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  • Farmers work on a land outside Lichtenburg, a maize-growing area in the North West province of South Africa.

    Farmers work on a land outside Lichtenburg, a maize-growing area in the North West province of South Africa. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 March 2018

Per a land audit report, white farmers in the country still own 72 percent of the farms.

South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, DIRCO, has slammed Australia's call to fast-track visas for white South African farmers on the premise of them being "persecuted." 

New South African President to Return Land From Whites Back to Black South Africans

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who oversees immigration recently came under criticism for his crackdown on asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia, and for saying white farmers' in South Africa were suffering "horrific circumstances" and should be granted visas on refugee or humanitarian grounds.  

"If you look at the footage, you hear the stories and you read the accounts, it's a horrific circumstance that they face," Dutton told Sydney's Daily Telegraph late Wednesday.

"I've asked my department to look at options and ways in which we can provide some assistance because I do think on the information I've seen people do need help, and they need help from a civilized country like ours."

In a statement Wednesday, South Africa's foreign ministry criticized Australia's move, saying, it was disappointed that the Australian government "chose not to use the available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or to seek clarifications on the land distribution process in South Africa".

Adding, "There is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government. That threat simply does not exist." 

The panic seems to have arisen after newly elected South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa called for redistribution of land from wealthy whites to poorer Blacks

"I can say now that we will not allow land grabs. We will not allow land invasions and those who are tempted to resort to such activities must be warned in advance that we will not allow it because it is illegal, but apart from being illegal, it begins to violate the rights of other South African citizens," Ramaphosa said during a parliament session.

The government statement also slammed AfriForum, an organization representing white farmers for spreading undue panic. "We call on organisations such as AfriForum that are spreading incorrect information sowing panic and fear to refrain from doing so," the statement read.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney, said Dutton's comments were "clearly racist" and demonstrated the "astounding hypocrisy" of the Australian government, Al Jazeera reported Thursday. 

"We've often joked that if it were White Zimbabwean farmers or White South African farmers arriving by boat in Australia, there wouldn't be any mandatory detention," he told Al Jazeera. "When they are from Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan, the attitude is very different. Boats are turned around, they are expelled to Nauru and Manus Islands." 

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's New President?

Rintoul said, "It is a deliberate ploy to appeal to racist folk in the context of a government that is declining in the polls and is desperately appealing to those folk to maintain some popularity." 

The lands in the region continue to remain with white farmers long after they were colonized by the Dutch and the British in the 17th century. The apartheid era reinforced the divide by granting the land most suitable for farming to the white population.

Per a land audit report, the white farmers in the country still own 72 percent of the country's farms.  "The most productive, large-scale commercial farms in South Africa are almost all white-owned," Australian National University international law expert Associate Professor Jolyon Ford told SBS News Thursday.  

Last year, white farmers even flew a flag of the white, apartheid-era government, and resorted to militancy in some of the protests against farm murders. 

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