In news headlines, U.S. President Donald Trump announced troops will be sent to help white farmers in the predominantly black country of South Africa. Since we Yanks don’t hear much about the other end of Africa from mainstream media outlets, let’s explore the situation to better understand it.
South Africa has been inhabited since there were modern humans, as archeological excavations show. The native black-skinned people lived mostly agrarian lifestyles with no outside interference until diamonds and gold were unearthed there in the 19th century. White settlers from the Netherlands arrived with capitalism on their minds. These intruders were called Boer, the word which means farmer in both the native language Afrikaans and Dutch.
The British also wanted gold and diamonds from South Africa. They waged and won a war with the Dutch Boers from 1899 to 1902 and expanded the British Empire with the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1909. In 1934, the country became a self-governing nation state until May 31, 1961, when a 1960 referendum became law, and the modern Republic of South Africa with a republican constitution was established.
Between 1948 and 1994, the political policy in South Africa was apartheid. In Afrikaans, apartheid means apartness. In practical terms, the Afrikaner National Party (NP), a group of Boer nationalists, coined this term to justify racial segregation and discrimination. In 1948, the NP introduced a plan that promised equal development and cultural freedom for both blacks and whites, but which actually mandated racial separation for both residences and unequal development opportunities. The policy attempted to prevent inter-racial marriages and social integration.
Most importantly, racial segregation became the law of the land in 1948. Ironically, the rest of the world was moving away from racial segregation and towards tolerance and integration after World War II. Many critics of SA politics were calling for global decolonization when the opposite happened.
Following is a list of laws enacted in South Africa under apartheid:
1949 Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act – made illegal inter-racial weddings.
1950 Population Registration Act – forced all people to register according to their racial group.
1950 Group Areas Act – separated different races physically, particularly in urban centers, with some groups of people were forced to relocate based on their race.
1950 Immorality Amendment Act – prohibited sex between whites and all non-whites.
1951 Separate Representation of Voters Act – removed all non-white people from the voters’ roll and eliminated voter equality previously guaranteed under the Cape Qualified Franchise system.
1959 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act – forced different racial groups to live in different areas: all black people were removed from cities to townships outside of the town where they were forced to rent from white owners – black property owners were dispossessed.
An article from South African History Online explains just how the political policy of apartheid translated into the real world in South Africa:
“During apartheid, to have a friendship with someone of a different race generally brought suspicion upon you, or worse. More than this, apartheid was a social system which severely disadvantaged the majority of the population, simply because they did not share the skin colour of the rulers. Many were kept just above destitution because they were ‘non-white’.”
The native response to white supremacy was to organize and demand racial equality. In 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) became the Republic of South Africa’s governing party, powering the end of apartheid and transition to democracy. Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president in post-apartheid South Africa and served in that role until 1999.
But twenty years after the official end to SA apartheid, racial inequality persists. According to Bloomberg:
“More than two decades after white-minority rule ended in South Africa, most of its profitable farms and estates are still owned by white people, and about 95 percent of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of the population.”
It is now easy to understand why there is violent conflict between displaced black South Africans and their white Boer landlords. Farm attack crimes are on the rise, defined by SA police to include murder, assault, rape, arson, and property damage.
Black people from outside the farms are coming onto properties to inflict harm on the white owners and any workers living there, and/or the property itself, in order to disrupt farming activities.
According to Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of Afriforum, a civil rights group that promotes the protection of white Afrikaner culture and public re-engagement of blacks and other minority South Africans, white farmers in SA are four and a half times more likely to be murdered than other citizens. Roets, who appeared on the South African television show “MorningLive,” recorded 295 farm attacks and 52 murders in 2016 with 340 attacks and 70 murders as of late October 2017, when the show aired. He reported an increase in farm attacks and murders every year since 2011.
In a classic example of “turnabout is fair play,” on February 27, 2018, the SA parliament agreed to consider voting on a motion to amend the republic’s constitution to permit land to be seized from white owners without any compensation. From the Bloomberg article cited above:
“The ruling African National Congress has vowed to step up wealth distribution, including constitutional changes to allow the government to expropriate land without paying for it.”
This practice violates the post-apartheid policy for land redistribution in SA, which is based on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller.”
Before making any land grab official, the SA Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee must approve drafting an amendment first, but Boer descendants are now themselves feeling the sting of discrimination which they were more than happy to dole out for decades during the last century.
Consequently, whites in SA submitted a petition in March 2018 with more than 12,000 signatures that asked President Trump to allow persecuted white people emigrate from SA to the U.S. The online petition called for taking ” the steps necessary to initiate an emergency immigration plan allowing white Boers to come to the United States.”
On August 22, 2018, Trump tweeted a quote from Fox News reporter Tucker Carlson:
“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.'”
This illegal action disqualifies SA from inclusion in AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act approved by the U.S. Congress in 2000). Evidently, the threat of losing jobs and trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for goods like apparel is not enough to satisfy the native black South Africans.
Rumor has it that 80,000 U.S. soldiers and other resources will soon head for the land north of the Cape of Good Hope. We can only hope that some good will come of this intervention, but is it appropriate for the United States to act on behalf of the Boer?