This week, U.S President Donald Trump tweeted in response to South Africa’s land reforms, reiterating the white supremacist myth of “white genocide” towards white South African land owners by black South Africans. He tweeted to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for him to “closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers”, to which he gained support from American neo-Nazi groups, skinheads, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. According to Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow of the Centre of Extremism and Anti-Defamation League, Trump’s propagation of this attitude only encourages others to adopt the belief.
However, as shown through a study by the South African Agricultural Industry, farm killings in South Africa have actually been on the general decline since 2001/2 where there was an annual killing of 1069 people. Although there has been a slight rise since 2013/14, overall, farm murders have been reduced. Therefore, Pitcavage argues that white supremist groups have merely propagated the extent of these murders. Furthermore, the extent to which these murders have been based on race-related reasons has been debated. According to Gareth Newtam, the head of the Crime and Justice Program for the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, there is no evidence that violence on farms is race-related, and he instead argues that these murders are related to the dire security situation in the country. Whereas Lyndsey Chutnel, a journalist for Quartz Africa, suggests that although farmers are targeted because of the ease of attacking someone in isolation with less access to police, the brutality in which some of these murders have occurred suggests that “there is an element of race-based vengeance for apartheid”.
Apartheid, to a large extent, is responsible for conflict in South Africa regarding land rights. Today, due to the Native Land Act in 1913 which stripped land from black South Africans and redistributed it to white South Africans, 72% of private land is owned by a white minority making up 9%, and therefore, conflict in the post-apartheid era is ensured. However, the government are currently in heated debate in ways to manage conflict and try to redistribute land. Recently, the government have been managing black claims to their historic land through the Standard Settlement Offer, which provides monetary compensation. This has been applied to 70% of the 80,000 claims lodged, mostly by blacks. However, ultimately this is causing more conflict, as monetary compensation does not equate to the monetary value of the land.
South Africa’s land reform debacle is bound to continue in the region, and the lack of high security standards suggests that violence over land is likely to continue. Additionally, with the rise of white supremist groups, and support from major figures, such as last week by Trump, it is likely that the South African historic racist idea of “swart gevaar” or “black danger” will reappear, and greater racial tensions will continue to rise in the country. Therefore, the legacy of violence originating from apartheid, based on racial and economic factors, will contribute to continued conflict.
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