South African farming activists are outraged at the lack of police action following a series of brutal attacks on white farmers.
Many in the farming community are disturbed by a newly introduced motion that rules land can be seized without any financial recompense. Critics believe that the proposal to amend Section 25 of the constitution has enabled disgruntled members of the community to invade and steal farmland without fear of legal consequences.
Civil rights organization AfriForum has alleged that there have been 109 recorded attacks so far in 2018 and 15 farm murders, which means that one white farmer has been killed every five days this year. “Our rural areas are trapped in a crime war. Although the South African government denies that a violence crisis is staring rural areas in the face, the numbers prove that excessive violence plague these areas,” said Ian Cameron, AfriForum’s Head of Safety, as reported by Newsweek.
A 35-year-old farmer, Gabriel Stols, told the Independent that his brother Kyle, 21, was shot dead by four people on a game reserve near Bloemfontein. “What is happening to us is torture, it is slaughter, it is brutal, it is revenge. The world doesn’t know what is happening in South Africa,” he said.
Victim was dragged 100m from where him and his wife were initially attacked and was then hung from a wire by his feet after which he was stabbed until he died. Suspects are thought to be from Lesotho. pic.twitter.com/wCMf72Md2d
— Ian Cameron (@IanCameron23) March 20, 2018
The policy was originally proposed by the leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema, who has insisted that it is the right of black South Africans to take back the land. In a speech delivered Wednesday, Malema said it was time for the white farmers to leave. “They must leave the keys of the tractors‚ because we want to work the land,” the controversial figure declared, as reported by Times Live. “They must leave the keys of the houses‚ because we want to stay in those houses.”
Mr Malema has previously described land seizures as “teaching whites a lesson.”
“We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” he said in response to the motion passing by 241 votes to 83.
His fiery response was, in part, as a response to remarks made by an Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, who has offered to explore options for issuing visas to stricken farmers.
Dutton said that the oppressed farmers deserve “special attention” and need help from a “civilized country” like Australia. “If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,” he said, as reported by the Sydney Herald. “We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted.”
On Monday, Australia’s former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told 2GB Radio that there is “a very serious situation developing in South Africa,” as reported by the Guardian. “Something like 400 white farmers have been murdered – brutally murdered over the last 12 months,” he added.
Abbott continued: “Just imagine the reaction here in Australia if a comparable number of farmers had been brutally murdered by squatters intent on driving them off their land … we would say this is a national crisis.”
Many South Africans are fearful due to the striking similarity of the situation to that of the brutal land reforms, murder and persecution that has faced white farmers in Zimbabwe under former president Robert Mugabe over the past couple of decades.
But the South African government insists that it is simply rectifying the past via its accelerated land reform.
“There’s no need for anyone to be scared or to fear anything,” government spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the BBC. “The land redistribution programme will be done according to the law. We want to say to our friends across the world that there’s no need to panic.”
“We are engaged in a process of land redistribution which is very important to address the imbalances of the past,” added a spokesperson for the South African minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu. “But it is going to be done legally, and with due consideration of the economic impact and impact on individuals.”
The South African Christian Democratic Party has spoken out against Malema, claiming that his remarks contitute “hate speech.”
“Land distribution is something that our party agrees with, as we agree that injustices were made in the past and many people lost their land,” Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, the president of the African Christian Democratic Party, told The Independent.
“Where we disagree is when the EFF and the ANC want to expropriate land without compensation and the EFF’s talk of taking land from the whites. People like Malema who are promoting hate speech should not be allowed.”