AfriForum’s recent trek to the US to highlight matters of land expropriation and the lobby group’s view that farm murders are a unique scourge in South Africa is finding traction abroad. This has much to do with the consolidation of a global alt-right movement which seeks to corral white, right-wing, racist sympathies where these might exist or be ignited.
Before a recent trip to Europe I was cautioned by a good friend in Belgium that one of the issues that would most certainly crop up in interviews is that of a “white genocide” in South Africa, particularly related to farm attacks.
The other minefield, I was warned, would be the issue of the redistribution and the expropriation of land without compensation.
Before my departure, a journalist from a popular Dutch-language magazine Skyped me for an interview. We touched on a few matters related to my trip (the launch of my book Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and me: A Memoir of Sorts, in Dutch) before turning to the issue of land and “white genocide” and farm murders.
In an attempt to simplify the issue for the journalist I explained that only 2okm from my home, on the Cape Flats, 1,066 South Africans, 261 of them children, had died in ongoing, relentless violence between 2010 and 2016.
“No one here speaks of a ‘coloured genocide’ when we speak of the Cape Flats,” I informed him.
The total number of crimes in the Western Cape in 2017 amounted to a horrendous 209,565 and these are only statistics from the worst 10 districts. The most violent area in my home province is Nyanga where there were 279 murders in 2017 which equates to one in 206 people killed annually (around 58,000 people live in Nyanga).
“No one here speaks of a ‘black genocide’.”
There was long silence. And then the journalist said he understood my point.
We all know that the statistics for the horrendous attacks on farmers or people who live in remote rural areas are contested. In the end it makes no difference whether it is 133 per 100,000 people, as the Freedom Front Plus has estimated, or an average of 33 per 100,000.
Any and all deaths from out-of-control violent crime in South Africa are unacceptable. This annual carnage threatens the very fibre of our democracy and the levels of viciousness of many of these attacks across the country are shocking and deeply upsetting. Women chopped up and burnt, children decapitated, farmers tortured, farmworkers stabbed, the elderly suffocated and trussed up.
All South Africans are dying this way.
And this is the point.
To somehow single out one group of people – white farmers – and to travel the world suggesting they are being deliberately targeted or that there is no official concern for these killings is disingenuous and must be viewed as part of a larger alt-right, white narrative.
AfriForum deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, says it is about breaking the “hierarchy of recognition”.
“Farmers are attacked and killed over proportion, responded to under proportion,” Roets tweeted this week.
It is a statement that is patently untrue.
When it came to expropriation of land without compensation I attempted to remind the journalist on Skype that it is a hugely complex matter and that the South African Constitution has made provision for this already.
He had no idea that one of the biggest losers should Section 25 of the Constitution be amended is probably Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, a corporate entity that owns three million hectares of land traditionally owned by Zulu people prior to the advent of democracy.
The journalist’s eyes widened. He had not heard of the Ingonyama Trust, nor had he considered that the Zulu King might find himself a “victim” of expropriation without compensation.
Lloyd Gedye, writing in the Mail & Guardian earlier in 2018, showed how the “white genocide” narrative can be traced back to the white right-wing Suidlanders organisation which is preparing for what it believes will be a “violent revolution”.
“The Suidlanders are an emergency plan initiative officially founded in 2006 to prepare a Protestant Christian South African Minority for a coming violent revolution. We are non-aggressive and legal in our preparation. Constituted lawfully under Geneva Convention, with particular reference to Protocols I & II of the Protocols Additional, for the protection of non-combatant civilian Afrikaners (women, children, the elderly and the non-able bodied) in the event of a civil war,” the group describes itself.
The group travelled to the US and has met with other alt-right groups and their “influential media contacts”, writes Gedye.
Two columnists with The Daily Telegraph (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp), Miranda Devine and Caroline Marcus, have been responsible for embedding a narrative that white South Africans are being targeted. So much so that Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, announced he was willing to fast-track visas for white South African farmers fleeing what he termed “horrific circumstances”. Dutton repeated the claim that farmers, white farmers of course, deserved special attention “because of land seizures and violence”.
Another journalist who has pushed the narrative is proud bigot, British broadcast journalist Katie Hopkins, who travelled to South Africa in January 2018 to report on “anti-white ethnic cleansing”.
Hopkins, who is proudly right-wing and racist, has 852,000 followers on Twitter.
On Monday night ITV broadcast a report about “The white farmers in South Africa taking up arms as they face the prospect of their land being forcibly taken back”.
“For the new series of ITV’s On Assignment, which returns on Monday, ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray travelled across the country, meeting those desperate to get back the land of their ancestors, and those who are taking up arms to protect their property.”
“It’s kill or be killed?” Ray asks a young white woman in a trailer.
“Yes,” she replies.
All of this plays into a distinctly unnuanced “northern” and particularly white understanding of South Africa in the 21st Century, a democracy far more complex than apartheid South Africa with its obvious heroes and villains.
Using the high crime rate in South Africa, which has affected and deeply traumatised ALL SOUTH AFRICANS, to stir up simple-minded populist, Afrophobic and racist sentiment in countries where white people make up the majority, is a despicable and cowardly.
To reduce the pain of others to score propaganda points and to fear-monger or to fan the flames of growing racism across the globe is the mark of individuals bereft of imagination, compassion and human solidarity or an understanding of the roots of violence in South Africa which are deep and complex, part of our colonial, imperialist and apartheid past. DM
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Marianne Thamm has toiled as a journalist / writer / satirist / editor / columnist / author for over 30 years. She has published widely both locally and internationally. It was journalism that chose her and not the other way around. Marianne would have preferred plumbing or upholstering.
"Look for lessons about haunting when there are thousands of ghosts; when entire societies become haunted by terrible deeds that are systematically occurring and are simultaneously denied by every public organ of governance and communication." ~ Avery Gordon