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The New York Times recently ran a three-part series – titled “American nationalist” – on the Fox News host Tucker Carlsson by Nicholas Confessore. Part Two references the segment on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ in May 2018 in which AfriForum’s Ernst Roets was interviewed on farm murders and the ANC’s move to Expropriation Without Compensation. Roets submitted the following opinion piece to the New York Times in response which considered it, but decided to pass on publication.
The threat to South African farmers: A problem worth discussing
Even though there is an abundance of misleading information on the plight of South African farmers, their crisis remains one that the world must in fact take seriously. In 2018 I was interviewed by Tucker Carlson about this crisis and about the South African government’s initiative to change the property rights clause in the South African Constitution to empower the government to expropriate private property without compensation.
Carlson published several other segments about the topic. This lead to a tweet by former President Donald Trump, in which he said that he had asked State Secretary Mike Pompeo “to closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers.”
From a South African perspective all hell broke loose. During our trip to Washington – where I was interviewed by Carlson – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on us during a speech in Parliament to “come back home for inclusive dialogue”. Upon our return, Ramaphosa and his Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that they intend to “tell the truth” about South Africa to the world. A liaison tour occurred in September 2018, and Ramaphosa was asked about Trump’s tweet. He responded that “there is no land grab” and “there are no killings of farmers or white farmers” in South Africa.
A deluge of media attention was also given to the crisis of farm murders. Unfortunately, it seems that much of this was an attempt by specific media outlets to present the crisis in South Africa as insignificant – seemingly to discredit Trump and Carlson, whom they presumably regard as political or ideological opponents. On the other hand, a handful of extremist groups jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming a “white genocide” in South Africa.
The fact of the matter is: Even though the crisis on South African farms does not constitute the genocide that extremists would like us to believe, it remains a crisis that must be taken seriously. According to official police reports that cover more than two decades, South Africa suffered on average two farm attacks per day and two farm murders per week.
A more recent analysis that is based on police data indicates that there were 364 farm murders in six years, of which only 33% of the perpetrators who had been arrested for these attacks eventually ended up behind bars. Furthermore, in 15% of these murders the victims were also tortured. Torture involves the most grotesque methods imaginable, including burning with fire, clothing irons, boiling water or melted plastic, as well as strangulation, drowning, raping, stoning, forcing objects down victims’ throats and dragging victims behind vehicles.
Sometimes, young children also fall victims to these heinous crimes, either being murdered themselves, or their parents are murdered in front of them. What makes this crime phenomenon even more unique is the fact that it is actively encouraged by leading politicians. So-called “struggle songs” – in which the murder of farmers is called for – have become a regular phenomenon in South African politics.
These songs are often sung by high-profile politicians, including former President Jacob Zuma. They usually explain that these songs are meant metaphorically, but that does not change that what they are “calling for” (albeit in alleged figure of speech) happens literally.
Moreover, political speeches in which South African farmers and their ancestors are slandered and blamed for everything that is wrong with and in South Africa and in which comments are made about exterminating minorities have become a regular phenomenon.
The issue of farm murders is related to the threat to property rights as well as the South African government’s attempts to empower it to confiscate private property. The government has also made it quite clear that they regard this as a race issue, with one cabinet minister assuring the public that no black person’s property would be touched once they implement the policy.
The Deputy President even threatened with a “violent takeover” if white people did not voluntarily hand over their land to black people. Ramaphosa himself even went as far as to claim that this policy (of confiscating private property) would create the “Garden of Eden” and the “ultimate paradise” in South Africa.
Even though he has denied the existence of land grabs during his “truth-telling” mission to the U.S., it has become a regular feature of South African politics. In fact, in the province of the Western Cape alone, there have been more than a thousand land grabs in a mere ten months.
Now, whether you are a Trump supporter or not: You can accept it to be a reasonable response for people who live under these circumstances to welcome the U.S. President’s statement that this must be investigated. You can also imagine the disappointment of the communities who are affected by these crimes when they read that the problem allegedly does not really exist, or that it is not noteworthy.
The truth must be told about South Africa. To claim that there is a genocide or that it is part of a global conspiracy to exterminate the white race is certainly unhelpful. On the other hand, pretending that the problem doesn’t exist, or that it isn’t worth responding to, and attacking those who seek to raise awareness about this is equally reprehensible.
Ernst Roets is Head of Policy and Action at the South African civil rights organization AfriForum.
More than 300 000 members contribute monthly to the work of AfriForum, and more than 10 000 volunteers are involved in AfriForum’s community safety initiatives.
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