’s foreign minister has refused to back the statements of her country's minister of home affairs who last week announced that Australia would fast track visas for white farmers from South Africa
- Farm killings in South Africa are a highly contentious issue with many attacks seeming to reinforce a widely held belief in a targetted campaign by black people against white farmers being ignored by police and the state
- In reality not only white people are killed on farms with attacks on black farm workers also taking place, but some argue that attacks by farmers are often given more attention in the media than attacks on white farmers
As Briefly.co.za reported last week, when Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, announced last week that “a civilised country like Australia” needed to help white farmers in South Africa, the world was understandably shaken by the racist undertones of his stance.
As one South African editor, Shannon Ebrahim, Group Foreign Editor for the Sunday Independent put it: “There are certain things that ministers say which are quite frankly indefensible, making the job of their ambassadors quite challenging.”
Dutton’s comments drew the ire of the South African government and many who felt they gave unwarranted legitimacy to tactics of scaremongering and racial division which proponents of the alt-right “white genocide in South Africa” narrative would have the world believe about South Africa.
South Africa is seeking to recover the trust of the international community which lost some faith during the past few years in South Africa’s ability to overcome it’s historical legacy of inequality.
Comments from a country which historically has enjoyed good relations with South Africa has the added sting of damaging South Africa’s image abroad.
Based on the reactions to increasingly common stories about shocking and gruesome killings on farms, some including torture and seeming to include the element of being motivated by hatred it is understandable that the narrative of a targeted “white genocide” is easily sold to those either fear, or want to believe, that South Africa is on the verge of civil war.
As Ebrahim observes, it is “true that in many of these cases adequate follow-up on these crimes has not been done and in many cases convictions have not been secured.” This has led to those who have the resources to do so seeking to move to other countries, with Australia being a popular choice for many South Africans.
However, Ebrahim also conceded that while the state ignoring pleas to declare farm attacks as a priority crime in much the same way that they have approached poaching of wildlife has fuelled discontent, “there is no evidence to suggest that the police in South Africa are allowing this to happen, or that the state is indifferent.”
Gareth Newham at South Africa’s Institute for Social Studies recently reported “young black males living in poor urban areas” faced a higher risk of being murdered, citing a murder rate in those areas of between 200 and 300 per 100,00 people.
He said the highest estimates of farm murders, regardless of race, stood at 133 per 100,000 people.
Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister has added her voice to the chorus of people condemning Dutton’s claim that white farmers from South Africa deserved “special treatment” over alleged persecution.
Opinion is divided around the world following Dutton, the same home affairs minister who sought to close Australia’s borders against refugees from a variety of countries announcing that white South African farmers the “sorts of migrants that we want to bring into our country”.
South Africa’s Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation took pains last week to emphasis that the fast-tracking of land restitution and restoration which Parliament passed the motion to amend the constitution to allow for will be handled responsibly, in keeping with the constitution, and will ensure that food security is not affected.
The slow pace of land reform over the past 23 years of our democracy is itself an injustice to the majority in this country. Since 1994, only 9% of commercial farmland has been transferred through restitution and redistribution.
Ebrahim cites Ben Cousins, the National Research Fund Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, who argues that contrary to what AgriSA claims, the market has not been redistributing land to black South Africans. He also reportedly said it is a myth that land reform can involve the redistribution of state-owned land, as most state land in the rural areas comprises densely settled communal land not available for redistribution.
One thing is clear. Social justice will need to be carried out alongside responsible land redistribution in what is sure to be a delicate dance made up of intricate steps which will need to be carefully choreographed to prevent it turning into a nightmare.
At the moment, Ebrahim notes, “a large segment of the population is unable to afford proper and adequate nutrition. With food prices rising globally, and unprecedented periods of drought in South Africa, the formula adopted needs to be one that will ensure both maximum productivity and human security.”
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