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The myth of a white genocide in South Africa comes to Ottawa

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A farm in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Photo by PZFUN via Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-fascists in Ottawa are planning a counter-protest to challenge a white supremacist group holding "vigil" for white South African farmers, who they claim are being targeted and killed.

This comes as South Africa prepares for a national election in 2019. In advance of the election, the African National Congress (ANC) government has announced its intention to speed up the slow pace of land redistribution in the country.

As the BBC explains, "The Natives Land Act of 1913 restricted Black people from buying or renting land in 'white South Africa,' leading to the forced removals of Black people."

"Following the end of apartheid in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said it would redistribute 30 percent of white-owned commercial farmland to Black farmers," Al Jazeera adds. But as the Associated Press reports, "Black South Africans, who comprise 80 per cent of the population, still own just 4 per cent of the country's land."

Given the slow pace of change, the lack of budget for land purchases and the upcoming election, "the ANC resolved [at its national conference in December 2017] to expropriate land without compensation as a means to speed up land reform," according to Al Jazeera.

But it's not clear if, at this late date, Black South Africans even want the rural farms owned by white South Africans.

South African author and activist Tembeka Ngcukaitobi says, "Unfortunately, the conversation is being framed around white farmers … but white farmers will be largely unaffected, because the demand for land is in the urban areas."

"More than 60 percent of South Africans now live in urban areas and the struggle over land is no longer a question of resolving historical dispossession but a matter of inclusion in the country's economy," reports Al Jazeera. "With urban housing either too expensive or low-cost housing inaccessible from the city, millions of Black South Africans have, since the end of apartheid, resorted to occupying vacant plots of land, often belonging to the city or local government."

As the Associated Press notes, "[South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has stated] the process would begin by seizing state-owned land, not privately held land."

Now there is a myth being circulated by right-wing groups about the killing of white South African farmers.

The BBC has reported, "South Africa's conservative Afrikaner groups ... are conducting global lobbying campaigns to support their message that white farmers are being targeted and killed, that the government is seizing their land..."

But as Al Jazeera notes, "Between 2016 and 2017, there were 19,016 murders in South Africa, translating into a murder rate of 34.1 per 100,000 people. Police statistics indicate that during the same period, there were 74 farm murders. These include farmers and workers of all race groups."

Newsweek adds, "The murder rate of white farmers is at a 20-year low..."

Despite this, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted this past August, "I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers."

Far-right spokesperson Richard Spencer -- perhaps best known at this point for being punched in the face during a television interview last year -- tweeted in response: "Opening up space to talk about White South Africans -- giving his base the permission to seriously discuss White dispossession -- is a monumental achievement."

"Mr. Trump's intervention was a political coup for AfriForum -- the main South African lobby group championing the cause of Afrikaners, especially farmers," according to the BBC.

It also notes, "Another one is the far smaller and more extreme Suidlanders (Afrikaans for Southlanders), whose members Simon Roche and André Coetzee carried out a six-month visit to the U.S. last year."

"They met various far-right activists, including David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and Trump supporter, as well as other white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers, according to South African journalist Lloyd Gedye," the article adds.

In response to Trump's tweet, Duke tweeted, "Russia has already agreed to take in 15,000 White South Africans -- your move, Mr. President. Thank you!"

In Canada, the National Citizens Alliance -- whose stated mission is "to safeguard our country, our western civilization and heritage, our freedoms and civil rights, our way of life" -- will be holding a 'Vigil for 4000 South African Farmers Murdered' on November 12 in front of the South African High Commission in Ottawa.

Ottawa Against Fascism will be organizing a counter-protest and states, "The racist 'National Citizens Alliance' is hosting this event to spread white supremacist propaganda [and have] expressed fear that this movement will in turn inspire First Nations people within Canada to take up the same battle for their land..."

The spinning of colonial, apartheid and ongoing injustices into a claim of "white dispossession" and "white genocide" is racist, wrong, and lacks historical perspective.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: PZFUN/Wikimedia Commons

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