“The type of criteria they of course have to meet – or the key one – is evidence of persecution, so that’s exactly what we will be looking at,” Home Affairs Deputy Secretary Malisa Golightly said. Home Affairs said 89 refugee visa applications relating to 213 people had been received, although they did not specify their ethnicity or any other details.
News reports emerged earlier this year revealing that white farmers in South Africa had faced persecution after the country’s government approved a new law allowing for the confiscation of their lands, which would be transferred to black citizens.
Following the reports, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced his willingness to start fast-tracking humanitarian visas for South Africans who had endured violent rural crime at home and wished to move Down Under. The step was slammed by the South African opposition, which called Australia, and those willing to escape there, ‘racist.’
The controversial legislation was endorsed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who pledged to hand the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to black citizens of the country without compensation for the owners. South Africa’s 50 million citizens are predominantly black, but 72 percent of farmland reportedly belongs to whites.
The legislation evoked strong disapproval both in the country and internationally, with a reported upsurge in violence against white farmers. Last year, some 82 people were killed in a record 423 farm attacks, and there have been 109 attacks and more than 15 murders in 2018, Afriforum, a South African civil rights group reported in March.
The controversial reform may jeopardize commercial farming in the country, according to the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa. Experts say that the South African government may repeat the mistake made by the government of Zimbabwe, which had passed through a state-sanctioned purge of white farmers in 1999-2000. The measure plunged the country into famine.
Last month, South Africa’s parliament voted to allow white-owned land expropriation without compensation. That followed South Africa’s new President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge to return the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to the black citizens of the country. He claimed the land was “taken under colonialism and apartheid.”
“This is normal in South Africa to be attacked on a farm,”a 39-year old farmer Berdus Henrico told the reporter.
Berdus and his 51-year old partner Estelle Nieuwenhuys have been raided in the Limpopo province. The farmer has three bullet wounds – two through his shoulder and one through his face that came out the back of his neck.
“They took my hunting gun, my shotgun, two cell phones, our DVD player, our TV,”said Berdus, adding that Estelle was praying, out loud, begging them to stop.
“They want money and they want guns. They want the people off the land so as they can go on like they want to. They want it here like it was in Zimbabwe a few years ago when they chased all the whites out and let it go to the ground.”
According to AfriForum, a group that was set up to draw attention to the farmers’ plight, there were a record 404 farm attacks in 2017, four times the number recorded in the country a decade ago. The 2018 figures are expected to easily top last year’s numbers.
AfriForum is trying to work with police and government to raise awareness.
“If we see a white farmer being tortured, being burned with torches or clothing irons, gang-raped, we don’t see any focus on these cruel crimes,” said Ian Cameron, head of AfriForum Community Safety.
The organization’s statistics show the number of commercial farmers in South Africa declined from more than 60,000 to 35,000 during the past two decades. More than 60 percent of farm attack victims were over 50 years old.
Cameron explained that the government views farm attacks as “normal” crime.
“The cruelty that goes with farm attacks is disproportionate compared to other crime,” he said. “An urban crime might last 10 minutes, but [on farms] people can be tortured for up to nine hours.”
There is something warlike in the country, according to Cameron. “This country is damaged. We are psychologically damaged,” he said.
South Africa has a population of over 50 million people.
The leader of South Africa’s radical Marxist opposition party (the Economic Freedom Fighters) Julius Malema has recently been connected to the farm murders, allegedly offering cash and guns to ex-cons. He also said the mayor of Port Elizabeth should be removed because he is white.
“We are cutting the throat of whiteness,” said Malema.