Lobby group AfriForum has laid a formal complaint against against President Cyril Ramaphosa and former Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu at the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, accusing them of “attempting to discredit AfriForum as a human rights defender and, in doing so, impairing the work that the organisation is doing to promote human and civil rights in South Africa.”
This follows a comment made by Ramaphosa in an interview with Bloomberg on September 2018.
Ramaphosa said there was “no killing of farmers or white farmers in SA”, with his spokesperson later saying he 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.
Sisulu was included in the complaint due to her reaction to AfriForum’s trip to the US in May 2018, a visit they said aimed “to create awareness of the South African government’s policy of expropriation without compensation (and the associated land grabs)”.
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Sisulu, who was Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at the time, accused AfriForum of spreading “blatant lies” and “misinformation” about South Africa following the trip.
AfriForum wants the UN to “obtain a commitment from Ramaphosa and the South African government that it will effectively protect AfriForum as a human rights defender”; “hold Ramaphosa and the South African government responsible for their alleged attempts at discrediting AfriForum’s efforts to raise international awareness about gross human rights violations, particularly against minorities, in South Africa”; and “request that Ramaphosa and Sisulu retract their statements on an international platform”.
Ramaphosa’s comments in the Bloomberg interview were harshly criticised by AfriForum as well as the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) at the time, and were fact checked 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.
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 boasted to 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.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)