by Fredrick Ngugi, at 11:02 am, October 31, 2017, Opinion

Conviction of White South African Farmers Sparks Racial Protests

Three days after two white South African farmers were each sentenced to more than ten years in prison for kidnapping, assaulting and attempted murder of a black man in August 2016, a section of South Africans, mostly whites, has come out to protest against the government’s weak response to “farm murders”.

Dressed in black attires in memory of white farmers killed in their farms, thousands of protesters took to the streets in different parts of the country on Monday to protest what they termed as the increasing cases of vicious attacks on farmers by locals, especially in the rural areas.

The #BlackMonday protests, which were supported by a civil rights organization AfriForum, involved hundreds of trucks moving at a snail’s pace. The situation brought traffic on major roads leading to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria to a standstill.

Perpetual Farm Killings

Since the end of apartheid in South Africa, more than two decades ago, the minority white South Africans, especially those who own farms in the rural areas, continue to suffer brutal attacks by locals, who often accuse them of occupying their land. Hundreds of white farmers have died in these attacks.

Perhaps to illustrate how dire the situation is in the Rainbow Nation, an elderly white man was on Monday hacked to death with a machete while working on his vegetable farm in northern Vryheid just as the Black Monday protests were going on.

According to AfriForum, 72 white farmers have so far died in over 340 farm attacks that have happened this year alone. The organization says these attacks are extremely brutal, involving torture and rape.

“A farmer has 4.5 times more chance of being murdered in South Africa, than an average South African,” AfriForum’s spokesman Ian Cameron was quoted by News.

Many believe these attacks are racially motivated, with local leaders including President Jacob Zuma being accused of inciting locals against white farmers through anti-white speeches, particularly during political campaigns.

Mr. Zuma, who is currently facing numerous corruption scandals, is often accused of propagating hatred against whites with his controversial campaign song “Shoot the Farmer, Kill the Boer”.

In 2016, one of the main opposition leaders Julius Malema caused a nationwide uproar after he was caught on tape telling his supporters that he was “not calling for the slaughter of white people, at least for now”.

Who’s To Blame?

But a section of black South Africans accuse their white counterparts of furthering apartheid ideologies and causing racial divisions in the country. Others say the attacks are motivated by years of oppression of farm workers by their white bosses.

Pumza Fihlani, a South African journalist condemned the #BlackMonday protests, accusing the protesters of displaying racism by carrying the apartheid-era flag. The protests were also criticized by the Minister of Culture and Art Nkosinathi Emmanuel “Nathi” Mthethwa, who regarded them as racist.

With this kind of hither and thither, it’s, sadly, obvious that the attacks are far from over. So the question is: Who is to blame for the killings?

For starters, the South African government shoulders the biggest share of blame for failing to stop the brutal attacks on white farmers. With all the security apparatus and intelligence services at its disposal, the government has the capability to prevent most of these attacks from happening.

Locals too need to understand that no one has the right to take another person’s life, no matter how aggrieved they may be. In this day and age, when the world is quickly turning into a small village, it would be primitive for one to assume that white people should not own land or any other property in Africa.

And in cases where one’s property has been wrongly occupied, there are established legal mechanisms that they can follow to get justice. South African lawmakers also have a responsibility of coming up with better laws that will ensure killers are dealt with accordingly.

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