Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Auckland on Sunday to protest the seizure of South African farms from white residents, without them being compensated.
The process of redistributing white-owned farms to black buyers has been enforced since 1994, when apartheid ended. Land expropriation is the South African government’s attempt at making up for the country’s past racist laws, which resulted in wildly uneven racial land ownership.
Despite white people making up just 9 percent of the population, a 2017 government audit revealed they still own 72 percent of the farmland more than 20 years after expropriation was introduced.
The slow pace of South Africa’s land reform prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to amend the country’s constitution to allow land to be seized from white farmers – also known as ‘boers’ – without paying them compensation, if it was determined to be in the “public interest”.
The announcement outraged a lot of South African expats, many of whom braved the drizzle to join Sunday’s march from the Auckland Town Hall down Queen St.
Protesters carried signs reading ‘Stop the abuse of minorities’ and ‘Save a boer, their lives matter too’. Some referenced South Africa’s neighbour Zimbabwe, which experienced an economic meltdown after most of its white-owned lands were seized.
March organiser Arno Nel spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to spread the word about unfair land expropriation.
“Tell people what’s happening to the farmers, tell them what’s happening to your communities. It’s important for the world to know what is going on.”
He also made a reference to white farmers being murdered, a controversial topic which even US President Donald Trump has weighed in on.
On August 23, he tweeted about the “large scale killing of farmers”, seemingly in reference to a TV segment on Fox News.
In response, the South African government said the president’s tweet was based on “false information” which sought to “divide our nation and remind us of our colonial past”.
The claim that white farmers are being targeted and killed by black assailants has largely been debunked by experts who say the country has a high crime rate in general, and there is little evidence of racial motivations.
“People are not being targeted because of their race, but because they are vulnerable and isolated on the farms,” Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice program at Pretoria’s Institute for
Security Studies, told the Associated Press in
relation to President Trump’s tweet.
According to agricultural industry association Agri SA, the number of farm murders has declined since their peak in 2001.
Fact-checking non-profit Africa Check says that between 2016 and 2017, there were 74 murders thanks to attacks on South African farmers, while there were 19,000 murders across the country over the same period.