In his reply to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s third state of the nation address (Sona), Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald confronted the issue of farm murders in South Africa.
“I come to cry, and I want to ask you, why it so difficult to publicly condemn farm murders in South Africa?” he asked.
“In South Africa, we have black farmers, we have coloured farmers, we have Indian farmers, we have white farmers,” he continued.
“It’s not only a crime against the individual, it’s a crime against the community. It is the women and children who pay the price of farm murders. Where they are tortured, where they throw boiling water down their throats. Where they are [taking] hot irons burning the women. When they force a twelve-year-old girl to see how her mother is raped. It’s torture.
“But still you refuse to publicly condemn farm murders.”
Groenewald ended this part of his speech by offering to invite the president to a farm murder victim’s funeral.
“I will say to you honourable president, I will invite you to a funeral of a farm murder and you invite me to any funeral you wish,” he said, before moving on to other topics.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said during a Bloomberg interview in September 2018 that there were “no killing of farmers or white farmers in SA”, a statement which was harshly criticised by lobby groups including AfriForum and the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and also debunked on Africa Check.
The fact-checking site said the fact that “people on farms and smallholdings in South Africa are victims of murder is not debatable”. However, it also said it was “unclear” if claims by groups such as AfriForum that farmers “are murdered at a higher rate than other South Africans” were true.
Following an outcry after the Bloomberg interview, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa was simply dismissing US President Donald Trump’s referral to the large-scale killing of white farmers and not necessarily denying that some white farmers were victims of violent crimes.
Diko clarified that Ramaphosa’s comment was a “direct response” to Trump’s claim of “large-scale killing of farmers”. Diko said this was “a characterisation everyone knows holds no truth in South Africa”.
Ramaphosa’s Bloomberg interview was a reaction to Trump tweeting: “I have asked Secretary of State [Mike Pompeo] to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
The tweet referenced a report by conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson on Fox News titled “South African government is now seizing land from white farmers”.
Carlson was criticised for the segment, with a Huffington Post article accusing him of having “promoted a white nationalist conspiracy theory” and an analysis in The Washington Post addressing Carlson and stating that “South African white rights activists aren’t telling you the whole truth” about the situation.
AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets told the Sunday Times at the time that he believed one of the lobby group’s trips to the US “played a role” in influencing Trump to take an interest in the land situation South Africa.
(Background reporting, Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni)