Contributed by Joe Montero
It’s no wonder refugee agencies have condemned Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s plan to fast-track white South African farmers as acceptable refugees into Australia. Thousands of others, who are genuine refugees, languish in little more than concentrations camps, and face daily cruel treatment at the hands of the Australian authorities. Such a double standard is bound to cause an uproar.
Dutton floated his plan on the back of reports that suggested that many have been harassed, assaulted, raped and killed in recent times. What he chooses to bury is that the claims have not been backed up by hard evidence. They are made even more doubtful, when they originate from sources identified with groups identifying with the old Apartheid era of white privilege and rule. On top of this, the story is being peddled globally by every race hate group in existence.
Even so, it remains possible that some of these farmers are getting a hard time. There has been some agitation on the ground, and mainly at the local level, from black communities feeling that their own claims to land are not being met. But this is a far cry from the claims that are being made.
The change has been that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) towards the end of last year, voted to start a process of land redistribution. They also agreed that the big white farmers should not be compensated for the land taken from them. This process has not taken place yet, because the government needs to first go about making a change to the country’s constitution. What is certain is that land will eventually be redistributed. It is this prospect that is causing the heat.
Peter Dutton is readily prepared to swallow the line, despite the fact, that South African farming sources are denying the claims. He has caused a diplomatic storm that has resulted in a demand that b the South African government that he retract his public statements, and the Australian High Commissioner to South Africa has been called in for a talking to.
According to the South African government, the problem is that 80 percent of the population still own only own 6 percent of the land, in a context where one third of the population dependent on subsistence farming. Without land redistribution, the problem of poverty cannot be tackled successfully. The target of the post-Apartheid era had been to achieve 30 percent black ownership by 2014.the process has failed and the government is faced with no other choice but to step up and do something about it.
No ne is being left without. All that is earmarked for taking is land that is not being worked. That which is being properly used for farming is not at risk.
The problem is that for hard-line Afrikaners is that control over the land, is an important part of their self image as pioneers taming the wild. Their control over vast tracts of land land is the image of white superiority and heritage, tied up with the dream of a return to the good old days. Any attempt to mess with this, is seen as as beyond the pale.
Dutton’s comments make him look like shares tin the belief. By wearing this colour, he leaves himself open to attack, even within the ranks of the Coalition. Hence Julie Bishop’s attempt to distance herself from it. And she is not the only one feeling this way.
There is also a measure of sympathy for dutton’s position within the ranks, which is evidenced by the failure of Malcolm Turnbull and the government to censure him.
The sympathy shown to the claim of hard done by South African farmers is starting to look like an explanation, to why those of a darker skin colour and much less likely to have anything in common to the politics of privilege, are treated differently. And it is this pattern that is drawing so much fire, and threatens to lift Australia’s already existing reputation as a violator of basic human rights another notch.