White farmers in South Africa have the most dangerous job in the country, are twice as likely to be murdered than police and are killed at four times the rate of the wider community, a rights group claims.
This week, as the government moves to seize all white-owned land without compensation, civil rights organisation AfriForum claimed there had been 109 attacks which left 15 white farm workers dead so far this year.
This follows 82 killings and 423 attacks in 2016, though none of the figures can be verified because the South African government has refused to release farm murder statistics since 2007.
Some of the killings are reported to have been barbaric, with farm owners tortured, raped, burned alive and slaughtered in front of their families.
Farm attack victims are usually restrained with shoe laces, telephone wires or electric cables, according to a previous AfriForum report.
Some have had their nails pulled out, had boiling water poured over their bodies and been beaten to death with makeshift weapons.
‘Some of the murders have been accompanied by gratuitous violence and torture that can only be explained as racial hatred,’ Australian National University international law expert Associate Professor Jolyon Ford told SBS.
In January this year, 86-year-old Piet Els and his partner Rikkie Alsemgeest were the alleged victims of a brutal attack which saw four black men storm their farm, beat them with steel pipes and burn them with an iron.
Ernst Roets, AfriForum’s vice president, said last year ‘political factors’ were fuelling the violent attacks.
‘We are concerned about hate speech, political leaders who… would say for example ”the white farmers should be blamed for everything”,’ he said.
The situation has worsened since the ruling African National Congress joined with the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF) earlier this month and announced a motion to confiscate white-owned land without compensation.
EFF leader Julius Malema, who was previously convicted of hate speech for singing the outlawed apartheid-era song ‘Shoot the Farmer,’ said two weeks ago: ‘We are starting with this whiteness. We are cutting the throat of whiteness.’
On Wednesday, he urged white South Africans to ‘go and live in a racist country like Australia’ in front of a cheering crowd during a Human Rights Day rally in Mpumalanga.
‘A racist country like Australia says, ”EFF wants to kill white farmers – they must come to Australia”. If they want to go, they must go. They must leave the keys of the tractors because we want to work the land.
‘They must leave the keys of the houses, because we want to live in those houses. They must leave everything that they did not come with to South Africa.’
He went on to say anyone who immigrated to South Africa from Australia must ‘leave quietly’ and added: ‘Don’t make a noise because you will irritate us.’
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last week announced controversial plans to fast-track white South African farmers through Australia’s refugee program.
‘If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,’ Mr Dutton told the Daily Telegraph.
‘We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted.’
Mr Dutton directed his department to explore whether the farmers can be accepted into Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other visas, including the in-country persecution visa category.
‘I do think on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help, and they need help from a civilised country like ours,’ Mr Dutton said.
Australian Greens leader Senator Di Natale said Mr Dutton was invoking the White Australia policy, questioning the difference between the white South African farmers and the 700,000 Rohingya people forced from their homes.
‘The difference is that they are white and that the other communities who are suffering – and we’re talking about an ethnic cleansing in Myanmar right now – that they’re not white,’ Senator Di Natale told Sky News.
Mr Dutton insists he is blind to skin colour and will continue to bring in migrants based on the national interest.
‘It concerns me that people are being persecuted at the moment – that’s the reality – the numbers of people dying or being savagely attacked in South Africa is a reality,’ he said.