The troubled African nation is once again in the spotlight following Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s offer to fast-track humanitarian visas for South Africa’s persecuted white farmers.
The move sparked a furious response from the South African government which has demanded Mr Dutton retract the comments.
However, for South Africans who have lived through the violence or know people who have, Mr Dutton’s comments aren’t completely incorrect.
One woman living in South Africa, who didn’t want to be named out of fear of reprisals, told news.com.au she and her family were living in a constant state of fear.
The retiree said crime wasn’t limited just to white people or farming communities but accused the government of not doing enough to protect all South Africans.
“We are living in fear and are reluctant to go out at night and even during the day,” she told news.com.au.
“So basically you are housebound most of the time. This is a terrible way to live.”
She said it wasn’t just white people who were suffering with many black people also falling victim to crime.
“In South Africa black people kill each other for as little as a cell phone or a few Rand,” she said. “Your car cannot be parked on your driveway outside your home as the theft of the car takes place in minutes.”
She said most white owned homes have barbed wire, alarm systems and burglar bars while car-jackings were a part of life.
Jobs for white people were also becoming harder to obtain, she said, with affirmative action favouring black people — a point she didn’t necessarily disagree with.
However, she pointed out many would leave the country taking expertise in areas such as farming with them.
The woman also said she was devastated at the crime taking place and especially at the violence being perpetrated against white farmers, which she believed had worsened under the current government.
South Africa’s parliament earlier this month voted to allow the seizure of land from white farmers without compensation.
Newly sworn in South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has made land expropriation a key pillar of his policy platform after taking over from ousted PM Jacob Zuma earlier last month.
Speaking to parliament this week, Mr Ramaphosa said South Africa was not heading down the road towards the type of violent and chaotic seizure of white-owned farms that triggered economic collapse in Zimbabwe nearly 20 years ago.
However, many South Africans remain concerned this isn’t the case at all.
The land grab move was largely led by firebrand politician Julias Malema who has been accused of inciting hate speech and inflaming attacks on South Africa’s white minority.
Although violent crime is a serious issue across South Africa, killings on farms, the vast majority of which are white-owned, has become a particularly racially charged issue nearly a quarter-of-a-century after the fall of apartheid
A 2017 government audit found white people owned 72 per cent of farmland in South Africa, Bloomberg reported.
South African farmers have been subjected to an escalating campaign of attacks characterised by extreme brutality, rape and torture, with 82 people killed in a record 423 incidents last year, according to AfriForum, a rights group representing primarily the white Afrikaner minority.
A former farm owner and manager now living in Australia also told news.com.au of the brutal crimes taking place back home.
Peter Cillie, who is now living in South Australia with wife Wilma and children Peter and Jana, said even after 10 years living outside his country, he still didn’t have the answers as to what was happening.
Mr Cillie said he didn’t believe the crime was specifically affecting white people, however he acknowledged those on farms or owning land may be more of a target.
The Cillies, who sold up after receiving death threats, said many of their friends at first thought they were mad for leaving.
“One friend asked me why I was leaving, and I remember saying: ‘Do we immigrate before my wife is raped or after,” he said.
Mr Cillie said he was saddened to hear what was taking place back home and the brutality was only getting worse.
“It’s the brutality which shocks me,” he said. “You hear stories of people having boiled water tipped over them before they are raped and killed.
“But this goes beyond white farmers.”
The Cillies know other farmers who have been killed in brutal circumstances.
In one case a man was shot in front of his young son and his body left by the side of the road.
In another a mother was shot through her front door while her sons, two and four, looked on.
Despite the horror, Mr Cillie said he doubted many white farmers would take up Mr Dutton’s offer with many preferring to risk it and stay put.
He said those who were wealthier were better off as they could afford top security to help keep them safe but many were “too scared to move”.
The fly-in-fly-out worker said the South African government had totally mismanaged the economy and he was so grateful to be in Australia while friends back home were grateful just to be alive.
According to crime statistics analysed by Africa Check, 52 people were murdered every day in South Africa in 2016/17.
In this period, police recorded a total of 19,016 murders, up from 18,673 murders the year before.
A total of 18,205 attempted murders were reported during the same period while 49,660 sexual offences were recorded, down from 51,895 the year before.
South Africa has a murder rate of 34.1 murders per 100,000 compared to Australia’s 1 per 100,000 according to 2014 figures.
SOUTH AFRICA FURY
South Africa has demanded that Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton retract comments that suggested white farmers were being persecuted.
Pretoria hauled in Canberra’s high commissioner over Mr Dutton’s remarks, which also included a description of white farmers facing “horrific circumstances”, which the South Africa rejected.
“The South African government is offended by the statements which have been attributed to the Australian Home Affairs Minister and a full retraction is expected,” the foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday.
Mr Dutton said he had directed the Home Affairs department to explore whether the farmers can be accepted into Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other visas, including the in-country persecution visa category
AfriForum praised Mr Dutton’s comments, however said it was not in favour of mass emigration.
Chief executive Kallie Kriel also said the group was not going anywhere.
“Our future is in Africa, not elsewhere,” he said.
— with AAP
These scenes are from recent weeks and months of violence in South Africa.