The Racial Divide In South Africa Widens With Ongoing Violence Toward The Farming Community

On Monday, predominantly white protesters stormed the motorways and road network of South Africa, after a spate of farm-based murders of fellow white people. According to AfriForum, this year approximately 72 white farmers have been brutally murdered in over 300 attacks, with the most recent happening during the protest, when an elderly vegetable farmer was hacked to death in Vryheid. Statistically, the most dangerous job in South Africa is working as a farmer, which is three times more dangerous than working as a police officer.

The protest, dubbed ‘Black Monday’, has however received a critical response, with the BBC reporting that white people are in fact the least likely racial group to be impacted by violent crime in South Africa. The presence of apartheid-era symbolism at the widespread protests has also been highlighted and condemned. The Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, has also received criticism from the protesting groups, as rather than address the unusually high occupational murder rate, threats of arrest are being made to non-law abiding protesters. It is indisputable that racial tensions are still a highly significant issue in the country, exposed further through the discourse surrounding the farm killings. However, in this last year, over 19,000 people across the nation have been killed, and so the rights of a relatively small farming community have been sidelined.

The group, Black First Land First, has lambasted white farming communities in the wake of the harsh sentencing of Jackson and Oosthuizen, who locked Victor Mlotshwa in a coffin. Implying that this behavior can be seen as commonplace in the white community, the group look to further a racial divide, echoing the worrying rhetoric of the Economic Freedom Fighters Party, whose leader Julius Malema, stated that he was not “calling for the slaughter of white people, at least for now”. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been considered at times to be inciting such violence toward white farmers, with President Jacob Zuma infamously singing the ‘Kill the Boer’ song in 2012 on stage at an ANC event.

However, one must also note the apartheid-flags witnessed at the protests raise great concern, suggesting both whites and blacks are failing to unanimously move away from the racial conflict. Amanda Watson of The Citizen stated that “every white South African who had access to an old South African flag chose yesterday to wave it”, and the malice of social media portrays a race-fuelled conflict, in which no perspectives leave unaffected, a concerning time for South Africa. However, the research of Dr. Frans Cronje, of the Institute of Race Relations, found in 2016 that 72% of South Africans experienced no racism on a daily basis, and only a minority of 13% believe that race relations have declined in recent decades.

It has been claimed, by investigative Television show Carte Blanche, that the seemingly skewed numbers of white farmers being murdered are simply due to their majority representation in the farming community, and there is some truth behind this with a 2003 police survey finding that 38% of victims were black. However, R.W. Johnson has argued that Zuma has been core to mobilizing anti-white sentiment to solidify political power, the sentiment which has played a role in the brutal farm attacks. Rex van Schalkwyk notes that the ‘innumerable examples’ of black-on-white racism go mostly unnoticed, with some arguing that it is simply a response to the years of white supremacy during the apartheid. Whilst I do not wish to belittle in any way the experiences of the black community in South Africa in recent decades, ignoring the rights of white communities and the failure of the ANC to condemn horrific crimes is a deeply concerning matter, and race relations in the country are increasingly nearing a broad-scale conflict.