Australia considers visas for white South African farmers, claiming they need help from 'civilised country'

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton says group face 'horrific circumstances'. But South Africa’s foreign ministry insists 'threat does not exist'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 15 March 2018 15:02 GMT
South Africa President Ramaphosa on vote to seize land from white farmers without compensation

White farmers in South Africa could be given fast-track visas to Australia on humanitarian grounds because they need help “from a civilised country like ours," a government minister has said.

South Africa’s parliament passed a motion last month that could allow the seizure of land from white farmers without paying them compensation.

Australian Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton said white farmers “deserve special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances they face”.

Mr Dutton was commenting on a documentary about violent rural crime in South Africa. Australian media has alleged white farmers are being murdered at a rate of more than one a week.

“I do think, on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare, and I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now,” he added.

But South Africa’s foreign ministry dismissed Mr Dutton’s comments.

“That threat does not exist,” it said. “There is no reason for any government in the world to suspect that a section of South Africans is under danger from their own democratically elected government.

“We regret that the Australian government chose not to use the available diplomatic channels available for them to raise concerns or to seek clarification,” it added.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) aims to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to address racial disparities in land ownership that persist more than two decades after apartheid’s demise in 1994.

Spurred by the rise of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the ANC adopted a resolution in December to redistribute land to black South Africans without compensation.

Parliament then backed an EFF motion last month seeking to change the constitution to allow for this. A committee will report back to the chamber by 30 August.

Together, the ANC, the EFF and other small opposition parties could muster the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional change, but it is not clear when, or if, a vote will take place.

South African President Jacob Zuma announces resignation

The government denies that whites are deliberately targeted and says farm murders are part of South Africa’s wider violent crime problem.

Speaking to parliament on Tuesday, President Cyril 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.

"We cannot have a situation where we allow land grabs, because that is anarchy," Mr Ramaphosa said. "We cannot have a situation of anarchy when we have proper constitutional means through which we can work to give land to our people."

Additional reporting by Reuters

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